From victims to artisans: Raleigh program puts women on journey filled with hope

ABC11 Together highlights the strength of the human spirit, good deeds, community needs, and how our viewers can help
RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Behind a pink door on Cabarrus Street in Raleigh's Boylan Heights neighborhood, ABC11 found something extraordinary. It's an organization that is giving women hope, changing lives and putting them on a fresh path they never thought was possible.

It is a venture called Designed For Joy. Two Wake County moms started it.

Cary Heise and Kristen Sydow wanted to give women, who are victims of human trafficking and other challenges, a chance to break free of the chains of hopelessness.

"We are giving women a job who don't have any other option," said Heise.

The Designed For Joy space is both a workshop and a retail location. The women create purses, jewelry, and many other handcrafted items.

"We want to be a resource for someone who is coming out of really vulnerable situations...give her a safe place to work in a place that she can build her confidence and that we can help her build her resume," explained Heise.

Heise came up with the idea on a mission trip to Rwanda. She decided to create something similar in Raleigh.

"They were taking 30 women off the street working as prostitutes, and keeping them off the streets by this artisan program," said Heise. "To give someone a job is to give them dignity and to give them value."

The workshop table is not only where the handicrafts are created, but it is also where life comes into focus.

"There seems to be a truth serum in this place where women can open up and share what's going on in their lives," said Heise.

Facial Archer said her life has been transformed.

"The sky is limitless. This place has taught me only you can limit yourself," said Archer. "Think higher and just do it."

Prison and addiction have been Archer's challenges, but now she has new confidence.

"When you feel like you've been a failure all your life and then you've got people saying 'girl I'm so proud of you' and people look up to you, it makes everybody else seem like a liar," said Archer.

Sydow uses her experience in the fashion industry in New York and Los Angeles to guide the creative process and steer the women toward a career.

"They come out of here feeling good about themselves, and feeling confident in what they're doing about where they are in the world," said Sydow.

Heise admitted they are learning as they go, but fueled by love from everyone who is helping Designed For Joy succeed.

"I am humbled because I don't really know what we're doing at any moment," said Heise. "We're just making it up as we go along, and it seems to be really working and it seems to be attracting so many people in the community."

Designed For Joy is located at 1104 W Cabarrus St, Raleigh, NC, 27603.

The shop is open on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.