Madara partnered with The Neighborhood Center in Camden to improve the lives of young women by expanding their access to fashion.
Moorestown High School senior Kaitlin Madara has always had a passion for helping others. When she was in preschool, she started donating her hair to Locks of Love after a classmate was diagnosed with leukemia. Throughout her life, she has volunteered at various organizations, gone on mission trips with her church and participated in community service through the school’s Interact Club. This year, Madara took her affinity for helping others and combined it with her love of fashion and turned it into Fashion with Compassion.
Madara partnered with The Neighborhood Center in Camden, a non-profit organization that aims to “break the cycle of poverty,” to improve the lives of young women by expanding their access to fashion and improving their self image, setting them up for success. Through three workshops, Madara discussed makeup, clothing and overall presentation with the young women and wrapped it all up with an upbeat photo shoot.
“This was an eye-opening experience where my passion for fashion and business came through,” Madara said. “The impact for the young women exceeded my expectations and the results went beyond what I had envisioned.”
Madara originally planned to start Fashion with Compassion in Moorestown, but ultimately realized the need wasn’t there and felt she could serve better in Camden. The young women who attended the workshops are Camden residents attending public and charter high schools in the city. Over the past three months, they have spent their time after school learning about ways to make them feel good about themselves and bonding with each other through The Neighborhood Center.
“Through these sessions the teens learned so much about self-expression through personal grooming and fashion. They overcame fears, talked about self image and self love and went home with amazing goodies,” said Vedra Chandler, Associate Director at The Neighborhood Center. “Kaitlin is a natural leader whose program has brought not only makeup and clothing, but increased self confidence to our community.”
For the first session, Madara taught the students how to do their makeup. The second session focused on clothing, which Madara arranged to be donated by various residents. She set up a dressing room and made sure each woman had a shopping bag, so it would feel just like shopping at a mall.
“I really wanted to give these girls the choice so I made sure I had multiple things for them to choose from,” Madara said. “The difference in them from the first workshop to the last workshop — their smile and their comfort with me — was just so amazing.”
The third session is when Madara and all the students involved had fun with a photo shoot.
In preparation for the project, Madara started a GoFundMe page that ultimately raised more than $650 to support Fashion with Compassion. She used the money to buy brand new makeup for the students, a basic outfit for each of them consisting of black leggings and a white tank top, a mirror and any clothing sizes that weren’t covered by donations. Out of the 10 involved, there was one male student who took notes on the advice Madara gave to pass on to his sister. At the end of the three sessions, Madara bought the young man a yellow button up shirt — his favorite color.
Madara continuously repeated the quote she feels sums up Fashion with Compassion: “If you look good, you feel good; if you feel good, you do good.”
“That quote inspired me from the beginning,” Madara said. “The project evolved with that quote.”
At the end of the three sessions, the students asked Madara if they could take the extra clothes and donate them to a homeless shelter they often pass on the way to The Neighborhood Center.
“It is inspiring that after these workshops, the young women wanted to pass on the extra donated clothing to a nearby shelter in order to help other women,“ Madara said. “I was going to these girls to help them look good and feel good and they ended up going and doing good for others.”
Madara will attend Boston University in the fall to study business and fashion, and plans to find a population in need in the Boston area to continue Fashion with Compassion. She also has high hopes the project will be continued in Camden.
“I believe if you feel comfortable and good about yourself, you can accomplish anything,” Madara said.