In uncertain times, it's easy to simply take care of one's self and ignore the plight of others. Yet some remarkably compassionate individuals do just the opposite. From saving gun-wielding kids in Latin America to combating the needless suffering of the homeless right here in Miami, these local guys face the same quotidian challenges we all do, yet choose to confront larger issues head-on with a concerted effort and personal sacrifice that warrant special regard. Here, against the bright and airy backdrop of The Resort at Fisher Island, we pay tribute to these Miami men and their stout-hearted efforts to give back.
Taylor Cole: Empowering the Women of Uganda
While spending three months in poor remote villages east of Kampala, Uganda, Taylor Cole encountered some of the most beautiful people he’s ever seen. Spirited women would greet him with song and dance, wrapping cloth belts—a part of their traditional dresses—around his waist and coaxing him to join in. Wide-eyed children, bearing goods and smiles, would walk up and offer their modest possessions. “They had so little but were so willing to give,” says the 25-year-old Miami native. “Their happiness is found in simplicity—a drastic contrast to a lot of Americans who focus so heavily on superficial elements in life and are still unsatisfied.”
In January, Cole will return to Uganda for another three months to continue his work as an associate designer on the Akola Project, an initiative launched by the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO) to empower more than 190 women and their families through income-generating crafts. With sustainable programs and a no-handout policy, the UAPO has helped bring more than 1,600 women and children out of extreme poverty throughout the eastern and northern parts of the country. Akola’s creative director and Cole’s dear friend, Mallori Morris, invited him to jump on board. “The women create beads using local materials, and we combine them with pieces of natural stones, silver crosses, turquoise and coral,” he says. “We want our wearers to carry around a part of Uganda and its women every time they put on our jewelry. As designers, that end result is inspiring.”
Currently based in Coconut Grove, the young designer is now working on a women’s ready-to-wear collection. “I never cease to be shocked at [our] society’s misperception regarding everyday luxuries,” says Cole. “Clean water, available education, food, cars—we completely take them for granted…. [but given] Uganda’s bloody history and poor economic state, you would be surprised to see how many people in that country can still wear smiles.”
The Akola Project products are available online at theuapo.org or locally at the Design Box Home Boutique & Interiors, 3094 Fuller St., Miami, 305-644-9400.
The look: Jacket and pocket square, Saks Fifth Avenue. Vest, pants and tie, Hugo Boss. Shirt, Theory. Shoes, Ralph Lauren. Watch, Cole’s own