by Joanna Plichta Boisen
Editor’s Note: Washington Attorneys Assisting Community Organizations or “WAACO” has changed its name and
is now “Wayfind.” You can find the new name and more at the
redesigned website, www.wayfindlegal.org.
Nava was a design professional from Iran who immigrated to the United States seek- ing sexual orientation-based asylum. She was prepared for the language and cul- tural barriers, for the financial hardship, and even for the initial loneliness inherent in immigration. But what she did not anticipate was that none of her professional certifications would
transfer to the United States. Nava never found employment
in design, and instead began cleaning homes and doing odd
jobs to earn a living. A year turned into five years, and five
into 10. Looking back, if there had been an organization that
helped her earn a living doing what she loved, it would have
changed the trajectory of her life forever. But Nava’s options
were very limited back then.
Today, organizations exist that are dedicated to helping
refugee and immigrant women have better, more fulfilling
lives in the United States. One of those programs is Seattle-
based Muses, a nonprofit that promotes responsible manu-
facturing, fosters fair-paid job opportunities, and provides
training for low-income immigrants and refugees. Muses
came to life thanks to the help it received from Wayfind, a
nonprofit organization that provides pro bono legal services
to nonprofit and microenterprise businesses that strengthen
and transform communities.
When Muses came to Wayfind, they needed help navigating the nonprofit legal world, executing their incorporation
papers with the state of Washington, and filing an application to get their 501(c)( 3) tax-exempt status. Wayfind helped
Muses find a pro bono attorney who believed in their mission
and was excited to assist. Had Muses not had access to an organization like Wayfind, it would have had to find additional
funding or divert the funds it would use for training and education for refugees to afford legal assistance.
After Muses’s Wayfind-appointed attorney successfully
helped secure their 501(c)( 3) status, Muses needed assistance drafting contracts for their low-volume production,
cutting, and sewing jobs. Again, Wayfind found a business
lawyer with the right background and expertise to assist.
With Muses’s legal needs taken care of by Wayfind volunteer
attorneys, the nonprofit was able to focus on their mission.
Only in operation for a couple of months, Muses has already
successfully launched a pilot training program, trained five
refugee women, and signed contracts with two designers including Green Eileen, a recycled clothing initiative of Eileen
Fisher, and BYDEFAULT, a socially conscious local designer.
“Wayfind is helping nonprofits strengthen their communities
and we couldn’t do it without our volunteers and supporters,”
says Muses co-founder Sandrine Espie.
Guided by —
Ethical Fashion Is Changing Lives