WITH every gentle fold, a simple piece of paper transforms into a butterfly.
Every positive conversation about mental health, builds resilience and strength.
A project aimed at promoting mindfulness for positive mental health, has earned 21-year-old Port Macquarie woman Ashley Whittington the 2020 Young Volunteer of the Year award.
The awards were announced on August 21 at the Mid North Coast Volunteer Awards.
Ashley is the creator of the Butterflies for Mental Health Month project which invites the public to come together and create origami butterflies.
Ashley hopes more than 1000 butterflies can be folded and then displayed at community locations across Port Macquarie-Hastings.
When people are enjoying doing something creative, they are more likely to talk and to listen- Ashley Whittington
The project is supported by Lifeline Mid North Coast and encourages people to talk about mental health. Ashley also supports Lifeline Mid North Coast at events for people who have lost family members or friends to suicide.
Ashley has proven that being creative can be an effective conversation-starter for people wanting to share their own personal stories.
"When people are enjoying doing something creative, they are more likely to talk and to listen," Ashley said.
"I wanted to provide an opportunity for the community to come together and engage in a mindful activity in a social setting.
"The activity gets people talking about mental health. We bring into the conversation that origami is a mindful activity, which means that while doing it, people focus on the moment. That is a really good way to start talking about the positive impacts of mindfulness on mental health."
The community is invited to get on board by folding butterflies in their workplacs, at home, during their lunch hour.
All butterflies will be made into artworks for a display at CSU, as part of ArtWalk's longest footpath, and then into waiting rooms across the region to provide a talking point about mental health.
Butterflies represent transformation, endurance, change, hope and life. Some people associate their recovery with butterflies, emerging from cocoons and flying.
The project is supported by Lifeline Mid Coast, Endeavour Clubhouse, CSU, New Horizons, headspace, Neami, Inpatient and outpatients at Port Macquarie Base Hospital.
Local artists have been approached to create the artworks including Brad Collins, Jennifer Broughton and Kingo's Art and with the help of Sunset Gallery, will be exhibited at CSU, the hospital, at medical centres and in Port Central above the elevator for Mental Health Month in October.
Residents are invited to join in the folding at Port Central in the creative space beside the escalator during the first week of September.
For more, follow the Butterflies for Mental Health Port Macquarie Facebook page.
This is what the Australian spirit is all about - helping others- The Centre for Volunteering CEO, Gemma Rygate
The NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards are an annual program run by The Centre for Volunteering which has grown to become one of the largest celebrations of volunteering across the country.
"Volunteers from across every region of NSW have continued to give their time, energy and compassion in the face of enormous adversity over the past 12 months.This is what the Australian spirit is all about - helping others," The Centre for Volunteering CEO Gemma Rygate said.
"Helping your community and never giving up. I couldn't be more proud of the region's volunteers and their incredible resilience and spirit."
NSW Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward said volunteers are the essence of regional communities.
"They're the people raising money for vital causes, they're there for us in terms of emergency and they're the friend on the end of a phone breaking the cycle of isolation," Mr Ward said.
"We can't put a price on volunteers. These regional awards ceremonies are an opportunity to thank all our volunteers and to recognise the best and brightest."
ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said volunteers are the backbone of registered clubs across the state, so it was a natural fit for the industry to support such an important program.
"Congratulations to all the volunteers who were recognised for their dedication and commitment," he said.
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