Humanity at its finest

Mariagrazia Lauricella had no intentions of establishing a nonprofit organization, but a trip to South America changed that.

In 2012, she made a trip to Argentina that changed not just her life, but the life of many others.

At the time, Lauricella had a business that sold artwork and a portion of her sales would go to a charity of the artists’ choosing.

“I caught wind of the daughter of the founder of an orphanage in Argentina and she said I should go down to Argentina and help her dad because he needed help,” Lauricella says. “I just heard Argentina and made my way.”

Three months later, she made the trip. She had no real idea what she was doing there.

“All of a sudden, I met 20 or 25 kids, all at this orphanage,” she recalls. “After about a week of being there, I heard all [those kids’] stories.”

The orphans were removed from homes because of high-trauma situations like sex trafficking, molestation and other severe abuse cases, Lauricella says.

“When I got home to the states. I let go of everything I was doing and I went full-steam ahead into the creation of [Humanity Del Sol,” she says.

Humanity Del Sol is a USA-federally accredited nonprofit organization with a mission to break the cycle of abuse, slavery, abandonment and poverty through the creation of education and therapy programs for children and young people in Argentina.

It also had a business component to it, something Lauricella feels strongly about. “I believe businesses will change the world, not charity,” she says.

***

During her first trip to Argentina, she visited a vineyard.

“It was absolutely beautiful. It was the most luxurious thing I’d ever seen in Argentina,” Lauricella says. “After a couple glasses of wine, I decided to speak to the owner of the winery and see what we could do together.”

As the two discussed the possibilities, the concept of Humanity Wine Co. began to emerge.

Humanity Wine is a for-profit business, with 50% of the proceeds going back to the efforts of Humanity Del Sol.

The vineyard that Lauricella works with is the Zuccardi Valle De Uco, named best vineyard in the world by World’s Best Vineyards for the past three years.

“I felt like God was in control and, as we kept talking, this whole program emerged,” Lauricella recalls. “The owner asks me, ‘So you do not want my money?’ And I said, ‘No, I would love your money. But I think it’d be great for us to partner together, and make money, so that we can give back to these kids.’”

***

About six years into the program, Lauricella realized a troubling trend. Humanity Del Sol would bring the orphans into the program but at 16 or 17 years old, they would to run away.

“These kids were really, really good kids,” she says. “It just didn’t make sense to me.”

She started to analyze the situation and realized an important piece to the puzzle had been overlooked.

“These kids have zero skills. They would go to school, but the schools didn’t teach any life skills.”

Without parents to fill the gap, the orphans were often struggling, making the leap from child to adult.

“At that point I had to make a hard decision, do we turn our attention to these kids who are aging out or do we keep helping the kids that are in the orphanage?” she recalls.

That’s when Humanity Del Sol added skill-based education, and internships, to its program offerings.

“That’s when things got really interesting,” Lauricella says.

The Argentinian government named Humanity Del Sol a program of national interest and asked them if they could go nationwide to help all the orphans in the country—roughly, 700,000 orphans.

“That’s when the fire was lit,” she says. “I had been preparing the wine company for a very long time, about five years … and I knew that we had to go to market, sooner than later, so that we can help financially,” she says.

Humanity Del Sol now reaches all over Argentina with programs such as nutrition, therapy and training, in addition to rehabilitation and job skills.

“It’s a complete life-cycle support system,” she says.

Now, the organization is expanding its mission once more and has plans to establish a campus for orphans to live on as they transition to independence.

“Oftentimes, they come from really toxic situations. Because they have nowhere to go, they usually go back to their perpetrator,” Lauricella says.

Humanity Del Sol is in the process of securing a 14-acre property, with eight apartments on it, which will be used as transitional housing for orphans who are aging out of the system and have nowhere else to go. The property is income-producing through its vineyard and gardens.

The property will cost $350,000 to purchase. That’s where Humanity Del Sol’s first big event comes into play.

In October, Humanity Del Sol, in honor of its 10-year anniversary, will be holding its Tango and Tastings event at Nova 535, in St. Petersburg, to honor its team, donors and board members. The event will have tango dancers from Buenos Aires, a six-course wine tasting and food pairing, all paying homage to Argentina.

“I’m very head-down and I don’t really do too much marketing of what we do. So, I think this is the opportunity to say, ‘Hey, we’ve been around for 10 years. I want you all to know the incredible work that this group of people have done for changing the lives of a forgotten generation’ and really get people in Tampa to say, while we can absolutely help locally, what can Tampa, do internationally?” she says.

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