Episode #6 of the EWI Legacy Stories Project features MaryLouise Marino, former Empowered Women International Director of Programs and Operations. An artist passionate about women’s empowerment and cultural understanding, MaryLouise used her eclectic background to empower EWI clients and staff, volunteers, and interns.
In 2011, MaryLouise was new to the DMV and unhappy at her design job. Her outlet was EWI’s blog, “Everything seemed joyful and fun and empowering. I was craving that.” As for Mary, this wasn’t her first time in a new environment because she had studied and lived across continents.
She received her Master’s in Organizational Management and served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Uzbekistan and Romania. Curious and needing to get out of the house, MaryLouise attended an ETS graduation event as a supporter. “It was so alive,” she remembers, “To see the women and their tables. I was talking with them, and they were passionate, excited, and nervous and sharing their stories.” When immigrant entrepreneurs share their art, products, and food, they share an extension of themselves. In Romania, MaryLouise experienced the connection between culture and craft and understood the importance of EWI’s mission.
MaryLouise cold-emailed Marga with a cover letter and resume a few days later. An interview date was set; MaryLouise found her community. She served as the Director of Programs and Operations for three and a half years. She managed staff, interns, and volunteers, including current senior program manager Alexandra Boycheck. She loved working with staff and empowering the program team to achieve their dreams.
In 2015, MaryLouise left to travel in Southeast Asia with her husband and pursued her entrepreneurial interest. Indigo Lion Handmade is the culmination of decades as an artist and traveler fascinated by handcrafts and their stories. She founded the business in 2016 and transitioned to exploring her artwork using Laos materials in 2021.
The core of Empowered Women International, a program of LEDC since 2017, is its community. A decade after joining EWI, MaryLouise says, “My closest friends from moving here and being here are still in some way either directly EWI or one step from EWI.” She maintains connections with former staff, interns, and clients.
In Episode #3 of the Legacy Stories Project, EWI legacy client Sushmita Mazumdar shared the story of starting her business, Studio Pause. The grand opening doubled as MaryLouise’s first solo art show. EWI was prominent at the beginning, and MaryLouise displayed her mark-making.
MaryLouise serves on the board of the Lao Heritage Foundation, another connection she made through the EWI network. “It’s the network that keeps moving, that keeps close…and that’s pretty powerful.” Her passion for art, storytelling, technical systems, and organizational work left its mark on EWI’s community. Watch the full interview to learn more about MaryLouise’s travel, career, art, and time with EWI.
You can find MaryLouise at:
You can find Indigo Lion at: