DEDICATED TO EMPOWERING WOMEN, SUPPORTING RESILIENCE AND OFFERING HOPE
IN THE MOST UNIMAGINABLE CIRCUMSTANCES
WHAT WE DO
Dignity not Despair is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that donates makeup and hygiene products to female refugees. We understand that even a seemingly small deed can have a major impact on one’s state of mind. By donating these items, we aim to help these women maintain their dignity and a sense of normalcy, and as a result, promote emotional and mental well-being. To date, we have donated over 1,000 makeup and hygiene kits to women in the U.S., Bangladesh, Jordan, Lebanon, Greece, Indonesia, Mexico and Tanzania.
Dignity not Despair was founded by Kristen Gibson and Stacy Lee. In March 2016, we volunteered as humanitarian aid workers in Greece to assist with the Syrian refugee crisis. While handing out donations, two women pulled us aside and shyly asked us if we had any makeup. We were struck by this request, and it continued to resonate with us after we came home. Providing food, shelter and clothing in crisis situations is essential, but we realized that there is a need for goods that help provide something equally important, which is one's dignity. After volunteering at the camps, it became obvious that those living there were trying so hard to maintain a sense of normalcy. We were incredibly inspired by their resilience. Our brief conversation with those women helped us realize that maintaining one's previously held standards of appearance can be a tool to improve emotional and mental well-being. Engaging in a beauty routine can be a positive coping mechanism for women because it provides a distraction, creates bonding experiences between women, engages them in a creative activity, lets them know they are worthy of self-care and allows them to have fun. As we began to do more research, we discovered that we were not alone in this experience. Zainab Salbi, the founder of Women for Women International, has said of her experience providing humanitarian aid to women in Bosnia:
"I asked the women, what do you want me to bring you next time I am here? ...And they said, 'Lipstick... because it's the smallest thing we put on everyday and we feel we are beautiful and that's how we are resisting. They want us to feel that we are dead; they want us to feel that we are ugly... I put the lipstick on every time I leave because I want that sniper, before he shoots me, to know he is killing a beautiful woman.' ...That's how she's keeping her beauty; ...that's how women resist and show their resilience in the darkest of circumstances."
"I say thank you, because you make us happy, even if you are here for one day. Please do these things for refugees because they need it. People like me, they like things like makeup, but under refugee conditions, it’s not possible to do. My daughter is very sad now. I worry for her condition. Today, she is very happy. You should do this because we need it -- for our mind, our health, everything."
"I feel like when I am wearing makeup, I am feeling so confident about myself. Personally, I haven't heard about this, providing refugees with makeup and hygiene products. People usually tend to bring food and clothes and water as the basic needs of the human being. But I think when it comes to taking care of yourself, I think hygiene products and makeup, especially for women, it's a necessity as well."
Amina, Rohingya Refugee
"Ever since I left Myanmar, I can't stop thinking about all the bad things that happened to me there. Toady, I'm not thinking about any of that."
"Whenever I have makeup on, I feel confident. Today when I was getting my makeup done, I felt like an important person; overall I felt amazing. I really appreciate your work. As women refugees we really appreciate that you are volunteering your time with us. We hope your work expands in the refugee world, and that others will be inspired by your work."
"Makeup makes me feel more confident. Getting these kinds of donations makes me happy because I had to leave most of my belongings back home in El Salvador."
Dignity not Despair is a nonprofit public charity under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. We accept only UNUSED, UNEXPIRED makeup and hygiene product donations (i.e. feminine hygiene, shampoo, conditioner, soap, lotion, dental hygiene, face wash, etc.). If you'd like to donate any of these items, please send them to:
Dignity not Despair
P.O. Box 39404
Los Angeles, CA 90039
If you live in the Los Angeles area and would like to schedule a drop off, or for any other donation inquiries, please email .
If you don't have any of the above products, Dignity not Despair also accepts monetary donations. All donations are tax deductible and go directly towards sending makeup and hygiene kits to female refugees.