Leah is an 18-year-old photographer who lives in Collingwood, ON. For the past three years Leah has been traveling, with her dad, to cities throughout the world photographing the homeless and recording their stories. Leah, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"For the past five years I have been mentored by Joel Sartore, a National Geographic photographer and Fellow. I first learned of Joel when I took his College-level course ‘Fundamentals of Photography’. Three years ago, with Joel’s encouragement, I began photographing, and recording the stories of people experiencing homelessness in cities throughout the world, such as Toronto, Hamilton, New York, and Brisbane. This past November the fruits of my labour were published in a book entitled Nowhere to Call Home—Photographs and Stories of the Homeless, Volume One. Volume two came out on July 10th, and volume three in December. With my books I am hoping to accomplish two goals: first, I am trying to humanize the homeless; and, second, I am attempting to shine a spotlight on the problem of homelessness.
Last November CBC’s ‘The National’ aired a mini-documentary (11 min.) about me. Since then, I have been interviewed by media, not just in Canada, but around the world, including: Chatelaine, BBC News, the Toronto Star, Global News, Vancouver Life, Toronto Life, CBC’s ‘The Goods’, Corriere della Sera (the largest daily in Italy), CTV’S ‘Your Morning’, The Agenda With Steve Paikin, and 7Days (a newspaper in the Netherlands). Last September I spoke to 40,000 people at the WE Day and WE Family events at the Air Canada Centre, sharing the stage with such celebrities as Prince Harry, Hedley, and the former Secretary General to the UN. In November I attended the ART CRAWL NY after being personally invited by David Giffin, the event’s organizer, and the Executive Director of the Coalition for the Homeless. In April I was flown, all expenses paid, to the Women of the World festival in Brisbane, Australia, where I exhibited my photography, spoke, and did book signings."
"We created Rock Your Bliss over five years ago out of desire to have more authentic, vulnerable conversations with women. We met years ago while working together and due to our raging egos we didn't hit it off right away. At all. Once we realized what was in the way we truly did the work to get closer and have been best friends ever since. Jacki is a goal coach and Mary Beth is a yoga teacher. We are actually both certified in life coaching and yoga teacher training and saw a major need to bridge the work on and off the mat, inviting the mind and the body into bliss-crafting as a practice for living. We offer retreats, workshops, online programs and even have a podcast. The conversations and transformations we've seen through this work have forever changed us and we can now call hundreds upon hundreds of women family who are a part of our community. We believe rocking your bliss and helping others to do the same is our life's work."
To stay connected with all the amazing things these ladies are up to, and to get to know these two Heroic Humans, visit their website! http://www.rockyourblissmovement.com
This feature was brought to us by our Mental Health Ambassador Moriah. Moriah wanted to celebrate this very special person in her life... Emily!
"Emily Allen is a mother, entrepreneur, creative, and one amazing chef if I do say so myself! She resides in Lancaster, PA with her daughter Ellis and her partner Brad. What most people don’t know about Emily is that she has walked a long, hard road to get where she is today. On March 20th, 2005 Emily gave birth to a beautiful baby girl named Alivia Rachel. The journey to Alivia was a hard one but finally Emily was blessed with the baby she had prayed so hard for.
For the first year of Livi’s life everything was normal, but nothing could prepare Emily for the news she would receive after Livi’s one year check up. She was told that her precious baby girl had Leukemia and for the next 16 months Emily stood by her daughter as she received endless treatment to beat cancer. They spent the majority of Livi’s 2nd year of life living in Hershey Medical Center but in Emily’s words, she would do it over and over again just to be Livi’s momma. On June 6, 2007 Livi lost her fight to cancer and was taken home to be with God. Thousands of people gathered to celebrate Livi’s life. Emily created a blog after Livi’s diagnosis and it was followed by thousands of people all over the world.
Everyone rallied together to support Emily and Livi as best as they could but we could only imagine the long road ahead. I attended Livi’s celebration of life and at that time I was only 14 years old, but I remember sitting there wondering how on earth Emily was still standing after having to say goodbye to the little girl she had prayed for and waited so long to have.
Emily could have allowed this tragedy to break her but instead she started raising money to help find a cure for other babies battling leukemia and after being told she could no longer have children she made the most selfless decision to adopt a little baby boy named Griffin a few years later. Emily was his mother from the day he was born and she loved him with every ounce of her being. It didn’t take the pain away from losing Livi, but she kept standing and loved him as if she never experienced loss.
Sadly, on the last day the birth mother could change her mind, Emily received a call saying the birth mother wanted the baby back. So here Emily was, once again having to say goodbye to the second child she loved. Again, Emily could have allowed this to break her. She kept helping to find a cure for cancer and she continued to raise awareness in the community by sharing her story, all while fighting to overcome the loss she endured.
Emily met her partner in 2013 and since she was told she couldn’t have children, it was never on her radar. She accepted the path God had put her on and she kept pursuing creative endeavors and leaving her mark in the world.
In August 2016 Emily found out that she was pregnant. After all these years of having to endure motherhood without her babies by her side she was blessed with Ellis Loretta on April 17th, 2017. Ellis has big blue eyes like her momma and her big sister Livi and she has the most beautiful red hair. She reminds me of her big sister Livi every time I see her big smile. She lights up the room wherever she goes and makes friends with everyone. Ellie is a lot like her momma, full of joy, strong and loving to everyone she meets.
Emily by far embodies the values of a Heroic Human. When faced with tragedy she chooses to rise. She chooses to use her pain for good and help others fight for a cure so that they won’t have to walk the road she’s endured. You will never hear Emily complain about the journey she’s had, but instead she will be quick to share the amazing memories she has of her two babies she lost, and continues to encourage everyone around her. Emily is on the board of Fete En Blanc which is a committee in Lancaster, PA that hosts yearly events to raise money for charities. This goes to show how amazing Emily is and how big of a heart she has.
Emily; you my friend are my hero and although you have endured more pain than most, I admire your strength and your will to never give up. It takes a strong soul to keep choosing love after all of this and yet here you are. Thank you for impacting this world and for using your pain for good. You are not just a Heroic Human, you are a warrior and I am beyond proud to honor you today and every day!"
I'm so excited to have Jenilee as a part of the Heroic Humans community. She is such an inspiration and truly lives as her truest and most authentic self and I find that to be so incredibly courageous. Jenilee is brave, resilient, and a true healer. Absolute Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"I always knew I wanted to help people, that desire drove me to the root of why I think anyone wants to help others:
a deep-seeded need to help yourself and and an unconscious longing for self-love.
My desire to help others was motivated by how “un-helped” I felt by others and by myself. I went through all the years of school I needed to get certificates that said I was capable of helping others. I got a Bachelors degree in Psychology, at a school I was ostracized at for coming out as a Lesbian. Then I got my Masters degree in Social Work (MSW) and I was out in the field helping every population I could access.
Still at the end of the day I cried at my desk, feeling like I was never going to make the difference I wanted to make or actually feel fulfilled in my life, or feel seen for what I was actually good at. I also found myself very distracted by constant fears of betrayal and abandonment in my personal life.
I lost my father- the only person in my family who I felt truly seen by, months after graduating with my masters degree and had finally left the abusive relationship I chose to be in for almost a decade around that same time. My relationships with the rest of my family members were on the rocks and in need of healing.
I met my now husband, Aydian Dowling and he was the first person who I felt understood me and valued me for who I was at a soul level. He was different than what I was used to but when you spend so many years of your life settling for crumbs and someone hands you a whole pie it seems too good to be true. I found it difficult to trust that my life could be different and that I was worthy of being truly loved.
I clearly saw how I could potentially ruin my beautiful relationship if I didn’t figure out how to heal and let go of my past. I went to therapy and did some powerful emotional work but I still felt there was so much more I was holding onto from the past that was effecting my present life and that scared me.
I had always been really spiritual even though I dropped out of the catholic church after being judged for exploring my sexual identity. I realized I was a spiritual being with or without organized religion and
became very solitary and private in my spiritual practices. I dove into the study of energy medicine, and energy healing and learned how to connect with my own spirit through pendulum dowsing. I had never felt so empowered. I took classes to learn how to release the energy from my past and clear the trauma held in my subconscious mind through a spiritual healing modality called Spiritual Response Therapy (SRT).
This healing modality changed everything for me. It was the thing that was missing in my practice of helping people through Psychotherapy. I realized we are more than just thoughts and emotions, we are souls. I realized we are all unique souls with so much potential for fulfillment but we can allow the experiences of our past to hold us back from reaching that potential. I found that traditional psychotherapy doesn’t treat the whole person and that even when we do the work to process our emotions we can get stuck when we don’t also release the energy of where those emotions came from in the first place.
I started my own energy healing practice called Readings by Jenilee where I use all of my acquired skills and experience to help others by reading the energy of their past, tracing it back to the root cause, helping them to process it, release the energy that is keeping them stuck in it - so that they can come to a new place of awareness of how to consciously move forward into new belief systems, and new patterns of thinking and living.
This work feels easeful to me because I went through it myself and have seen the transformation that has occurred within me. Becoming my true, authentic self was a process of realizing how much I didn’t love my true self and doing the healing work to begin to love myself and forgive myself is a gift I would love to give to everyone. It also gave me the courage to want to be a mother and bring a human being into this world to witness, support and empower in reaching their own full potential.
I now offer healing sessions world-wide over skype and facetime with individuals and couples and also offer free group healing sessions focused on learning to love yourself weekly on Instagram LIVE @readingsbyjenilee called #transformationtuesdays"
Taisia's story is incredible. Her courage, resilience and bravery in sharing her story and making a stand to help others is absolute heroism. Thank you to Taisia for everything you stand for and for making a difference. You truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"My name is Taisia and I'm 22 years old. I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder at 20, but I've been living with it since I was about 12 years old. Growing up, I never really had anyone that I felt like I could relate to, or anyone that I felt comfortable sharing my feelings with. I felt like isolation and hiding my feelings were my only choice. Along with living with an undiagnosed mental illness in my teen years, I was also taken away from my family at the beginning of high school and placed into foster care. I was bounced around from home to home, eventually became homeless, and became addicted to several substances by 16. At my most vulnerable point, I became a victim of human trafficking right here in Toronto. I had dropped out of high school, turned to self-harm as a coping mechanism, and tried to take my own life. I remember feeling so lonely and misunderstood. Looking back, I realize how much I needed an outlet. I needed someone to hear my story and take me seriously. Unfortunately, I didn't have that. But I decided that I wanted to make it a possibility for others. I also decided that I wanted to share my story in hopes of helping people who may be going through something similar. I went from being a high school dropout to graduating college and going to university. I also work as a speaker for two organizations - YouthSpeak Performance Charity, and Aura Freedom International. I've spoken to organizations such as the Ministry of Child & Youth Services, the Department of Justice, United Way Toronto/York Region, and others. I'm the founder of The Borderline Project, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing innovative & stigma-free services to those with BPD. I started Above the Silence to let people know they aren't alone. Being able to relate to others and realizing that you're a part of something bigger can be enough to save someone's life. We all have a need to feel appreciated and understood, and the platform that I created is just one more way of encouraging that.
I found my purpose in not only sharing my story, but empowering others to share theirs. I think it's really powerful to see people find strength in being vulnerable. As a speaker, I know how hard it can be to get up on stage and share secrets with an audience full of strangers. But I also know how cathartic & healing it can be. I'm so happy to see Above the Silence turning into this supportive community of people who are incredibly strong & resilient. I can't wait to see where it goes from here!"
To stay updated on Taisia's incredible journey, follow her here: @abovethesilence
This feature it near and dear to my heart. Sarah is a Heroic Human through and through and truly is an inspiration to those around her. She is a bright light, a beautiful source of energy, and one hell of a mentor and friend. Sarah, you are making such a difference in the world!
You are my Heroes,
My name is Sarah Maclachlan, and I founded Kindness Warrior Clothing Co. because I was called to be a Warrior of Kindness, in every sense of the word.
The words Kindness Warrior came to me during many napping car rides with my twin daughters (sometimes the only way those suckers would sleep at the same time!). For my momma sanity, I would grab a tea, hit the road and ponder life.
I couldn't get those words out of my head.
I dreamed, I downloaded and most importantly I BELIEVED in these words and what they represented. It was who I have been all my life and more importantly who I wanted to be for my children and my wish for them to be in this world.
Suddenly, I dreamt of the flowy grey tanktop with gold lettering and went about making just one tank for myself cause I wanted to harness this powerful mantra each day when I put it on.
I cried when I saw the first logo that my dear friend Aislin designed and once again when I saw the first sample. I knew right then, this dream was bigger than me and the power of the wearable mantra was meant to be shared with those who want to be the good, see the good, DO MORE GOOD in the world.
So, what exactly is a Kindness Warrior, you ask?
She (or he) is a force of good in the world. We believe in the good. We see the good. We are the change we want to see in the world. I believe in the strong, powerful and resilient Warriors that are serving the world with compassion, integrity, love and grace.
And my intention was to create a high vibe clothing line for them to wear each day as a reminder of their strength, courage and ability to change the world. Together, we’ve created a positive and uplifting online community.
I know good exists because of the work of many beautiful Kindness Warriors around the world.
Through charity, in crisis and chaos, in community, sisterhood and in every day acts of kindness, compassion and empathy, we rise to the occasion and spread kindness like its our J.O.B.
My warriors give me hope for the future and for a brighter and peaceful world for our next generation.
And I want to spend the rest of my days, nourishing, celebrating, recharging and empowering our beautiful community of renegades. Since I started Kindness Warrior 1.5 years ago, it's a been a beautiful journey of building an online sisterhood, creating content that nourishes the soul and designing clothing that inspires women to serve with kindness, stand in their power and live each day as a Kindness Warrior."
"I was born with a rare condition called Dysmelia, which meant that my legs were twisted and shorter than normal and my feet were missing toes. My left arm was also longer than my right and my hands were deformed. For much of my childhood in Hagen, Germany, I was in and out of the hospital while surgeons performed more than 20 operations on my legs and, eventually, metal frames were inserted to help hold the bones together. When they finally told me at age six that I'd be able to walk, I felt the sensation of the path beneath my feet for the first time. I felt like the world was my oyster.
It look a lot of determination to learn to walk, but for the rest of my childhood I was able to live normally. I needed metal leg braces to help me get around, but there was nothing I couldn't do. In 2001, when I was 18, my world came to crashing down during a routine check-up on the metal frames inside my legs. "I'm so sorry", the doctor said. "You have blood poisoning. We're going to have to amputate both legs as soon as possible, otherwise you could die." I couldn't believe what I was hearing as he explained the area around some of the metal screws holding my bones together had become infected. I'd had a bit of pain in my legs, but it hadn't seemed like
anything unusual and I had no other symptoms. I was only 18, and felt as if my future was being ripped away from me. I began crying, jumped up from my eat and ran out of the hospital, determined that I wasn't going to go through with the procedure. But I was caught by a group of nurses and my dad, who managed to talk me into it. Doctors explained that without the amputation, I was putting myself in an extremely dangerous situation. I agreed to the operation. I was admitted to the hospital and surgeons amputated both legs 20cm above the knee. It was my only option to survive. After a week, I was allowed to leave the bed in a wheelchair, and I knew it was time to face myself. Staring in the mirror at my new body and bandaged legs, I was surprised to find that I felt a sense of acceptance. "So this is what a legless woman looks like..." I laughed.
From that point on, I coped by trying not to think about the future, but focus on healing."
Follow more of Hulya's story by following her here: @huelya_dennis
"At the age of 13, I received a Victoria’s Secret magazine in the mail. I sat in my bright orange, funky bedroom, and flipped through the pages. Tall, tan, skinny, perfect. In that moment, beauty became a standard I had to live up to rather than an inherent trait I carried as a woman. It became an unattainable ideal that I had to fight, strive, and strain for constantly. After years of extreme body-insecurity, self-doubt, and striving, I finally decided to pick myself up, plant my feet in the ground, and rise. I embarked on the journey towards radical self-love, authenticity, and unapologetic, free living. I let go of the standards and finally chose to rest in my undeniable worth, value, and beauty.
As women, we often feel this pressure to fight for our worth, to prove our beauty, and to strive for our value. In all of the work I do, I spread the message that women are not only good enough as they are, but they are absolutely extraordinaryas they are. When we can get past the state of striving and comparing and start showing up unapologetically and authentically as ourselves, we create space to live in fulfillment and create tremendous positive change in the world.
The heartbeat of my work is this: As women, our inhale and exhale breathes fresh, beautiful life into hopeless places. Our dreams carry answers to the world’s complex problems. Our tender kindness eradicates hatred and makes room for love. Our minds hold great mysteries waiting to be uncovered. We are beauty at our core - in the brave acts of faith we display, the kindness in our eyes and the hope in our soul.
When women realize their true worth, beauty, value, and power, they are able to show up in a new, deeper, more profound way. But before we can reach that place, we have to know that who we are is not only enough, but extraordinary.
This is why I created The Authentic Woman - a platform that empowers women to live their freest fullest life. We help women fall in love with their body, pursue their wildest dreams, and change the world through their unique talents. We encourage women to shut out the noise and look within- the place where the answers have been all along. Our platform isn’t about telling women what they need to fix, but about awakening what is already within. Beauty, power, and worth are hardwired into our body. They flow through our veins. They are in our DNA. We simply have to acknowledge that and awaken to the tremendous beauty within.
So, if you take nothing else away from all of this, know that your worth is already proven evident. It is inherently yours. It is your birthright. There is nothing more you have to do, be, or achieve in order to be good enough. You already are."
Personal Instagram: @ashton_m_long
This feature reminds us that Heroism comes in all forms, big and small, and sure does make an impact coming from a seriously inspirational young lady named Regan. Regan, you're well on your way to making a difference in the lives of many. Keep up all of your amazing work! You truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"Regan Scott created The BakeRee out of a simple love of baking. This young lady is Durham Health certified and completed her Safe Food Handling certification all by age 12. Now, she’s in demand all over Durham Region and as far as downtown Toronto!
Regan, known to her baby sister (and staff taste tester) as “Ree”, tested out recipes for special diets for hours on end. Only the best gluten free, vegan, and even raw creations made The BakeRee cut. Regan has produced some of the tastiest cookies for special diets – her dairy free chocolate chip cookies are simply too good to be dairy free. Although she specializes in cookies, Regan says her banana loaves are also a huge hit not only at the farmer’s markets but also around Christmastime when her fresh baked goods are in high demand. In December, Regan prepared nearly 50 gift sets, made to order, for children gifting to their teachers. Another 50 gift sets went out for corporate client gifts. At only $20 a set, these gift sets come with a half dozen fresh cookies of choice, in a BakeRee customized mug, and cello wrapped with a gift tag ready to go. Word about this young entrepreneur’s tasty treats has spread as far as downtown Toronto – Regan has prepared platters for some blue chip companies’ corporate events, although she only smiles and blushes a little when I ask which companies. I ask her how she prepares such big orders and delivers them, and she looks to Dad, who only smiles.
Usually, Regan saves her earnings from The BakeRee sales for her education and donates a portion of proceeds to a charity close to her heart. This summer, Regan is donating proceeds from her sales at the UFM (Uxbridge Farmers Market) on Sunday, September 23 to the Toronto SickKids Hospital (SickKids Foundation). Regan remembers her experiences visiting SickKids as an outpatient. When Regan was born, a blood clot in her arm led her to be in care at SickKids for the first weeks of her life. When returning for check ups, she remembers being scared and nervous in the big hospital’s waiting rooms. Regan hopes to donate funds, with the support of her community, to provide fun activities and programmes for children in outpatient waiting rooms. She knows that play will make children’s experiences less scary and more fun while waiting to see their health team doctors.
Regan’s plans for The BakeRee include the fundraiser on September 23d at the UFM, where you can fill out a ballot to win a gift set. Regan explains that with competitive dance, swimming, school, and babysitting (yes, she’s also a certified babysitter) she has to balance her time very carefully. Regan will focus on fulfilling gift set and party platter orders for holidays rather than attending markets. With nearly 100 gift sets on order last year, I suggest getting in touch with The BakeRee today to get your orders in.
You can check out Regan and The BakeRee at www.TheBakeRee.biz on Instagram @TheBakeRee_ on Facebook @TheBakeReeCA or you can email her to place your order: TheBakeRee@outlook.com. Be sure to stop by the UFM on September 23 to support her in donating to SickKids Foundation - and buy some of this famous banana loaf you’ve already heard so much about!"
WHAT’S MY STORY?
“What are you going to do in this world?” Said by a grandson of Nelson Mandela
The moment I heard these words, I knew that there was a bigger meaning to who I was, and what I am meant to do then I ever could have imagined.
As a young girl, I was shy, introverted and had a deep passion to help others and leave a positive impact. Like many young teenagers and young adults, I struggled with self-confidence, my body image and my identity. One of my saving graces came in the form of mentors and books in they self-help industry.
Hi! My name is Ashley-Ann and the best words to describe myself are: Entrepreneur. Writer. Philanthropist. Life Coach or Mentor. But I simply like to go by, storyteller.
At the age of 21, I realized that I was the creator of my future and ultimately, my life. This was the start of dedicating my life to giving back, making an impact and provide healing for others. But in order to be a source of healing for others, I had to heal myself.
WHAT DOES STORYTELLING MEAN TO YOU?
Writing is what healed me, it allowed me to express myself on paper rather than keep my thoughts, feelings and emotions locked inside. Today, I write to help heal anyone who is ready to be healed. I help women who feel stuck to discover solutions within my story so that they can heal and own their life. And that is why, “The Key to Happiness: A Journey to Embracing My Story” was written and turned into an online experience.
“You have one life, live it intensely, and search profoundly for happiness.” Padre Fernando
So I ask you, “what makes you happy?”
Is it having a big house, lots of money, lots of friends, a fancy car, traveling, partying every weekend, the latest smartphone?
Well, what if you didn’t have all of these things? What would be your source of happiness?
WHAT’S YOUR MISSION?
My soul purpose if for you to realize that you are that source.
You have that capability to be in a state of happiness at all times.
Yes, there will be moments of sadness, frustration or anger.
But ultimately, you are the source to your own happiness.
I remember when someone asked me who I love, I would never say me.
I remember when someone asked me if I was happy, deep down I knew I wasn’t.
I remember when someone complimented me, I would fight against that compliment.
You see we spend so much of our life resisting our true self, and self-sabotaging our own happiness. That ends here. With the pain I’ve experienced I have created principles to happiness that you can apply to your own life and it’s all found in The Key to Happiness Online Experience.
Connect and stay updated with Ashley-Ann here: @ashleyannpereira
Landon's story is one of perseverance, strength and bravery. His vulnerability and openness with his journey has only given inspiration and empowerment to those around him. Thank you for sharing, Landon, and for making a difference by telling your story. You truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
“I was the so-called tomboy that pushed the gender roles of what a girl “should” do until it was no longer acceptable. At the age of thirteen, puberty hit, and I was stripped of whatever little comfort I had within my body. As my physical body changed, I was reminded of the XX chromosomes I was born with. My chest began to grow, and my menstrual cycle left me with not only streaks on my underwear but traumatic memories never leaving my existence. Society condemned my behavior; my body betrayed my mind and the mirror became a spot of absence. To go through an experience feeling out of place and hopeless led me to the point of never staying quiet.
Sharing my story began in 2015, I took a leap of faith and decided to upload a YouTube video with the title, “I AM TRANSGENDER”. I had been out to my close family and friends nearly two years prior and it was time to socially transition. It started as a way for me to get the word out about my name and pronoun change before the new school year arrived, but it soon progressed into a video blog of my physical and emotional transition along the way. Since then, it’s never ended.
At the same time of my transition, I was faced with immense trauma that left me lost and shattered. My father passed away suddenly, my mother became emotionally absent, we lost our family home to foreclosure and I was battling an eating disorder. I refused to let my life struggles tear me down because for the first time in my life I had confidence within myself. My self-love led me to put in the work to lose nearly 100 pounds. The only thing that seemed to get me through it was staying present in psychotherapy.
Today, at the age of eighteen, I’ve recognized that being authentic is what makes me have purpose in this world. Using the years of education and life experience I have, I’m working to become certified as a motivational speaker and life coach for those in the LGBTQ+ community. If me being myself empowers another to embrace their own identity than my vulnerability was all worth it. My mission is to show others that we’re all unique and our individual stories are what make us so incredibly human, so let’s use them to empower each other."
Stay updated with everything Landon is up to here: @landonmcnee
"I believe that wearing hijab while playing sports has given me adversity, confidence and strength on and off the field. For many women, wearing modest clothing along with a headscarf while taking part in sports is a physical and social challenge to overcome and we should celebrate those that have mastered it and encourage those who are struggling!
My inspiration to create this initiative comes from my own experiences as an athlete and an interest in creating opportunities for Muslim women, especially those from minority groups, to grow and realize their social and physical potential. Muslim women, like women of any other faith or race, have extraordinary abilities and talents. However, their abilities and accomplishments often get overlooked due to the piece of clothing covering their hair. I was often told that rugby was not to be played by women who wear hijab, that women who looked like me were better off in school or at home. Others saw barriers for me which were not there. However, I knew that my faith would not be weakened by playing sports. Growing up in Toronto has given me a chance to discover my passion and strengths in relation to rugby and an opportunity to pursue it, while wearing the hijab. Being Canadian should mean that we recognize our differences, celebrate it, and optimize on it to move forward and grow as individuals and as a society.
Approximately 84% of the 1.3 million Canadian Muslims say that that being Muslim is very important to their identity (2011 National Household Survey). Preserving this identity should not mean that women and girls are deprived of opportunities to be part of their communities, particularly by taking part in sports and athletics. Involvement in sports and recreational activities is key to integration and social and economic participation, especially among newcomers. Let's acknowledge the fact that more than half of the Muslim women in Canada wear hijab or niqab in public (Survey of Muslims in Canada, 2016). It would be too many opportunities wasted, too much talent not recognized if these women were discouraged from pursuing sports and athletics.
Hijabi Ballers holds events and programs aimed at celebrating and increasing the participation of Muslim women in sports. We have received numerous grants and awards allowing us to serve hundreds of Muslim females pursuing sports and athletic development opportunities in Toronto."
In August of last year my little brother Michael committed suicide. We learned that he was suffering from Depression and Bipolar Disorder. He was undiagnosed. He was 24 years old. I spent the night at the hospital with him while he lay in a coma with my brothers and my parents by his side. He was pronounced dead at 8:10 AM on a sunny Monday morning. That night changed everything for each one of us. The choice he made on that hot summer evening to end his life has forever shifted the trajectory of my life and the lives of those who surrounded him.
That’s the part that seems obvious – that your life would change as a result of experiencing something as profoundly traumatic and devastatingly sad as suicide. What is less obvious and worth sharing is the story of how I have chosen to understand the choice he made because I cannot change what happened by being angry or sad. Instead, I have chosen to see the beauty, chance and possibility in his death. I am going to promote a powerful life for him because of those life altering things he taught me in the days, weeks and months following his death.
Michael struggled throughout the night on life support. My father and younger brother shifted through stages of traumatic shock and grief while my mother was in panicked transit en route from Montreal to Toronto. I spent much of that night sitting with him, talking to him, trying to help him feel loved in case any part of him was aware of what was happening. In fact, the doctors responsible for him that night encouraged me to do that, despite the fact that his motor skills were obviously inhibited by the damage to his brain. I felt, along with the doctors that there was a chance he might still hear and feel me. He stabilized over the course of the night but finally after over 6 hours of improved condition, at the moment when my mother arrived at the hospital, completing the attendance of all family members, he went into a massive cardiac arrest. A series of resuscitations took place, and 2 hours later he died.
I spent the last two hours lying beside him, struggling to find a balance between staying calm for him and managing devastating waves of grief. I imagined that if it was me lying there I would want to feel loved in the simplest most powerful sense and so I chose to focus on finding that place in the early hours of the morning, during the final hours of his life.
This is in fact the beginning of the story of Michael’s life in many ways. Since I have begun sharing his story a number of people have been affected by it. For example, a work colleague who I have known for years had never told anyone that his younger brother, the same age as Michael, also suffered from Depression and Bipolar Disorder. When I told him the story of my brother, he asked me: “what should I do, how can I stop my brother from doing the same thing?”
I am often questioned about what I could have done or should have done in order to stop him from making the same choice that night. I actually never struggled with the guilt of being unable to stop him, what I struggle with most is that I did not know that he was in pain. I felt by not recognizing the signs, I had no idea what he was struggling with. If could choose to go back in time it would be so that I could tell him two things: that I was so sorry he suffered alone and that I would try to separate his personality and the choices from the mental illness he suffered from.
I wish that I had been more compassionate, more present and more supportive and not as judgmental, critical, busy, and impatient to be able to see that he needed help.
This could remain a sad story. However, early on in this experience I chose to see that in fact we were, all of us directly and indirectly involved, given a beautiful gift – the gift of perspective. When I told my friend my story, he left the following weekend to visit his little brother – and he told him everything that I wished I had the chance to tell Michael. From that point on he credits Michael’s story with why they have a different and a healthy relationship. My friend now treats his brother with a greater level of compassion and empathy and his brother feels supported and understood in a deeper way.
This is why I have to tell his story. So that it impacts those who hear it and inspires all of us to make the direct choice to be more compassionate and present with those who need us. This is the gift he gave me and I am choosing to respect the choice he made and to create a better world in the process.
We firmly believe in the research that suggests a correlation between an increased sense of well-being and a regular yoga practice. Our goal is to help those living with a mental illness discover this shift for themselves by offering regular yoga classes through our partnering studio at no cost.
We exist because we believe yoga may allow some to find a sense of peace inside the struggle of mental illness. We will help as many people as we can discover the power of yoga by connecting them with some of the most amazing studios Toronto has to offer.
Intellectually supported by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health and empowered by generous donations and long term financial partners, Blu Matter Project is an innovative not-for-profit organization that provides qualified applicants with the opportunity to discover the benefits yoga without the financial burden.
Blu Matter Project is currently expanding. This 2018 we have created a partnership with Lululemon "The Local" on Ossignton. 50% of the profits from each purchase at The Local go towards the support of Blu Matter and building a bigger team. Currently Blu Matter is only running out of the "Iam Yoga" studio, while next year we will be expanding our program to 5 other studios in the Toronto GTA. This means more free yoga, and mental health by yoga access will be readily available for participants who have been previously waitlisted. It also means easier access, as the studios chosen will be spread out across the GTA for ease of transit.
Blu Matter Project is a not-for-profit organization that operates as the liaison between Ambassador Studios and those living with Anxiety, Depression and/or Bipolar Disorder. We provide our recipients with the opportunity to practice at a partnering yoga studio free of charge for a year.
Our vision is to generate a stigma-free conversation about the lived realities of mental illness, creating a non-judgmental, global support network. We are committed to providing tangible solutions by way of monthly workshops to those living with mental illnesses. We hopwe to create a global conversation about the real-life experiences of mental health for all parties involved.
To learn more about Blu Matter Project and to get involved, visit their website blumatterproject.com
Sabrina founded A Brown Girl Company to celebrate diversity and to bring advocacy and awareness to mental health. She holds pace for people to share their stories and journeys, and features people to share vulnerabilities, successes and challenges. Sabrina, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"I was inspired to start this company because I realized that life is too short to not be represented and to not have a voice. In june 2017, I was diagnosed with depression right after I tried to take my own life. As you can imagine, it was a terrible time. I felt like my life was over. I slept all day everyday because my one and only wish was to not be here anymore. Fast forward to August 2018 - a year and two months after my diagnosis - I'm running my own brown girl empowerment line, which has gotten incredible feedback from around the world. I made it my mission to show people that they too can turn something as bad as depression into something good. It’s okay to not be okay and I want everyone to know that when they come across my page.
In the past, I've looked up "brown girl empowerment" and had no luck. Therefore, I decided to make my own. I want brown girls to know they aren't alone. Society never really talks about brown women, and I wanted to let them know that their voice will be heard. I want them to see my products and say "hey, that looks like me!". I will do everything I can to give brown women a voice because we deserve it. We need to stick together, and stay strong. Everything gets better. We are strong, powerful, talented and beautiful just like all the other women out there, and that is simply what this line is intended to represent. Something beautiful can come out of even the ugliest of situations and I need people to know that it really does get better no matter what situation they are in."
To follow along on Sabrina's journey, follow @abrowngirlcompany
Katie Bowen Photography
Katie Bowen Photography
I want to take a second to acknowledge how amazing Analyn is. She is the epitome of womanhood, strength, vulnerability and courage. In sharing her personal story with cancer, motherhood, amputation and postpartum - Analyn has inspired others to share their journeys and to open up about the difficulties, and the joys of diversity and humanity. Analyn, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"Creating this space and figuring out what it even was and what I wanted from it has taken a lot of time and has evolved. It honestly continues to evolve as I learn more about myself.
This actually started as a business page for my doula business. I have had a passion for teaching, pregnancy and birth for a long time and turned that into a job I love. As my business was new, I was working hard to grow it. I spent countless hours working on my original website ( which I still have) and IG. When I sat down to work on my IG I decided I would do daily post with each day dedicated to a specific topic. IE Monday would be birth, Tuesday postpartum, Wednesday breastfeeding, etc. On the day I do a postpartum post I wanted to show raw, natural postpartum bodies. I spent time pinteresting and googling "postpartum bodies" and what I kept finding was articles on how to "bounce back" and diet plans, work out plans etc. I was so frustrated that nothing at my finger tips showed the beauty in the natural postpartum body. When I looked deeper and finally found the images, images of saggy bellies and stretch marks, something hit me. There was an absence in women with scars and disabilities being represented. Where were the beautiful pictures showing that women with amputations, and in wheelchairs, and with scars were also mothers? I realized if I wanted to see this I would have to make it myself. I got down to my underwear and showed myself - scars, amputation and all. I wanted to show that women with disabilities are beautiful and desired and mothers. That picture took off, and I really wasn't expecting it to have the impact it did. It was then that I realized I needed to inject more of myself and my stories into my business page. A few months later when I was diagnosed with cancer again - this time, it was breast cancer. As a breastfeeding mom I knew I wanted to document what I was going through. I changed the name of my business page and moved to telling my story. Being diagnosed with cancer as a mother absolutely shattered me. Being diagnosed a few weeks before my 18 year remission day, it knocked the air out of me. I wanted to tell that story. I wanted to connect with others like me that understood without saying a word.
At first I was documenting things as they came up. It wasn't until after I stood in the street topless and I was driving home that I thought about what it is I really wanted to wanted to say. I've learned a lot on what it really means to have cancer more than once, what it really means to live with an amputation, and what life after cancer really looks like.
My mission with my blog and social media is to bring an understanding to people, cancer and disabilities. That we are beautiful and we are valuable and that we aren't defined by what's seen on the outside. Mostly though, I do this for my children. I want them to connect with others, to ask questions, to value similarities and differences and most of all to have the confidence to live the lives they want and to be exactly who they are."
Sophie is addressing an issue that people experience day-to-day all over the world. Her rewarding work gives people the space to share their stories and bring awareness to varying experiences of harassment. Sophie, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"I was inspired to share my story with you because Catcalls of NYC is about building community and engaging new people. The Instagram account is made possible by followers who submit their stories of harassment in the New York City area. I then share their stories by writing them on the sidewalk in chalk in the spot where they originally happened and posting them on Instagram. My goal is to raise awareness about catcalling-- an issue that is often belittled, ignored or considered “just words.” By sharing these stories I provide people with a community of support and make them feel less alone. By writing the comments in chalk on the sidewalk I force the public to pay attention to these words that are being said to women on a daily basis.
For me, this account has always been personal. I grew up in New York City and catcalling was (unfortunately) a part of my transition to adulthood. When it started happening, I didn’t understand what was going on. At age 15, I felt uncomfortable when men would talk to me. Comments like “hello beautiful” and “sexy” made me extremely self conscious walking down the street. Sometimes I would avert my eyes, look down at my phone or even cross the street if I saw a man walking towards me.
What originally made me feel uncomfortable soon made me very angry. Why was this behavior allowed in public? Why was my experience as a young girl in NYC so drastically different from those of my male friends? Why did I have to think about what I could wear so as not to provoke unwanted attention? Even as I recognized how problematic this behavior was, I never felt comfortable responding
to men who catcalled me. Their words silenced me. I started Catcalls of NYC as my way of speaking back. Rather than saying something in the moment, which I was too afraid to do, I could do something after the fact. I could use my story for good and offer others a platform to share their stories too. Furthermore, by raising awareness I could challenge the culture that normalizes street harassment and eventually change it.
I highlight intersectionality on my account because feminism is nothing without intersectionality. For me, this means recognizing the different aspects of peoples' identities and how they contribute to their experiences of harassment. In this way, the account is an educational platform for people to learn about the different types of street harassment diverse people in NYC face.
Overall, this work is extremely rewarding. People often thank me for giving them a space to share their stories. Sometimes I’m the first person they’ve told and it’s a relief for them to not carry the burden alone. People who haven’t experienced harassment have also thanked me for shedding light on this topic. One man told me that because of my account he’s become more aware of how his own behavior may make someone uncomfortable. He feels that he’s becoming a better ally. It’s gratifying to help other victims of street harassment by giving them a voice. I'm thrilled that by reaching new people with this message I can change minds and embolden people to tackle this pervasive behaviour."
Follow Sophie's initiative on Instagram: @catcallsofnyc
Teens Take Charge is a student-led coalition committed to raising students’ voices for educational equity in New York City. The coalition is part of The Bell, an organization that uses media, testimony, and events to shift more power in education policy to the students affected by it. This student-led movement is taking the future of schools and education into their own hands. To the entire Teens Take Charge team;
you truly are Heroic Humans...
You are my Heroes,
"Teens Take Charge was born around April 2017 with the first student performances,
To Whom It May Concern,
in the Bronx Public Library. Whitney Stephenson and Nelson Luna are the co-founders of the coalition but along with other peers, they came up with the name: Teens Take Charge. Whitney and Nelson have both graduated this past week from Democracy Prep Charter School. Both will attend college this fall with Whitney attending Mount Holyoke College and Nelson attending Columbia University.
After April 2017, Teens Take Charge had its second event on November 2017 at the Schomburg Center. By early 2018, the coalition opened its platform not only for students to share their stories, but to have the opportunity to become involved with policy. The third event on March 2018, We Regret To Inform You, featured not only performances but Teens Take Charge's proposals to the Department of Education. On May 17th, the anniversary of Brown vs Board of Education, Teens Take Charge invited policymakers and politicians to visit high schools from all over the city. Today, the work of TTC involves working with policymakers and having students at the table when it comes to public schools."
A co-founder of TTC
" I felt like a number and a passing rate within a system I never realized I had the power to change. A system where my individuality wasn’t something nourished. However, Teens Take Charge allowed me to see that change is not impossible if we act on it. It is an organization where change can be made when teens take control of their education. From public testimonies of letters and spoken word poetry, Teens Take Charge has allowed a platform for different forms of youth voice. It has been an outlet that allowed me and many youths to realize that our voice matters, and it’s packed with a powerful force of change."
Learn more about Teens Take Charge at teenstakecharge.com and bellvoices.com, and follow them on Instagram @teenstakechargenyc
I had the privilege of working with Emma at one of my staff meetings put on by Lululemon. Emma led us through a meditation, and a painting session which we were then inspired to create art that encompasses our goals. I can speak for my whole team in saying that this was the highlight of our day! Emma was so open and vulnerable about her journey with Mental Health and provided a sense of comfort and inspiration throughout our entire session with her. Emma, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"How beautiful it is to find peace within yourself. To understand there is no good or bad, right or wrong. To love yourself, Flaws and all. To wake up happy and confident ready to face the day. To welcome mistakes, so you can learn and grow. To become a better version of yourself, every day. To truly understand who you are, connect to thyself and embrace your weirdness. To be guided by controlled emotional states and to not let any outside influcence effect who you are. Just be you and love every moment. " - a quote from my book "It's Going to Be a Really Good Day"
and thats exactly how I wanted to live, healing myself from the inside through re-directing, re-discovering and re-connecting to my energy. I was diagnosed with bipolar
and instead of choosing it to be a weakness, I used it as a the strength for my foundation to which I built my drug-free, self-supportive life with my creativity guiding me!
I've always believed if you have the power to see change within yourself and the courage to act on it then not sharing it would be a waste. Thats why I decided to connect others with my art. I want to awaken EVERYONE to the most definite possibility to another side within and around them. The simplicity of my art is to capture others to find their own way to CHOOSE for their own lives, to be courageous, vulnerable and brave with yourself.
I think, believe, and know it is time to evolve as humans on many levels and through painting, writing and my own self learning path I hope that it will spark others to do the same!
Difference is where we seperate and as an individual who explores creativity, difference is where the connection starts. Be yourself for you, because YOU ARE YOU 👊🏻
Lot's of love,
Oh and always remember its going to be a good day!
Follow Emma's journey on Instagram @_emmapink
Nicole's battle with Crohn's Disease is one hell of a fight. She is a determined wife, mother and a voice for those fighting with this disease. She is an inspiration, and a body of strength for anyone suffering worldwide, and especially in her community. Nicole, you are not alone. You are truly a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
"I am a Crohnie. I have Crohn’s Disease. I have been battling this illness since 2004 and I continue to battle until a cure is found. I, unfortunately, don’t battle for me, though I’m working on the whole self love piece. I, instead, battle for my family. I do not want to give up the fight because of my husband and my children. I want to be around for them. I want to be the best mom and wife I can be – physically, mentally, and emotionally. I've always had it in me to write, to express my feelings, my emotions in regards to living with this HORRIBLE, incurable disease. Everyone who lives with Crohn's Disease experiences it differently. Different symptoms, different triggers, different medications, different saving graces. I wanted to share my experience, my journey with you.
Through my blog and social media accounts, I have met some incredible fighters. Particularly a non-profit group called Our Wings to Fight. In 2017 I was approached by the chair of this committee to speak at their annual gala, where they raise money for Crohn’s and Colitis Research at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
I have since joined their committee and I continue my volunteer work and my push to find a cure, spread awareness and support everyone impacted by this illness."
To take part in Nicole's journey, follow her on Instagram @marriedtocrohns
I want to acknowledge Sarah for the ways that she shows up for the world. This woman has undergone incredibly difficult circumstances, and continues to shine light and positivity in every situation presented to her. Her determination, vulnerability and strength through her journey has been changing the lives of the people around her, and she is an absolute inspiration. Sarah, you truly are a Heroic Human...
You are my Heroes,
In August 2016, at age 30, I had reached the peak of my career. I landed my dream job travelling around Australia for work in aged care. I was happy. I was independent. My life was turned upside in a matter of hours. I was staring death in the face and the fight was only just beginning.
When tragedy struck I thought I only had a bad bout of the flu and when I rapidly worsened I was taken to emergency at the hospital.
When Dr’s realised this could be Meningococcal Disease, I was placed in an induced coma and was on life support for 8 days when they got the confirmation that is was in fact meningococcal septicaemia, the W strain, the most deadly and usually kills within hours. During this time my family was told I wasn’t expected to survive and were told to say good bye to me multiple times. After 8 days I surprised everyone by waking up. I soon realised just how much strength I needed and had no choice but to fight.
Using everything I had, I continued to fight whilst having several fingers and toes amputated, the loss of four major organs and requiring a kidney transplant. I have had 20 operations in 18 months, and have had to go back on life support 4 times. I literally had to rebuild my body, and I continue to do so. I am dependent on dialysis three times a week in order to survive until I receive a kidney transplant.
Yes, I used to think I had done something wrong. Am I being punished for something? What did I do to deserve this? As the hits continue to keep coming, I now know this horrid thing called Meningococcal didn’t kill me for a reason - although it continues to try even 18 months on! The reason being? To help stop this from happening to other people. To potentially save lives. To use my strength and willpower to fight and show others what this disease can do to you.
You don’t know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. I have been blessed with amazing family and friends who have been by my side every step of the way. During the tears, tantrums and milestones. If you don’t have a support network it can be a very lonely and empty experience which makes you question the littlest of things. Am I good enough? Why should I go on? What’s the point? My life has completely changed. I feel my life is now richer in ways as I appreciate living a whole lot more. I want people to know that if you find your inner strength you can fight. You can turn negatives into positives. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Talk to others, be bold. Be brave.
I am now a proud public speaker to share my story and help to motivate others in challenges they may be facing in which we have no control over. In addition to this I am a director of a not for profit organisation called The Violet Foundation in which we support those affected by Meningococcal Disease and raise awareness of the disease."
Heroic Humans is a social impact movement that provides a gathering space for inspiration, celebration and empowerment. We aim to foster connections among heroic people and groups, helping to establish a broader reach and more profound influence on their individual communities. We care about authentic connections and the power behind all people and passions. Let’s join forces and recognize those who make a difference.
Heroism comes in all forms. Whether it’s someone who lights you up, inspires you or others, or pours your favorite cup of coffee; everyone has their own story to tell and a life to change.
With your help, we can uncover raw emotion and vulnerability, overcome adverse conditions, and applaud human empowerment in all its forms.
Submit your Heroic Human and share their impact with us. We’d love to get to know them!
HEROISM LIVES HERE