A COMMUNITY of hands has folded more than 5,000 paper butterflies in a project that emerged from one young brave woman's personal journey.
The Butterflies for Mental Health campaign, launched by Ashley Whittington of Port Macquarie, has inspired the hearts and minds of people of all ages to speak openly about their own mental health stories.
The butterflies, which have been used to create artworks and hanging sculptural displays, will now be exhibited across the region and featured in the community celebration of creativity ArtWalk from October 1-8.
For Ashley, every positive conversation about mental health, builds resilience and strength.
It was more than about folding, she says, which by itself can be a useful mindfulness practice.
The project was designed to bring strangers together and nurture positive conversations around mental health and the importance of self love.
What Ashley has achieved is inspirational.
"It definitely got a lot bigger than I first thought. But this is about conversations and starting those with people," Ashley said.
"One of the biggest things for me was seeing everyone just enjoying being with other people."
Ashley was named the 2020 Young Volunteer of the Year at the Mid North Coast Volunteer Awards.
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.
She has proven that being creative can be an effective conversation-starter for people wanting to share their own personal stories.
The butterflies exhibition was launched at Charles Sturt University on Tuesday (September 29).
Director of Engagement Kate Wood-Foye said it was important to support Ashley and their students during what has been a difficult time with COVID-19.
"We were able to connect our students in something really positive and creative," Ms Wood-Foye said.
"It really has captured everyone's hearts and minds."
Project supporters included Lifeline Mid North Coast, CSU, Neami, headspace, Endeavour House, the outpatients at Port Macquarie Base Hospital and New Horizons.
You can see the butterfly artworks at locations around Port Macquarie including Port Central shopping centre and numerous doctor's surgeries.
You can also take a peek at CSU on Wednesday, September 30 between 10am and 11am and again between 12 noon and 1pm.
Due to limits on numbers you need to register here.