The Paper Fig Foundation stands with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US and worldwide.

To promote fashion and fine arts as an engine for economic empowerment in East Africa.



To grow a sustainable fashion and arts ecosystem that connects rural, urban, and international communities through convening events in the interest of economic stimulus, personal empowerment, and cultural preservation.


Equipping hundreds of youth who would otherwise be unable to attend school with life skills like sewing. Providing work for hundreds of designers, models, and support personnel through production of groundbreaking events, helping thousands gain access to economic empowerment in East Africa. Providing healthcare and clean water to underserved, rural communities.

Our History of Impact

In 2009, Laurie DeJong received the Enterprising Woman of the Year Award for the rapid growth of her full service event management agency LDJ Productions. Through this process she was introduced to The Institute of Economic Empowerment whose mission is to pair entrepreneurs in the United States with Entrepreneurs in Rwanda. She immediately signed on and was paired with an aspiring fashion designer from Rwanda. Through this personal connection and her professional background as the Agency Producer of New York Fashion Week, Laurie recognized the fashion and fine arts sector could be a generator of much needed economic development, job creation and community development in developing nations.

With the team’s extensive experience producing fashion platforms in other global markets, the team set out to launch and grow platforms in several East African countries. After 3 years of extensive growth in Rwanda and Uganda, the team began to look at the needs of the rural villages in and around the cities. The community program was two-fold. One is to fill the void in the market of skilled patternmakers and sewers to support the city program. The other is to focus on a population at great risk for the sex slave trade, early marriage and extreme poverty. PFF currently teaches at 3 vocational schools and has 1 sewing school of their own.

Although the mission of the foundation is to affect economic development that supports communities through fashion and fine arts, Paper Fig’s work in Africa has proven to be incredibly supportive in some other initiatives that have holistically helped the communities it serves.

Since 2012, Paper Fig has:

  • Produced 15 runway shows in 4 countries. (Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana).
  • Engaged 200 local designers, 400 local models, 300 support staff and 5 local interns. 
  • Enrolled and graduated 300 women in 3 professional training courses.
  • Supported 7 Fellows through our Fellowship program.
  • Recruited and funded 3 expert professionals to teach 2 Master Classes.
  • Launched 3 Sewing Schools in 4 Countries (Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana).
  • Purchased 12 sewing machines and underwritten the stipends of 4 Sewing School teachers.

In addition to building fashion runways to create inroads for economic empowerment, we have also supported communities where they needed it most.

  • With the help of 50 volunteers, we have helped physically build 2 Health Centers in Kasese, Uganda that have treated thousands of women and children for malaria, intestinal illnesses, and other critical illnesses.
  • We have immunized hundreds of children for fatal diseases, both in the health center and by going door-to-door.
  • We have also hosted over 25 educational programs focused on using mosquito nets, family planning, and other wellness exercises.
  • We have helped empower 190 women in Kasese by forming a micro-loan program. 

All these numbers mean that in less than a decade, we have achieved an estimated gross financial impact of over $US 750,000!