BREAKFAST CLUB: Francine LeFrak wears her glass-bead jewelry with pride because the American philanthropist knows it is helping the women in Rwanda who made it.
“This necklace that I’m wearing pays for one year of school fees there,” she told an audience in Paris on Tuesday morning assembled at the Paris office of boutique mergers and acquisitions firm Ohana & Co. “This bracelet? One year of health care.”
LeFrak, an award-winning theater and television producer, is the founder of Same Sky, which since 2008 has helped genocide survivors, victims of rape and HIV carriers improve their lives by learning a trade, business skills and becoming self-sufficient.
“Talent is everywhere, but opportunity isn’t,” LeFrak said.
“The greatest philanthropy is a job. It’s not a handout, it’s a hand up,” she stressed, noting she now offers business training. “Entrepreneurs are the solution to poverty.”
LeFrak expanded her charity in 2013 to America, giving ex-offenders in Jersey City’s Hudson County Correctional Facility the chance to rehabilitate via employment and craft. She said of the 150 women employed by Same Sky, none have returned to prison — some achievement given a 75 percent recidivism rate in the U.S.
The jewelry is sold primarily online, through samesky.com, and LeFrak will seek more wholesale carriers by exhibiting at the New York Gift Show in August.
Designer Olivier Lapidus suggested Same Sky consider collaborations with famous designers as a marketing hook, and offered to submit free designs to get the ball rolling.
Karine Ohana, who hosted the event with her brother Ariel, lauded LeFrak’s efforts. “Women’s empowerment is the key to education, to peace, to freedom, to democracy. It is the basis and support for the solutions to all the problems that we have today,” Ohana said.