LOCAL Houston | The City Guide June 2017 - Page 50

COMMUNITY HEATING UP THE RUNWAY LATIN WOMEN’S INITIATIVE IGNITES CHANGE In 1995, three dynamic women – ALMENDRA PEREZ CARDENAS (wife of Houston’s former Counsel General of Mexico, Manuel Perez Cardenas), LETICIA FALLICK (a psychologist) and CECILIA DE LA ROSA (wife of a local cardiologist) – were moved by the plight of Houston’s impoverished inner-city Hispanic females. Together, these civic-minded women decided to form an organization comprised of community-minded Latinas to educate its members on the local socio-economic conditions, and to fundraise and provide volunteer services to improve the outlook for this growing population. The Latin Women’s Initiative (LWI) was born. Fast forward to 2017 – May 5th, to be exact. That’s when LWI staged its 15th Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon, a lively, high-energy event held at the Hilton Americas-Houston with a packed, fun-loving crowd. Says MICHELE LEAL FARAH, the organization’s current board president, “At this year’s fashion show, we partnered very successfully with Cooperativa Shop, an online boutique aimed at bringing luxury Latin American design to the US and other markets, to have a pop-up shop in our marketplace. We also were able to support an organization combating the exploitation of women in Mexico by having them as a vendor, selling the jewelry made by women victimized by human trafficking as part of a professional training program aimed at helping them regain control of their lives.” It’s a labor of love for Farah and her fellow board members and volunteers. “Aside from part-time administrative support from a UH Center for Mexican American Studies student, we are an entirely volunteer-driven organization,” she adds. “I love what LWI stands for – empowering and supporting Latin women and their families – and that we embody this in all aspects of our work, not only through the financial and volunteer resources we provide to our charity beneficiaries, but also through the leadership development opportunities that come with serving on our Board of Directors and committees and in the ways that we engage our approximately 250 members,” Farah explains. “Our members and supporters are always so full of energy and fresh ideas. There’s something really powerful about Latin women coming together to help other Latin women and families in need. Latin Women’s Initiative was founded on the premise that, collectively, Latin women in our community could have a far-reaching impact and we continue to push ourselves as an organization to do exactly that.” www.latinwomensinitiative.org By Tim Moloney Photography by Daniel Ortiz 50 L O C A L | june 17