If I Made You a HOPEful Sign, What Would It Say?

Some days are a struggle. And even on those days that aren’t a particular struggle, we can all use a little encouragement, a little inspiration, a little Hope. And while it won’t solve the world’s issues or cure our illnesses or anything like that, sometimes, it really helps to hear or, in this case, see someone say “You are worthy. You are strong. You are courageous. You are beautiful. You are enough.” Sometimes, we need to be reminded “There is hope” or “You’ve been here before, and you got through it, you’ll get through this too.”  So we’re going to be making signs. And we have some plans for these signs, but for now we want to cultivate all you’re awesome sign ideas along with our own, and create.

We want to hear from you. What would your sign read? We could all use inspiration from time to time, so we’re asking for you for your ideas – after all, these signs would (will…. stay tuned) be for you!  Here are some examples.  Choose from these examples, or give us your own!

Sometimes, we just need to be reminded that we are already amazing.  Just by being ourselves.
You are enough.  Exactly as you are. We use this reminder often here at Spread Hope Project!
Maybe your sign reminds you that everything you experience is valid – from your struggles to your dreams. 
Or perhaps, you simply need the reminder that there is hope. 

So what would your message of HOPE say? You can give us as many as you’d like (there’s always room for extra Hope!). Let us know in our comments,  send us an email, or share it on social media with the tag #SpreadHopeProject.

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One Month to Go

A year ago June 1, I started the #365DaysofHope campaign. The idea was to post one picture every day with some sort of Spread Hope Project gear in it, based on suggestions of photo subjects from others. I did it for several reasons: of course, to raise awareness of Spread Hope Project, to focus on even the smallest things (or seemingly smallest) that can bring hope, and to get me doing/trying some things that I may not think to otherwise.

I didn’t get a full 365 suggestions, so I had to improvise a bit. Additionally, I’ve switched jobs and have less free time to get these photos, and also realized I just don’t have *that* much SHP gear, so I’ve had to be flexible with the rules I set. Basically, I’ve been trying to post a pic a day, either with a message of hope, or doing something that makes me hopeful, using the hashtag #365daysofhope. When I can, I try to wear/use Spread Hope Project gear.  You can check them out on Instagram.  Well, it’s just under one month until June 1, and therefore the technical completion of  the#365daysofhope campaign. I have not yet managed to get all of the suggestions given. Some due to time/monetary/logistical restraints, others I just… haven’t yet gotten. Here are the picture suggestions I have yet to get:

Bike ride 

Underwater pic of fish

Jersey Jets (this is where I trained gymnastics my entire youth)

Kids performing something

Swinging on a swing set

Running through a sprinkler

Playing catch with Grace (dog)

Mailing card/letter in a mailbox

Reading an actual newspaper

Playing a board game

Walking on a boardwalk

Toes in the sand

Doing a cartwheel

Rock climbing/rock gym

On a ferry

On top of a human pyramid

Plant a tree

Draw with a child

Cook a meal from a different culture

Draw with a child

Plant a tree

Go to the ballet

Go to Niagara falls

Go camping

Magic gardens on south street

Mosaic at the Curtis Center

Lobby of the customs house

Jail at Eastern State Penitentiary (in case you’re wondering it’s now a historical site in my neighborhood, not currently working jail!) 

Lucy the elephant

Swimming

Rolling down a hill

Building a sand castle

Watching fireworks

I’m not sure how many of these I’ll get to. I’d REALLY like to get to the top of a human pyramid, but I’ll need some help. So if you’d like to volunteer for that particular tasks, please let me know. I probably (read: definitely will not) get to Niagara Falls, go camping, or to the ballet in the next 23 days. It’s unlikely I’ll go rock climbing. I may be able to improvise some pictures (I did climb on some rocks in Greece!). But let’s see how many I can get to. What are your favorites?

Of course, if you’d like to help me get these photos and/or experiences, please raise your hands! And naturally, keep an eye on our Instagram to see how I fare!

Below are two of my favorites: Climbing/hiking up a mountain (taken in Ronda, Spain – technically I climbed down it first), and doing a handstand. Well, technically it was supposed to be a press handstand but I like to keep all of my parts in tact and I’m not that strong anymore, so handstand it was.

 

ronda

Hikiig a mountain in Ronda, Spain

handstand

Handstand. Grace doesn’t look impressed.

May Is Mental Health Month

Happy May! It’s sunny and getting warmer here in Philly, which is amazing. It’s incredible how much difference a little sun and warmth make, at least to me. While I can certainly battle depression on the brightest, warmest days (because it’s an illness, which doesn’t care about the weather forecast), I usually feel significantly worse in the short, cold days of winter when it’s difficult to even go outside for fresh air. So I’m super excited for the weather to finally be turning.

I haven’t blogged in a little while. I’ve been trying to get my sh*t together, reorganize my thoughts, plus I’ve been traveling in Greece. Side note: if you ever get the chance to go to Greece, go. It’s a gorgeous place, the people are the friendliest, the food is the freshest, and …. just everything about it. You can check out pics on our Instagram.

But I digress. May is Mental Health Month. A cause near and dear to my heart, as most of you know.  Every day my brain wages a battle against me, and every day I win, even if sometimes just barely. I am the one in five adults in the US that has a mental illness. Specifically, I am one of the 0.4-1% of the US population with cyclothymia. There is little known about written disorder, and it’s difficult to find others who have it. It also tends to be pushed aside as “not as big a deal”, which anyone who’s dealt with the rapid cycling nature of the mood cycles knows is inaccurate. The lack of information and difficulty finding others who have it has driven me to do two things – 1.) start my personal  blog over at Lilies and Elephants. 2.) Help others whose causes and/or organizations need exposure. Because nobody should feel like what they’re going through or fighting for is “not a big deal”.

This month, I’ll be focusing on mental health causes and organizations, as well as those causes that can be associated. Here’s what we’re looking for:

  • Local organizations or projects raising funds or awareness for mental health.
  • Local business partnering with an organization to raise funds or awareness
  • Local, orgs, businesses, or even individual advocates looking to be more involved in mental health and related causes

We want to know about you, and help others to know about you! Zero cost, I promise. It’s just what we do here at SHP.

Questions you may have:

  • Does local mean Philly area where SHP is based? Nope. Just means not a big global or national  company. In other words, we’re a small org helping other small orgs/businesses.
  • Does it really cost nothing? Yep. Our thing is promoting your thing. Or you. Or your cause. That’s how we spread hope. Or at least one of the ways.
  • My cause/project could be related, but I’m not sure. How do I know if my cause/organization/business qualifies? Ask us! You can hit us up on email, Instagram, FB (we’re less frequent on there), or my personal account on twitter.
  • How can you help my cause/project/etc? We can help you tweet, post, and share. We also can add you under our Projects tab on the website, and if you’re interested, we can “interview” you for a blog post. We can also help you with additional ideas specific to your cause/project/event.
  • I know I/my company/my organization want to do something, but I’m not sure what. Can you help? We can. Or at least we can try. Reach out to us at the above.

Mental Health is important. It affects 20 percent of the US adult population, so the chances are, we all know someone affected – even if we don’t know it.  Let’s help erase the stigma and raise awareness together.

 

Help Us Help Others: Become a Spread Hope Project Ambassador

I promised, as part of my 2018 Goals, that I was going to ask for help. And so, here goes my first attempt.  I love Spread Hope Project, and I truly have some big dreams and exciting inspiration for it. But sometimes, it takes a village. Or at least more than one person. So I’m reaching out to ask for help, in a way (baby steps).

I’m looking for Spread Hope Project Ambassadors to help it grow. What is a Spread Hope Project Ambassador, you ask? In a nutshell, it’s someone who helps get the word out about Spread Hope Project.  Here’s all we ask:

  1. Follow us on Instagram and Like us on Facebook. Tweets are @mayanorthen, though not all tweets are about Spread Hope Project, so it’s not required to follow me there.
  2.  Post on social media just 4 times a month (you can certainly post more!) with the hashtag #SpreadHopeProject, and tag us accordingly.
  3. Share one blog or social media post from us a month. However, wherever you’d like. You can share a blog post on your Facebook, repost an Instagram post, Retweet anything with  #SpreadHopeProject. It’s up to you.

That’s it! Only rules about the posts you hashtag/tag are as follows:

  • It must have something to do with our mission. We’re very open to creativity, but it can’t just be a picture of your lunch with no explanation as to why it’s connected, and our hashtag.

 

  • We’re all about cross promotion, but please no straight up promotion of solely your non-related-to-the-mission business and just adding our hashtag at the end. We’d love to partner though, so please, let us know if you’re interested!

 

  • We’re about hope. So please, no negativity against others. No hate, no bigotry, no negativity about others’ lifestyles or religions or gender. and certainly not others’ about illnesses or disabilities, when you are using our hashtag/tagging us.

 

So, what do you as an ambassador get?

  • $5 off your first Spread Hope Project gear purchase
  • Exclusive deals on Spread Hope Project throughout the year.
  • Cross promotion of your blog/business/project in a way that we can connect with our mission. (If you have none of these, we’ll do so for a cause that you are passionate about, in a way that we can connect with our mission).
  • VIP previews of new projects and campaigns that we’ll be running, including any promotional deals from us or our partners.

Interested in being an ambassador? You can hit us up in the Comments, Social media, or on email.

Spreading Hope One Cause at a Time

There’s been a ridiculous amount of negative occurrences going on in the world lately. At times, I think it’s easy to feel downright hopeless, or at least struggle to find much hope. I understand it. The number of times lately that the nightly news has had to expand to a multi-hour program to cover the unfolding of disastrous events – natural and otherwise – has been entirely too high. Not to mention the every day life situations we all have to deal with that can bring us down. And for those that battle anxiety and depression, who may already be wrestling with the trying to find hope, the struggle goes even deeper.

But I refuse to give up on hope. I watch the good in people – the people who protect others, complete strangers sometimes, at risk of their own lives. The people I personally know who have traveled to hurricane regions to help out, simply because they want to do something to ease the suffering of people who are losing so much. And then there’s the everyday actions that most people may never even know about – the kid who stands up for another classmate being bullied, the person who quietly helps out an important community cause without any fanfare or desire for recognition. I could go on all day listing examples. These are the people that tell me all is not lost. Good people exist in the world.  We have reason to have hope.

Spread Hope Project is not a huge organization. We don’t have money pouring in. We don’t have hundreds of participants and volunteers. In fact, we are quite far from that. But we can still help. We can still offer hope. So over the next few months, we will be regularly posting causes (via our super high-tech paper and marker hand-made signs), and asking for your suggestions for ways to help. It may be that we are looking to donate school supplies, for instance, and looking for a school that could benefit. It may be that we’re looking for program suggestions for specific causes (say, your suggestions for animal-related causes, for example). It may be a free-for-all cause/organization shout out – name any smaller cause that needs the help but doesn’t get the attention it deserves! We may not be able to help everyone, but we’ll choose at least one suggestion from each post to help. We don’t have a massive amount of funding, so we’re looking for ways to help that aren’t just monetary. It could be volunteering or organizing an event or drive. It could be something as helping in an awareness campaign.

So stay tuned, and make sure to follow our Instagram and Facebook pages for more updates!

 

50 States of Hope

Every day, I read about different community projects happening in my home city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It truly inspires me, and I think of the hope that these people are bringing – to those that they’re helping specifically, to the community, and to each other (being surrounding by others wanting to make positive change is certainly hopeful). And hopefully, pun kind of intended, to themselves. I know that for me, the fact that there are good people in the world, nearby even, and that we can bring about positive changes together gives me hope.

And yet I realize how few of these projects I participate in. Not because I don’t want to, but because I learn about them and think, “Oh I should look into that”, and then life happens and I remember about it too late, or there’s a scheduling conflict, or I get overwhelmed and need to take a step back from involvement. Or perhaps, I don’t hear about these at all. Maybe it’s a small, local project that I’m unaware of until it’s too late to participate. Or I hear about it after the fact somehow.

So I decided I needed to do something about this. I want to be more involved in these efforts, to bring awareness to some that may not get as much notice, and to participate in more of those that I keep saying “next time” to.  With that, I’ve started the the 50 States of Hope goal. I would like to be involved in at least one project that helps at least one person in all 50 states. Now of course, I could pick one large event for a cause that affects people in every state. And I might well participate in this simply because I think it worthy. But I’d also like to participate in those that are more local. Perhaps it’s simply a locally organized event of a larger organization. Or maybe it’s writing an anonymous letter of hope to someone struggling. Or a toy or book drive for children who are in the hospital.  It could be participating in something to help local community arts. Maybe it’s a local community garden project, or something to help local school children. What I want is to really feel my contribution is helping people, and that perhaps I’m bringing awareness to a worthy project or cause that may not have enough awareness on it.

But I of course don’t regularly frequent all 50 states to know exactly what local events and projects are going on. So that’s where you all come in. I’m looking for suggestions. What’s going on in your area? Do you have a project, perhaps one that helps your community, or one nearby, that you’re passionate about? Do you know someone, or know of someone, who could use a letter of hope. Do you know someone who runs a local project or campaign for a cause?  I’d love to learn more about it.

Now please keep in mind that I have a day job and am not independently wealthy so, while I’d truly love to one day do so, I cannot currently travel the country full time offering hope, and may need to get a little creative with some. And I’d rather it not be strictly a monetary donation, not only because I’m not independently wealthy but because I’d like to get my hands dirty a bit. To feel more actively involved, even if it’s simply collecting toys or books or games or school supplies or food or whatever it is. So please, send your suggestions my way either here, on social media, or via email at thespreadhopeproject@gmail.com.  If I am able to participate in the project you suggest, I promise to give it a shout out on social media, the blog, wherever I can, and if you’d like, to give you one too for making the suggestion (this part isn’t mandatory if you’d prefer to stay anonymous).

Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

.

Spreading A Little Hope By Mail

So far, we’ve been mostly photo based. Which I love – visual representations of hope are quick, eye-catching (we hope!, no pun intended even though we love puns), and can reach a broad audience on a variety of media. Recently, though, I “won” a set of blank cards (the kind you write in, not the kind you play poker with). When I say won, I was given them for being the first person to raise my hand and volunteer something about myself at a group event. Which is a rarity – I particularly dislike being in front of a group, even if it’s sitting in my chair at a table with others that I know.

I love writing. It brings me solace in my worst times, helps me work out the jumble of thoughts and ideas and anxieties in my brain. I’m often able to bring to life things in writing that I would not be in speech. I also love sending and receiving cards.  Not e-cards or Facebook messages or a long typed out once-a-year update that’s sent to everyone at the holidays, but the good old fashion pen and paper individualized cards.  It felt serendipitous that I decided to raise my hand when I normally wouldn’t, and that the reward was writing cards, so I want to use them to pay it forward.

My mission is this:  I’m looking for people who you know who you feel could use some hope, and would appreciate a hand-written card. I don’t need to know them – in fact, it’s better if I do not. There’s something wonderful in reaching beyond your circle to spread hope to people simply because you feel they deserve it.  The cards will each be personalized as much as I can, without knowing the person, to explain why I’ve written from the Spread Hope Project to them. While we are generally chronic illness and mental health based, it does not have to be along these lines – it can be anyone who you feel could use some hope (and wouldn’t be super creeped out by receiving a card from a stranger at the Spread Hope Project).

Feel free to email us if you’d like to offer someone’s name and address (so that we can send the card – I promise we won’t spam them or send them promo material. We don’t even have printed promo material!). I believe there are 8 cards, so we are looking for 8 people.  I’m excited to use these, given to me, to give to someone else who could use them more than I.

Thank you! With love and hope,

Maya

365 Days of Hope Starts Tomorrow

June 1st is the day, all! The day that we start our 365 Days of Hope campaign.  We are off to a good start: 107 items, places, and activities so far for us to take photos with/of in our Hope gear.  We have everything from sitting in a new coffee shop to being on top of a human pyramid, so don’t be shy about your suggestions! (Note:  it’s a family friendly project, and we would like to keep out of jail or the hospital, and keep our day job! :-). 

Why? Because we want to reach people in all places of all ages who enjoy all different types of things.  Chronic illness can feel isolating, and we want to let these people know that, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they like to do, they are not alone, even when it feels like it. And maybe we’ll even make them smile a little.

So fire away! Have a favorite outdoor activity? A favorite historic site, landmark, or city? Maybe you want to see us do something silly, or relive our childhood? We’ll be running through sprinklers and swinging on a swing set, so feel free to add more! We don’t mind being a little goofy in order to spread a little hope to those who need it. In fact, we’re pretty much kids at heart!

We don’t have an endless supply of money, so we may need to improvise on some suggestions, but we’ll do our best to make them happen!

Can’t wait to see your ideas!

Much love and hope to you all!

 

 

 

365 Days of Hope

We’re rolling out a fun new campaign! One that we didn’t list in the May blog post, but hey, sometimes ideas just pop up out of nowhere. So here we go.

We’re gathering 365 ideas of “things” – anything, really – that we can take photos with in our Hope shirts. It can be anything from a cup of coffee to a sunset to the Eiffel Tower or even an activity (that won’t get us arrested/fired). Hey, you might even get us to see or try something new! So far, we’ve been given suggestions such as:

  • A rainbow
  • A wild animal in the wild (where we can do so safely!)
  • The beach
  • A music festival
  • A brewery
  • A famous art sculpture
  • An alpaca
  • Riding a bike

As you can see, your suggestions can be as specific or as general as you’d like. We might need to be creative at times, but we’re going to try to post one each day (some of which may have to be “later grams”, since we can’t really determine when we might see things like a rainbow or a wild animal in the wild). You are allowed to give us a specific place, but if you are not the proprietor of said place, we just need to ask their permission to tag them and prove it’s there. If we are not allowed to, we may need to generalize the suggestion (i.e. to “a coffee shop” or “a brewery”). If you are the proprietor, by all means, thank you for letting us take a photo there!

So please, fire away! There’s no bad suggestion, assuming it’s not illegal, immoral, or might injure us.  We’d love to experience new things and have new adventures along the way, so have at it! We can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Why Do You Spread Hope?

Starting this Sunday (March 26th), we’ll be running a one-week Instagram challenge. Each day, we’ll be asking people to share why (and how!) they spread hope, using the hashtag #whyispreadhope. It can be a picture of your efforts, with those that you’re spreading hope to, or simply a selfie explaining with a caption saying what you do and why. It can be a hand written signs or arts and crafts are fine. Heck, it can just be you wearing purple, the color of the Spread Hope Project, with a caption as simple as “I spread hope because hope matters.”  However you want to share your reason, share it. Of course, we’ll be sharing our “why” each day.

Why are we hosting this challenge? It’s simple really. The more people that share their story, the more people we reach. They reach their friends, their friends reach their friends, and the spread of hope continues on. We know it takes courage to put yourself and your stories out there like this, and we want to show people that it’s OK to share. You don’t have to be an expert or a professional or a writer or even a casual blogger. You just have to snap a pic and say “here’s why I do this”.

Everyone deserves to feel like they matter. They deserve to feel like someone wanted to reach them, and that they have the ability to help someone else, even if it’s simply by posting a photo and a hashtag.

We can’t wait to see what you have to share! See you on the Instagram side!

 

Why I Spread Hope