Our Story

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago how the MAKERIE vision came to be, I’d have said this story began when I first traveled to Ethiopia in 2013… seeing for the first time, what extreme poverty looks like and coming home with a modified heart. But no. Over the past 5 years of planning and dreaming and prepping and building this non-profit, I have come to realize that this story started long before that.

When I was just a little girl.

A little girl with big plans: I’d use my imaginative soul, my love for ART and CREATING things and I’d change the world! I had a fail proof plan to sell my signature paper, tape and crayon handbags… millions of them. I’d feed every starving child in the world with my profits. Voila – World problems solved! Just like that. Bahaha.

Turns out – I only sold one paper handbag – sweet mom and dad. Also turns out, hunger isn’t the only pain in the world.

At nineteen years old, my own story (and my optimism) was hit with a major curveball: Lupus. And, with it, enough chronic pain to slow my change-the-world pace. I now often relied on the help of others to accomplish small tasks – tying my shoes, cutting my food, changing my babies’ diapers and rocking them to sleep when my arms were out of commission. Lupus brought a strong, capable, independent young woman to a place of dependence on the generosity of others and with that, the truth that my body could no longer keep up with my “normal.” Despite being blessed with the most AMAZING family and friends who’ve been relentless in helping me through rough times, I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thrown some raging self-pity parties. WE ALL FALL DOWN for one reason or another. And on occasion, we need to rely on ourselves to GET BACK UP – if for nothing else but to have the confidence that self-reliance brings.

I chose early on in my battle, rather than feeling hopeless, to lean into something that always brings me joy: CREATIVITY. My cameras, and paintbrushes and woodworking tools – they are my refuge. They lift me up on the days when nothing else can. I believe ART can do the same for the kids we aim to serve…

BECAUSE ART IS RAD. One of the greatest blessings in my life has been the opportunity to be invited to travel to third world countries, using my camera to capture stories of humanitarian work, the people served, and the friendships made.

Another defining moment of the MAKERIE story came as I stood on a dusty road in a slum outside of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, watching in awe as a thin, fragile woman walked with a limp towards me, carrying her grown son on her back, a grimace of pain on her face. I watched as she carefully lowered him to the ground upon reaching the covered area they’d been given permission to use as a temporary home. As she lowered her son, it was the “I love you so much” smile she gave him that rocked me. But it was the look on her son’s face that rocked me even more… the most genuine gratitude.

I saw my reflection in that moment. In the face of that young man. And in his mother, I saw a reflection of the people and all the things that have carried me.

Understanding is foundational in compassion.

I am grateful for my pain. That pain is the backbone of this new adventure - and it was a necessary part of my being right here right now, in this place of tenacious desire to help kids navigate through their own pain. It is so AWESOME – the way Jesus really does use ALL THINGS for good. ALL THINGS.

The MAKERIE is about that young man on his mother’s back. It is about the five million orphans in Ethiopia and the 10,000+ foster children in WA state. It is about the startling truth that suicide is the number one cause of death in WA teens, aged 10-14 years old. It is about the young woman who has escaped the sex trade, is all-alone, and dreams of becoming a fashion designer but has not one dollar to her name. It is about the little boy who wants to be a rock star prodigy - but every last dime his family had has been spent fighting his leukemia. We are about the child in Ethiopia who dreams of taking pictures, but spends her days walking hours to provide fresh water for her family... For these kids, we will partner with other organizations to be ensure basic needs are met – access to food, water, shelter, education and healthcare. Then, we will provide the sewing machine, guitar, or a camera… AND a community of volunteers who offer their time and talents at our centers in Washington State and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, helping our MAKERIE kids realize their own creative aspirations.

“Everyone has a creative potential and from the moment you can express this creative potential, you can start changing the world.” –Paulo Coelho, author

According to the International Child Art Foundation, “Research indicates that a child who is exposed to the arts acquires a special ability to think creatively, be original, discover, innovate, and create intellectual property – key attributes for individual success and social prosperity.”

We are about advocating for those children most vulnerable… those who are impoverished, orphaned, bullied, and those fighting disease or disability. We are about action and growth. And FUN. And friendship. We are about celebrating the UNIQUE creativity of every young person and watching their stories change as they are empowered. We are about putting future world changers on our backs should they need to be carried for a while.

MAKE friends. MAKE art. MAKE joy. theMAKERIE.

Nikki McLaughlin, Founder/Director

The makerie story