Thursday, August 25, 2011

Expanding Art & Creativity

Three of the 70+ children who learned to make their own jewelry last Saturday in Batey Aleman

Proudly showing off their new creations and skills!

Every hour we would teach jewelry making classes of 10-15 children
Look what I made!
 Last Saturday, with the help of a few of the daughters of the women in the co-op, we took on the challenge of teaching jewelry making classes to more than 70 children in Batey Aleman.  It was a huge success!  Leading up to the classes there was a sign up sheet posted for all interested children and we had as many as 16 names each hour from 9:45am to 5:30pm. Each child was able to make at least two pieces of jewelry, learning 2-3 different jewelry making techniques each!

New handmade, stylish beach totes offered by the Batey cooperative
The children's sign up sheet for jewelry making classes, offered all day on Saturday in the Batey!

The women learned the Herringbone Weave jewelry making technique

Using the Herringbone Weave jewelry making technique, the women learn to design earrings, bracelets and more!

Matt, our fabulous Nest field rep, who lives in the Dominican Republic working with the women, took a quick jaunt home to visit family!  He was able to bring back some additional supplies donated by Dragonfly Designs…with these supplies, we’ve been able to continue to teach increasingly advanced jewelry making techniques to the women in the co-op. Unfortunately, we continue to experience road block after road block in obtaining the donated materials from customs.  The package has been in country waiting since early August!  I’ve been promised that tomorrow is the magic day…we’ll see, but I have faith.

We head back to the US next Wednesday, August 31st and we have much to accomplish before that day! More soon about our final days...we have even been invited to be on a local TV station on Monday, talking about our work with Batey Aleman!

New beautiful and stylish beach tote offered by the women's co-op!

The women and children continue to increase their jewelry making skills and knowledge working with different materials

The women learn to make paper beads and intertwine them with glass and shell beads to create beautiful designs

Showing off newly aquired advanced jewelry making skills

Showing off their creativity bliss!

Each day the women are SO proud to wear the jewelry that they learned to create and designed themselves!
Last Saturday, with the help of

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Our Work Continues

Sadly, I’m finding that my time is dwindling rapidly here in the DR and there is so much more I’d like to accomplish before making the trek back to the US.

The women in the co-op have made incredible progress in their jewelry making skills as evidenced by the photos of their work and this is only after 1.5 weeks of practice! They are so excited about the prospect of including this newfound skill to their repertoire.

The entire Batey community is waiting in vain for the arrival of new materials purchased on their behalf from our generous donors.  To date we’ve funded $690.00 towards our goal of $1,425.00. Unfortunately, we’ve had to spend far too much time going from government office to government office to have the materials released from customs without paying exorbitant taxes (double the cost of the goods.) If only I could spend the precious time I have left working with the community instead of being caught up in bureaucracy, but such is life and my expectations are set to exactly where they should be. 

Luckily, my girls, Giana & Bryn, are still able to carry on in my absence from the community and we have high hopes that tomorrow will be the magic day when we can pick up our much-desired supplies!

On a high note, we have completed a very professional “look book” advertising the newly designed beach totes and jewelry line that will be presented to hotels and gift shops around the island that cater to the tourist industry.

In addition to the new jewelry skills the women are learning, they also have a desire to expand their business skills and understanding of how to price, design and market merchandise. We’ve already begun some classes to increase their understanding and business skills. The women will be presenting these skills to the Pujols Family Foundation (the co-cponsor with Nest for the women’s co-op) in early September and we are helping to prepare them.

I wish I could adequately express how many people are eager to learn the skill of jewelry making.  It’s VERY expensive to obtain the necessary materials here in this country, and people see this as a viable skill to make a living. They are so grateful for this opportunity that we are presenting.

People in the Batey do not have running water, the walls and roofs of their homes are made from corrugated tin and they have dirt floors.  It rains and floods here often with frequent power outages. 

Please remember that You can make a real difference in the lives of these women and children of the Batey Aleman community.  Dragonfly Designs will donate a pair of our sterling silver style #199 earrings for each $20.00 gift of jewelry making supplies to the Batey.

How can YOU help?

More soon on additional progress that we are making in Batey Aleman!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Accomplishments to Date

We’ve been here for a little more than a week now, so what have we accomplished and what’s on the agenda for the remainder of our trip?

Well, I’ve personally learned that my Spanish leaves much to be desired, but hey, somehow I’m getting by on the same vocabulary used over and over again and I’ve learned to drop the letter “s” from everything I say!  As our  Nest field rep Matt likes to say, “These women speak faster than a machine gun shoots bullets” it’s mind bogging! Aside from that, we are hoping to complete our 700th conference bag for The Pujols Family Foundation by Thursday, and save for the 10 inches of rain that Tropical Storm Emily is threatening to bring along with her, that just might be possible.

At this time the co-op does not have any pending production orders. The women are excited to learn the art of jewelry making and we will now have the opportunity to begin our classes on Monday during the regular co-op hours with the supplies that I brought with me!  We’ve also purchased the materials to design new beach totes and a handbag that we’ll be marketing to the upscale hotels around the island. We hope to have the initial designs completed today as we are spending the weekend in the capitol city of Santo Domingo, where will be visiting hotels and museums during our stay to attempt to build partnerships with our cooperative. (We are also going to sneak in the Harry Potter movie as it just opened here TODAY!)

Dragonfly Designs, my company, will be placing an order for custom designed totes because they are beautiful, painstakingly made works of art and to keep the women employed as we try to develop a long term strategy for additional local business.  We hope to be able to post photos of the new totes soon and will be taking orders from the public for the new bags which I plan to bring back to the United States with me (to save on the normally excessive shipping rates) for distribution.

We’ve had the opportunity to introduce jewelry making to the children of the Batey and they absolutely love it. In fact, I’ve been approached to teach jewelry making classes to the entire Batey community as there is such an intense interest.  Dragonfly Designs offers a class in the United States called “Jewelry Making for Budding Entrepreneurs” and we will use this curriculum to teach business and jewelry making skills to the women and children in the Batey Aleman community. The cost to supply the entire community with sufficient tools and supplies (including shipping costs) is $1,425.00 dollars. To date, we’ve raised $330.00. Please help us fund this project and teach the art of jewelry making and the ability to sell it to promote self sufficiency, business acumen and self esteem to an entire community living in poverty. Our website accepts donations in $20.00 increments and Dragonfly Designs will send you the thank you gift of your choice!  Please help us spread the word by sharing this project with your friends as well! Together we CAN make a difference!

How can YOU help?

More soon on additional progress that we are making in Batey Aleman!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Arrival in The Dominican Republic

After a tearful goodbye at the airport..leaving my two youngest children and husband to embark on our new adventure...we had a long, yet seamless flight to the DR.  

We were greeted by Matt, Nest's fabulous field manager, at the airport and got settled into the apartment where we will stay for the duration of our trip.  Matt made us feel welcome and informed and has been keeping us busy since our arrival!

We arrived too late in the day to meet the women, but had our opportunity the next afternoon!  We are staying in San Pedro, a town located about 15 minutes (by taxi ride) away from the Batey where the co-op is located.  Bateyes are communities where those who work in the sugar fields live. There is little work any longer working the sugar fields as most companies have left the area.'_town) 

We were greeted at the door with a Bienvenidos sign, and the women welcomed us into their co-op. After a brief introduction, we jumped in to help with their current order...hundreds of conference bags designed for The Pujols Family Foundation a co-sponsor of the co-op along with Nest. We, my girls and I, did our best to be of assistance while learning the operation.  

My girls have found their place among the many children of the Batey who adore Giana and Bryn, and the feeling is mutual.  The girls spend their days entertaining the children with fingerknitting, piggy back rides, walks to the park, hand games, hair combing, tickles and laughter.

After my lame attempt at the foot pedal powered sewing machines, I've decided to do everyone a favor and stick with ironing! Yes Mark...I did say that I was ironing! The weather is hot with high humidity and daily rain storms, as well as frequent power outages...which means no fan in the ironing room..which gives me the opportunity to ponder the conditions around the world where clothing is made and appreciate every single stitch!

Today is Saturday, and we had a party that began at 10am.  We learned to cook fish, habichuelas, the hugest pot of rice I've ever seen, vegetables and ensalada rusa...every bite would make your mouth water and thee are flavors that we will always crave once we are back in the US. After lots of cooking, eating, and laughing, the women took us on a tour of the Batey which, after wading through huge puddles in the streets, landed us at the public swimming pool with music so loud that our ears are still ringing.  It was a truly wonderful day.

Next wee we hope to complete our order for the Pujos Family Foundation as the women are excited to learn jewelry making.  We do not have another order pending at this time, so I will be spending my time in country working to develop a local market place to sell their handmade goods.

Stop back soon and learn about our progress.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

YouDo VooDoo FUNraiser! Sunday, May 15, 2011 · 3:00pm - 7:30pm

Dominican Republic FUNraiser!
Sunday, May 15 · 3:00pm - 7:30pm
Conneticut Yankee, 100 Conneticut St., San Francisco (17th and Connecticut)

It's our pleasure to announce our Dominican Republic FUNraiser!--supporting women and children locally and abroad. 

Since it's inception, Dragonfly Designs has partnered with Nest (, an organization of artists helping artists to lead communities out of poverty. We are raising money to support a six-week fellowship to the Dominican Republic this summer. 

Stacee Gillelen and her daughter's were selec
ted to represent Nest to teach entrepreneurial skills needed to build an art-based business in The Dominican Republic.

 To find out more see:

The FUNraiser will feature a Caribbean-themed menu, Caribbean dance performance, DJ "Le Charm," jewelry activities for children and adults, guest speakers, Elvis from the "Doghouse" as guest emcee, and a performance by bluegrass band, the Harkenbacks.

Help us help underpriveleged communities both locally and abroad by joining our celebration on Sunday, May 15, from 3 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. at the Connecticut Yankee, 100 Conneticut St., San Francisco. 

If you are interested in donating any items for our silent auction, please contact Stacee at or 650-303-1900.
Can't wait to see you there!

Please pass this along and invite friends!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Nest Summer Fellow-Dominican Republic

I believe I would be an ideal candidate for the summer Nest Fellow due to my long proven history in both project and people management.

As a VP, Bank Manager at Bank of America for 17 years, I learned many skills in customer service, employee management, budgeting, sales, community service and leadership. Because I was innovative, enthusiastic, positive, dedicated and successful in achieving our goals, my office was chosen to run pilot programs for the state of California. I was ranked in the top 10 out of 1,000 branches statewide for bank managers two years in a row for achieving our stated goals.  My strategy for success was always to give 110% of myself, understand every position from the ground up, because I’d worked in each position myself, and, above all, train and develop my staff while treating everyone with the utmost respect.

My earliest memories involve both art and entrepreneurial skills and I’ve been able to combine both into a successful, art based, socially conscience business that I founded, shaped and grew for the past 5.5 years. Through my business, we are able to bring art education to classrooms in and around the San Francisco Bay Area and, most recently, San Diego.

My personal passion is to work with at risk children and to this regard, we partner with non-profit organizations that serve this population of children by offering our services at cost or free. To learn more about my company philosophy please view the Philosophy page of the Dragonfly Designs, jewelry with a conscience website.

In addition to teaching jewelry making in our classes, I’ve also developed a curriculum to teach children in 2nd grade and up, entrepreneurial skills; the class is titled “Jewelry Making for Budding Entrepreneurs.” During the course, young children, tweens and teens learn all aspects of running a socially conscience jewelry business modeled after Dragonfly Designs. At the end of the course children sell their jewelry and donate the profits to an organization of their choice.

I am proud that my business, Dragonfly Designs, jewelry with a conscience, has recently become certified as a B Corporation.  To learn more about B Corps please view 

I have been a Nest participating artist since it’s inception and believe wholeheartedly in Nests’ mission. My daughters and I are excited at the opportunity to bring our skills to the women and children of the Dominican Republic in the hopes of establishing a sustainable business model.

I have always been motivated to give my best to my work and the people I serve. I feel so very fortunate to have the opportunity to be able to do what I love every day and I have a desire to share my skills and passion with others.  If my daughters and I are selected for this fellowship, we will dedicate all of our time, passion and effort to achieve a sustainable program for the families that we serve.