LaGuardia Community College Students Pitch in to Help a Fellow Classmate Raise Funds for Women in Haiti

Long Island City, NY—You can say that Ann Heckathorn, a handbag-designer-turned-LaGuardia-Community-College student, is helping a group of poor Haitian women who were victims of gender-based violence rise out of poverty one stitch at a time. 

Ann is collaborating with HaitiCorps International, a young non-profit corporation committed to strengthening the Haitian workforce and facilitating the country’s recovery and development, on a new project that is training women to produce high quality fabric, quilted, crocheted and embellished handbags that will be marketed and sold in the United States.  The 17 women now involved in the project are receiving a daily stipend that is double the living wage and will be participating in a profit-sharing agreement.

Now students from the Business and Technology Department are joining her Handbag Project.  Professor Nicole Lytle’s marketing class has organized a college-wide fundraising campaign that will be held on May 24.   The centerpiece of the effort is a fashion show where student models will display 40 one-of-a-kind bags that run from  $20-$50.  There will also be donation boxes where the college community can donate fabrics, beads, yarn and sewing notions.

The fashion show will be held in the E-building’s Poolside Café at 31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. 

All the proceeds of the sales will go to the women in Haiti as well as to special education and health programs for the purpose of stopping violence and abuse towards Haitian women.

Ann, a successful handbag designer and manufacturer who worked with such designers and retailers as Betsey Johnson, Joe Boxer, Urban Outfitters and Victoria’s Secret, decided that she wanted to help the people of Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.  That summer she joined the non-profit and helped develop the Handbag Project. 

The handbag project works with FAVILEK (Famn Viktim Leve Kanpe or Women Victims Get Up Stand Up), an organization dedicated to helping women who were victims of gender-based violence.   

To train the women in sewing and other techniques, Ann made two trips to the country, the most recent this past spring while she was completing her college internship with HaitiCorps International.  There, she trained the women and worked with them on several of her high quality and successful designs, which are the foundation for this series of handbags. 

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.