The Pandemic Changed Us, Not Stopped Us

(Courtesy of Breanna Ching)

How can we spread kindness in a time where we can’t see each other? How can we love and connect without hugs and dinners together? Those are tough questions – but perhaps I have a sliver of an answer. My name is Breanna Ching, I am a passionate social work student, mental health film writer and director, and founder of an annual mental health event, “Raising Up Warriors.” It is a project I do in lieu of my birthday, and it has raised $5 000 in two years. Raising Up Warriors is committed to empowering those with mental illnesses by giving them a space and stage to share their story. We are also committed to raising awareness and decreasing stigma, especially for highly stigmatized disorders. The event this year was scheduled for the end of April and we had our speakers, entertainment, sponsors, and volunteers ready to roll out a fantastic night of storytelling and solidarity for the mental health community.

Then, COVID-19 threw a wrench into our plans. One day we were at a store picking out centerpieces, and the next day our event was cancelled. We were initially devastated but within a day, my team bounced back and thought, “There must be something we can still do, even if it’s different.”

To start, I began designing encouraging mental health-related cards and prints and sold them from Etsy. Soon, organizations were placing orders for the clientele they could not see in person, so we received bulk orders – up to 560 cards for one organization. The money we made was directly deposited into our charity account. Within two weeks, we had made enough money to purchase a higher-quality printer, and enough proceeds to host more than one event per year. Every cent we make from online sales goes directly into our advocacy work. Our plan now is to host one smaller event each month, and the big “Raising Up Warriors” gala once a year.

If that wasn’t enough, a website designer began curating a formal website for us, www.raisingupwarriors.com. Our professional website has several unique features embedded in it. First, you can shop right from our site, buying mental health prints or greeting cards, earrings, stickers, or magnets! Every morning I post a short encouraging message titled #TLCbyBre. On Mondays, I post a lengthier blog post related to mental wellness we named, #MotivationalMondays. We have a “Warrior Wall” where each week we feature a mental health survivor and their story. Additionally, we have a weekly wellness challenge. We post the challenge – you upload a photo of completing the challenge! All wellness challenges are oriented to promote mental wellness during this social distancing time. Coming soon is an online platform for people to pose questions, and a pen pal matcher, where people can fill out their name, address, age-range, and hobbies, and as a team we match them with a pen pal!

I believe that there is always a light in any darkness. This season of life is dark and scary. However, I can guarantee you that not hosting the event in April catapulted our name and organization far further than if we had hosted it without having an online platform. Within 10 years, I hope Raising Up Warriors becomes a full-time job for me, as a current social work student.

This pandemic is not easy for the mental health community. Isolation and lack of personal and professional contact is brutal. Fear, anxiety, depression, and loneliness are running ramped. Our goal is that through our website, people will find a sliver of hope in this trying time. Please – check out our labor of true love! Engage with the wellness challenge, read the blogs, or sign up to be a Warrior! We would love to connect with you online, and there is a space for that as well. Let’s stick together while apart! Our only hope for this website was to BRING HOPE in this difficult time.

We will get through this. Together. We will stand united while we stand apart. May you find encouragement and joy in our meticulously planned out website: www.raisingupwarriors.com (Created by majcbydesign.com) And check out our Etsy link here: www.etsy.com/ca/shop/raisingupwarriors

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