AwareNow™: Issue 47: 'The Time Edition'

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AwareNow Magazine is a monthly publication produced by AwareNow Media™, a storytelling platform dedicated to creating and sustaining positive social change with content that inspires and informs, while raising awareness for causes one story at a time.




088 TIME
































Time isn’t the main thing. It’s the only thing. Miles Davis

time: (n.) the indefinite continued progress of existence and events in the past, present, and future regarded as a whole In the symphony of time, we find ourselves as mere players, racing against its relentless tide. Yet within its confines, we discover the power to sculpt our destinies, to breathe life into the causes that stir our souls. Embrace each fleeting second as a canvas awaiting our bold strokes, for in the face of time's ceaseless march, our passions become the brushes with which we paint our legacies upon the world’s canvas. Let us not be slowed by its swift currents, but rather harness its momentum to propel us towards the shores of change and transformation. In time, anything is possible. We will no longer ask for permission to change the world. Welcome to ‘The Time Edition’.

ALLIÉ McGUIRE Co-Director of AwareNow Media, CEO & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties Allié started her career in performance poetry, then switched gears to wine where she made a name for herself as an online wine personality and content producer. She then focused on content production under her own label The Allié Way™ before marrying the love of her life, Jack, and switching gears yet again to a pursue a higher calling to raise awareness and funds for causes with Awareness Ties and AwareNow Media.

JACK McGUIRE Co-Director of AwareNow Media, President & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties Jack got his start in the Navy before his acting and modeling career. Jack then got into hospitality, focusing on excellence in service and efficiency in operations and management. After establishing himself with years of experience in the F&B industry, he sought to establish something different… something that would allow him to serve others in a greater way. With his wife, Allié, Awareness Ties and AwareNow Media were born.


The views and opinions expressed in AwareNow are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AwareNow Media. Any content provided by our columnists or interviewees is of their opinion and not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, political group, organization, company, or individual. In fact, its intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. Its intent is to make you think.


Even with all our changing parts No matter how many times We rearrange our thoughts Connection is our constant Molded by these moments

It’s a heart condition… and you go through stuff. JAYDEN KING




A CHAMPION FOR CHD AWARENESS Jayden King is an extraordinary 4th grader from Coppell, TX. Born on February 21, 2013, in Dallas, Jayden is not your average kid. Despite facing challenges from being born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a rare heart condition, he exudes boundless positivity and curiosity about the world around him. A passionate sports enthusiast, particularly for football, Jayden is the quarterback of his flag football team during the season and loves shooting hoops with his brothers. His love for the Dallas Cowboys is unmatched, and his knowledge of football and basketball stats rivals that of seasoned fans. Remarkably, Jayden's resilience shines through his three open-heart surgeries, leaving him with visible scars he proudly calls his ‘zipper’. Despite these challenges, Jayden lives life to the fullest, embracing each day with courage and determination. ALLIÉ: Today, Jayden, let’s have a heart-to-heart talk. Let’s start by learning more about you by learning a few of your favorites. Ready? JAYDEN: Yes.





Something that’s hard is not being able to play football… JAYDEN KING


ALLIÉ: Favorite color. JAYDEN: Blue. ALLIÉ: Favorite animal. JAYDEN: Dog. ALLIÉ: Favorite ice cream. JAYDEN: Chocolate chip cookie dough. ALLIÉ: Favorite sport. JAYDEN: Football. ALLIÉ: Favorite day of the week. JAYDEN: Saturday or Sunday. ALLIÉ: I quite agree. Well, Thank you for filling us in on your favorites. Now, let’s fast forward with a question that many adults still ask themselves. What do you want to be when you grow up? What would you like to do? JAYDEN: I don’t really know. ALLIÉ: And that’s okay. It’s okay to not know. There are a lot of things to be, right? You don’t have to be just one thing or another. Now, let’s rewind to the beginning, Jayden. You were born with a condition called CHD. For those who don’t know, what is congenital heart disease and how does it affect you? JAYDEN: It’s a heart condition… and you go through stuff. You have to have surgeries… yeah. ALLIÉ: While being 10 (almost 11) is awesome, it’s not always easy. Are there any challenges or times you find difficult because of your heart condition? JAYDEN: Something that's hard is not being able to play football, like tackle… And that’s really it. ALLIÉ: Yeah… But besides tackle football, there’s a different kind of football that people play. Yeah? JAYDEN: Flag. ALLIÉ: Flag football… And that’s kind of your jam. Let’s talk about habits. Healthy habits are so important for all of us. For you Jayden, what habits do you have to keep your heart and your body healthy? JAYDEN: I drink water… I take medicine. ALLIÉ: What about other things you do? Do you just lay around and play video games? I’m sure you play them sometimes, but not all the time. Right? JAYDEN: I play. 11

Just don’t be afraid and just know that God is there for you. JAYDEN KING


AwareNow Podcast

HEART 2 HEART Exclusive Interview with Jayden King


“Just don’t be afraid and just know that God is there for you.” ALLIÉ: But to keep your body healthy, what do you like to do? You like to play flag football. Are there other sports that you like to play too? JAYDEN: Basketball. ALLIÉ: Basketball, well alright… Another question. What advice do you have for other kids who might be going through similar experiences or facing health challenges? JAYDEN: Some advice I have is to just don't be afraid and just know that God is there for you. ALLIÉ: Now that the Olympics features flag football, do you think one day that you would want to lead the USA team to a gold medal? JAYDEN: Yes. ALLIÉ: Well, I think it's something you probably very much can and perhaps one day will do. Thank you so much for sharing this time, for sharing your voice, and for helping all of us become a bit more aware now. ∎

Learn more about CHD and ‘Heart-2-Heart’:


Fear not the future you’ll birth as long as you don’t forget to listen… BURT KEMPNER

WRITER & PRODUCER Photo Credit: Kei Scampa 14


THE EMBRYONIC FUTURE It has happened many, many times since we emerged from the mists of time. We think no one has ever felt this way before. But they have. Over a century ago, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote: “Fear not the strangeness you feel. The future must enter you long before it happens. Just wait for the Birth, for the hour of new clarity.”

What embryonic future is taking its repose in you right now? No need to ponder; you already know in your marrow. Will your future be wise? Compassionate? Will it pursue justice, comfort the stricken, give hope to the hopeless and a voice to the voiceless? Will it allow love -- in all its guises and disguises --- to flourish and spread? Will it honor your ancestors and inspire your descendants? Will it pay equal homage to goodness and grief? Will it give you the courage to be who you really are? Fear not the future you’ll birth as long as you don’t forget to listen, listen to that still voice reminding you of the debt you owe to the Divine.

AwareNow Podcast

THE EMBRYONIC FUTURE Written and Narrated by Burt Kempner


BURT KEMPNER Writer & Producer BURT KEMPNER is a writer-producer who has worked professionally in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Florida. His work has won numerous major awards, and has been seen by groups ranging in size from a national television audience in the United States to a half-dozen Maori chieftains in New Zealand. Spurred by his love for inspiring young people, he started writing children's books in 2015. Learn more about Burt and his books at his website:


The human race, theoretically, is going to be able to unlock a far greater intellectual capability than ever before. MICHAEL PETERMAN CEO OF VERADATA 16



USING TECHNOLOGY TO FUEL PHILANTHROPY Michael Peterman is the CEO of VeraData, a pioneering company dedicated to transforming philanthropy through data-driven strategies. VeraData’s mission is to equip NGOs with the right data to revolutionize fundraising decision-making, drive donor acquisition, and enhance engagement. Under Michael Peterman's leadership, VeraData is at the forefront of adapting to a changing donor landscape, ensuring fundraising success for its clients. Now is the time to unlock the full potential of philanthropy, with the ultimate goal of building a future where NGOs can increase giving, maximize impact, and drive positive change globally. Now, that conversation begins… ALLIÉ: Let’s take a trip in the wayback machine, Michael. When you were a kid, what did you want to do when you grew up? Was it always your dream to be the CEO of a donor science company? MICHAEL: No. It’s funny, and it is a long way back. Looking back at that time, I wanted to be an attorney. And I guess if you think about it, attorneys use data to make their argument, right? They research, they investigate, and they use the power of words and fact patterns to defend a position. So, I guess at its core, it's not so terribly different when you





The more data we have, the smarter we are. MICHAEL PETERMAN CEO OF VERADATA 18

“Data is like the fuel that’s required to power machine learning engines.” MICHAEL: (continued) think about it that way. In fact, I would say that one of the major applications of AI will be applying that technology for legal research and document preparation. I don't know that anybody actually plans to be in the data and analytics business when they're kids. ALLIÉ: Agreed. I think you’re right. Let’s talk more about different times. Over time, we learn and grow, and as we do we begin to understand more deeply and see more clearly. When did you first understand and see the incredible power of data? MICHAEL: I think there were steps along the way, but if I had narrow it down to that one point in time, it was in that 2004/2005 timeframe. I was still in my former capacity with my old company, AccuData. We had acquired an analytics company, and at the time we also had numerous national databases installed on our tech platform. I loved analytics. That side of the business was just really interesting. And as we got deeper into the process, I learned about… I'm going to use some industry vernacular. I learned about the importance of field density, of the different demographics, and the variables. An attribute needed to be 80% or more populated to be useful in those old school algorithms or models that we were using at that time, and very few of them were. That left everybody kind of shuffling the same pieces of information around, and no one really standing out. Machine learning, on the other hand, is able to use all of the information available, however densely or sparsely it is populated, to understand the incremental impact on the selection of the audience, which is what we were really focused on at that time. It was game changing, not only methodologically, but we were differentiated. Our ability to use multiple databases to maximize the unique data elements gave us a significant advantage over most, if not all, of our competitors. So, the light bulb moment was looking at what was happening in Silicon Valley. It was looking at our space and how we were doing things with our unique perspective on having all of this data being under the hood of all of these different databases. Having that come together, in a way, was the genesis for the creation of VeraData. ALLIÉ: Let’s now talk industry terms. You mentioned a couple. Here’s one that we’ve heard and will hear more of. Often when people hear ‘AI’, they think of renegade robots and advanced algorithms taking over the world. That said, technology isn’t innately bad or good. It’s all about how it’s used. Is there a story you can share about why you are committed to using AI for social good? MICHAEL: Yeah. Renegade robots and AI are very different thing. Although, they could combine at some point. So I think companies use AI for a lot of different applications, and they're expanding pretty rapidly. We were fortunate enough to engage really early on with a nonprofit agency, and I think we quickly learned a lot about that philanthropic space. There are a number of things that led us here, and I think a whole different set of things have kept us focused here in that philanthropic sector. First and foremost, data is like the fuel that's required to power machine learning engines. The more data we have, the smarter we are. At the same time, charities are typically five plus years behind their commercial counterparts relative to technology and enterprise solutions, simply due to budget constraints. Some of those budget constraints are real, and I think some of them are artificially self-imposed. Charities are held to a much different set of standards than for-profit companies. They don't have the benefit of being able to invest to the same degree. And there's not a lot of private equity or public market money pouring into charities to get an ROI. Because of this, we ended up offering charities a free model building process, and we gave them this sliding scale price that was tied directly to the improvement of their KPIs, irrespective of what they wanted to improve. We did all the heavy lifting for free. They only paid a fee when outcomes improved. And this is what led to the breakthrough. In this industry, there is more receptivity to data sharing and willingness to capture and to code detailed information - more detailed information that we can use to make the models even smarter. Just the uniqueness of this and of this industry enabled us to access more of 19

The emotional return on investment is limitless in this industry. MICHAEL PETERMAN CEO OF VERADATA 20

“They’re good human beings… I can’t overemphasize the importance of that.” MICHAEL: (continued) the fuel that we needed for the machines more rapidly than we could in other industries. There's not the same type of cutthroat competition that there is in basically every other commercial vertical market, right? This was really the key that unlocked the access to this area of concentration for us. Secondly, what we discovered working with numerous charities is that basically everybody in this industry is a good person. They're good human beings. They've dedicated their careers to helping others. And I can't overemphasize the importance of that. It changed our perspective on the world. It changed who we hired. It changed how we engaged with clients. It was really just better in every way. Today, around 25% of our team has worked for or has led the fundraising departments of a charity, and most come from larger charities. So that nonprofit culture has kind of found its way into the walls of VeraData. And it's wonderful inside and out, right? All of us get to come to work every day to help others, and I don't think there's anything more fulfilling than that. It manifests in the way that we serve the organizations who serve others. The ROI, in that case, is helping the world. It's helping humanity. It's curing disease. It’s saving animals. The emotional return on investment is limitless in this industry. So that's how we got into it. It was unique, and it helped us ramp up our capability faster. In the process, we just fell in love with the space and have now dedicated our lives to making it a much more successful element. ALLIÉ: Let’s talk about one more term - ‘donor science’. While I’m not a master at computer science or data science, I am familiar with them. What I’m not familiar with, but am very curious about, is what you refer to as ‘donor science’. What is it and how is it used? MICHAEL: I don't know how to answer that briefly, but I'll do my best. This industry has a lot of what I can only refer to as ‘best practices’ that are really anything but that. The systems of data attribution and performance measurements are all corrupted through impurity of data. From the way that it's coded to the way that it's measured, it's just not good. And I think the worst part is that nobody even realizes that they're doing it. It's not their fault. It's just how the industry has always run itself. Now that we have the compute power and the knowledge to guide the unwinding of those bad habits and capture accurate, complete, timely, and consistent data across a much broader range of information, we can standardize everything at scale. We get very granular with the data… And I don't want to share too much about the secret sauce, but it's essentially that we're using AI to create the field of Donor Science. We're using AI to guide hundreds of fundraising decisions, not just the audience, which has historically been this business, but the channel through which we communicate, the combination of channels, the frequency and sequence of communications, the graphics that are used on the outer envelope within the package itself. It’s the ask, how much we're asking a potential donor to give or an existing donor to give. It’s the types and sizes of fonts. It’s anything and everything that you can think of that would stimulate donation activity. It’s converting the use of spreadsheets, databases, reporting tools and human analysis with massive algorithms that don't make mistakes. They don't forget anything and can think multi-dimensionally to an incomprehensible degree. For a rudimentary visual, it would be like strapping a million of Albert Einstein's brains together and focusing them all on helping one charity execute one fundraising campaign. The more information that we collect and metabolize, the smarter that ecosystem becomes. So, the Donor Science collaborative is designed to help not only our clients, but even our competitors, and we affectionately refer to them as the co-opetition. Again, this industry is a little bit unique. We work hand in hand with a lot of competitors. We circulate information back and forth. We buy things from one another in order to help. So it's a little bit different in that respect. We have a pretty big dream, and it's going to take all of us to create the global change that we know is possible and can only really be done through donor science, as the change is the outcome of this. We've seen it in our work today. We're expanding audiences, the number of people that a charity can market to profitably. There are all kinds of things that are algorithmically based that help convert and build these relationships at a faster clip. 21

Even if we come up short, we end up helping millions… What better legacy to leave behind? MICHAEL PETERMAN CEO OF VERADATA 22

“Our ability to moderate and to distinguish fact from fiction is going be the most important hurdle to cross…” ALLIÉ: At Veradata, your vision is to change the world by increasing philanthropic giving as a measurable component of GDP. What could this do for our country, and what could it do for the world? MICHAEL: So that's the big dream, right? Philanthropy's been sitting just below 3% of GDP for decades, and with the promise of donor science, again, we can expand audiences. We can connect with the next generation of donors ahead of the curve. We can accelerate the economic relationships between charities and the donors, migrating donors up that giving pyramid - people that give twice a year at $50, monthly givers, mid-level givers, major gifts, and planned giving. It’s moving people up the pyramid, identifying capacity and propensity far in advance and faster than we've ever been able to do before. We’re learning how to communicate with them and ultimately increasing charitable giving as a percent of GDP. So, running the numbers as we have, we'd like to think that we can get to 4% or 5%. And if we achieve that, I'm not exaggerating here, it could literally save the world. Even if we come up short, we end up helping millions more than we otherwise could have served. What better legacy to leave behind? What better could we hope to achieve than something like that? ALLIÉ: We’ve talked past and present, let’s now speak about the future. If you were to look into a crystal ball and gaze into tomorrow and the tomorrows that follow, what would tech doing good in the world look like? MICHAEL: If you think about the human race and our ability to understand information, the context of Moore's Law says that compute capacity doubles every 12 to 18 months. And if you think back to 34 years ago, when that concept originated, the further we move down the continuum, the more exponential the gains. So think about it like this… This year our world's compute capacity doubled from last year. So effectively it took 33 years to get to where we were a year ago. It took one year to double it. You condensed 34 years of what some would say is rapid evolution into one year, and next year it's going to double again. And at this stage of that type of advancement, the explosive expansion is difficult to conceive. Quantum computing is emerging. I think not so many years ahead, it's going to unlock a level of compute capability that you just can't begin to imagine with virtually unlimited bandwidth immediately on demand. I think the most significant barrier for humans to learn and communicate is our input output capacities. So, think about how we learn. We have to read or hear or see things to learn. And everybody's heard the statistic that we only use 10% of our brain. And with the concepts like Neuralink, who just had their first human install, and quantum computing, the human race theoretically is going to be able to unlock a far greater intellectual capability than ever before. You've seen the Matrix. Plug in something and learn how to fly a helicopter in 12 seconds. That's the idea. And while it's fantasy today, I think it's quite possibly the reality of tomorrow. And human ingenuity… the capacity for good could be rapidly compounded. There are many upsides and always downsides to this, but to bring a contemporary issue into context, I think our ability to moderate and to distinguish fact from fiction is going be the most important hurdle to cross to have the future that we want for our children. 23

AwareNow Podcast

TIME FOR A CHANGE Exclusive Interview with Michael Peterman


“Be present, be in the moment. Take the time to have the human connection.” MICHAEL: (continued) It's an exciting time. I love being in this space. With the advancements and the evolution, our team’s focus on R&D and staying ahead of this industry is a full time and a half job just to keep up with the technology. So, I think the future's very bright, and the possibilities are expanding rapidly and are ultimately endless. ALLIÉ: One more question for you, Michael. For those who feel like time is not on our side, what advice do you have for making the most of the moments we have? MICHAEL: I would say that the advice I give myself, that I give my kids, and that I give those around me is actually anti-technology... It's to simply be intentionally present, to be in the moment. Make it a habit to disconnect from technology. Enjoy family, enjoy friends, enjoy nature, and do what you love. Life is short, and this world is so fast. Social media, the addiction, the dopamine and all the things that are happening around us detract from what I would consider to be ‘life’. Be present, be in the moment. Take the time to have the human connection. ∎

Learn more about VeraData:


Let’s remember 1 in every 300 young people has an undiagnosed heart condition. HANNAH KEIME




I was fainting when I was in middle school. The first time, I was at a science museum for my brother’s birthday. The paramedics were concerned about what I ate for breakfast. One time, I was in line for a ride at a theme park. The heat and claustrophobia got blamed. I told everyone from my pediatrician to my teacher to friends. Everyone said how normal fainting is for girls my age. Now I’m saying, that’s not true. I’ve fainted many times since middle school. Thankfully in high school, I got a diagnosis that explained the fainting and saved my life when I went real unconscious going into sudden cardiac arrest. Interestingly though, even after my diagnosis of the deadly heart condition, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM, I fainted while at my appointment at the heart failure clinic, and full circle, they asked what I had eaten. Uhhhhh. Fainting is a total red flag for heart conditions. We need medical professionals and everyone else to remember that. Our explanation for fainting is that if the heart is having trouble pumping nice oxygenated blood to the brain, the brain will tell the body that it would be easier to pump if the body was flat on the ground and gravity wasn’t such an issue. And down goes the body. Let’s realize we should find out why the heart is having that trouble. Let’s remember 1 in every 300 young people has an undiagnosed heart condition. Let’s remember heart screenings are simple and non-invasive. And let’s remember that death doesn’t have to be the first symptom of a cardiac condition that is recognized. ∎ Learn more and follow HeartCharged on Instagram: @heartcharged





Original Artwork by: Sage Gallon 28



With artistic expression welcoming title creation, we share a collection of original works by artist Sage Gallon reflecting Black history that is being made every day. You are invited to explore and name his paintings.

As Black History Month comes and goes, its weight does not get lighter. However, with the waves it makes, the future does seem brighter. We can’t be afraid to be raw and real. That’s the only way to heal. So, take a moment to soak it in. There and then we can begin. It’s looking back and reflecting on now. It’s finding what is needed and how. While we’re unnecessarily divided, Our route to unity is provided. In the sharing of stories and art, here we find a place to start.

SAGE GALLON Multi-Media Artists, Author & Official Ambassador for Homelessness Awareness SAGE GALLON is a published & award winning multi-media artist. His paintings, photographs, books, music and films present common themes of our humanity with ingenious artistry and inspiring articulation. Despite the losses he’s endured in his life, the wins he’s gained along the way serve as a light for so many lost in the dark.


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Original Artwork by: Sage Gallon 41




THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF TRUE STORIES IN FILM Everyone can remember the first TV show or film they fell in love with as a child. We can all remember films that made us cry or laugh. Films that took us away from our life and into a different world. Sometimes we want to enter those fantasy lands. Whatever reason it is, we choose to watch something that can have a lasting effect on us. True stories can be even more powerful, “Soul Surfer” is about pro surfer Bethany Hamilton whose arm was bitten off by a shark yet she was undeterred to continue surfing and become champion after champion. You can’t help but watch that film and recognise her personal achievement. It can inspire us to become something we maybe doubted we were capable of. Then there are documentaries, these can teach, inform, inspire and make us feel things we wouldn’t feel otherwise. This is what happened when I watched the incredible documentary “Still” featuring Michael J Fox. I laughed, cried, felt inspired and learned so much. Being emotionally moved by a story, a person, and their truth. That’s what film is truly about. Being made aware of a situation that we would never know anything about opens us up to empathy and understanding of the world. Stories are key to how humans feel and connect. To be able to walk in someone’s shoes for a small amount of time is paramount to us being human. A friend of mine has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s which is one of the main reasons why I watched it. Films like this can teach us things we didn’t know anything about. Most people remember Michael from back to the future. An iconic film that had an effect on so many people. He is, and continues to be, a legend. But to be able to learn about what he was going through, the fact he hid his ailments, really stuck out to me. It reminded me to never presume to understand what anyone is going through. It was an awakening to remember how lucky we are. To understand how Michael has continued living, really living, and with the support around him and the fact he wanted to share his experiences is truly powerful and kind. As a director, I enjoy finding stories to tell that no one else knows. AwareNow is filled with these stories and that’s why they are supporting the mission to tell these stories. We have a project called “The Last Cigarette” which was a true story told to me by the AAA man whilst he drove me home due to my VW bus deciding not to work! Or the true story “Sikou” based on an incredible family who show continuous courage after a life altering accident and finally “The Girl with The Crooked Smile” about a young girl who defied the odds and became the captain of the USA deaf Olympic Volleyball team, leading them to victory. These are all true stories that teach us something that touches us forever. In recognition of Michael J Fox’s documentary “Still”, The DaVinci film festival is awarding him the visionary award. We must continue to share and tell stories, to recognise humanity and to continue to feel empathy. ∎ ELIZABETH BLAKE-THOMAS Storyteller, Philanthropist & Official Ambassador for Human Trafficking Awareness Elizabeth Blake-Thomas is a British award-winning storyteller and philanthropist based in Los Angeles. She is the founder and resident director of entertainment company Mother & Daughter Entertainment, whose motto is “Making Content That Matters”, putting focus on each project starting a conversation amongst viewers. She is also the creator of the healing methodology Medicine with Words which is designed to help “spring clean” your mind and help free yourself from unnecessary noise so that you can live a more purposeful, peaceful life. She is the author of Filmmaking Without Fear which is a multi-medium resource curated for indie filmmakers. Her FWF podcast is available on all streaming platforms, and the book of the same name is available on Amazon. She is a regular on panels at Sundance, Cannes and Toronto International Film Festival, Elizabeth mentors wherever possible, ensuring she sends the elevator back down to all other female storytellers.


We’re all just wanting the best for each other. JAYDEN PERRY

UCLA WOMEN’S SOCCER PLAYER Photo Courtesy: Jayden Perry 44



IN THE GIVING IS THE GETTING Where passion meets purpose is where Jayden Perry finds her joy. A collegiate athlete, playing soccer at UCLA, she enjoys working hard both on the field and in the classroom. Outside of this, joy is found when painting kicks or canvases and when volunteering to bring joy to kids with cancer. A champion for change, Jayden gives her all in all she does. ALLIÉ: There are a number of things that can bring joy to a person’s life. For you, Jayden, soccer is one of those things. Please share the story of your soccer career, when and where it started and what you love most about it? JAYDEN: I started playing soccer pretty much since I could walk. I played a variety of different sports, but soccer really stuck with me. And now I get the opportunity to play at UCLA. The biggest thing I love about soccer is just the team aspect. You know, it's team and individual. I need to prepare my best so that I can play and perform the very best to help my team and all my teammates do the same thing. It just brings a sense of comradery. We all want the best for each other, and we all want to push each other. I just really love that. And also, soccer has taught me so many life skills such as time management, how to communicate with my coaches and my teammates, how to deal with adversity and just so much more. It definitely helps that each team I've been on since I started playing soccer has felt like a family. So, every time I go to practice and every time I go to the games, it's just so much fun because we're all just wanting the best for each other.





It shows me who I want to be… I want to be comfortable and confident in my own skin. JAYDEN PERRY

UCLA WOMEN’S SOCCER PLAYER Photo Courtesy: Jayden Perry 46

“Just the amount of love and support that they show me every single day has really made me into the person I am.” ALLIÉ: Soccer isn’t the only thing that brings you joy. You love art. Be it kicks or canvases, Jayden, you love to paint. How did you get into painting? JAYDEN: So, I started painting actually during the pandemic, and it's really funny because I have never been good at painting. I've never been good at drawing, arts or crafts. That has just not been my thing. I've stuck to sports. But during that time, I really didn't have anything else to do. And so I would just sit down for hours and hours and just try to paint. I found that it was very therapeutic for me. Usually, I find a lot of my ideas on Pinterest. I have my Pinterest boards. It's super nice when I get to find a painting, and then I'll play some music on my record player with my speaker or my headphones. It just detaches life from what I'm doing at that moment. So, it's definitely very therapeutic, and I love doing it. It brings me so much joy. ALLIÉ: I had a look at some of your work. One of my favorites is the one with the 3 figures. Care to share the title of this piece and the story? JAYDEN: I actually don't have a title for that one. But just like I said before, I found the image on Pinterest. The original painting was the three ladies, and it had ‘VOGUE’ over it, but I thought it was just so powerful… the three ladies. I actually have a whole art wall. Under this painting I have this little cutout of the angel number 333, which emphasizes growth, confidence, positivity, and creativity. I think this painting embodies that completely. Whenever I look at it, it shows me who I want to be… I want to be comfortable and confident in my own skin. And it’s what the painting reminds me of. ALLIÉ: We talked about soccer and art. Now, let’s talk about studies. What’s your major, Jayden? What are you going to school for and why? JAYDEN: I'm studying sociology at UCLA right now. I actually wasn't too sure what I was going to study coming into this. But after taking a couple sociology classes, I really became interested in learning about why things happen, and why things change based off of human behavior. I found it really interesting and I really like it. ALLIÉ: When you aren’t making plays with your teammates, art with your brushes or good grades with your studies, what else are you doing? What else brings you joy? JAYDEN: The first thing that I think about is my family. I talk to them every day and throughout the day. Just the amount of love and support that they show me every single day has really made me into the person I am. I think about when I used to play club soccer and when I was super young. My parents would go completely out of their way to get my siblings and I to and from practice, make sure we had cleats, make sure we had the best uniform… just everything. And they would always show gratitude. So, I've learned so much from them. My family brings me a ton of joy. Besides that, I love going to the beach. I'm a southern California girl. So, I spend a lot of time at the beach, whether it's tanning, swimming, or just watching the sunset. I find a lot of happiness there and enjoy the beach. 47

It was truly amazing and life changing… to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when we handed them the JoyJars. JAYDEN PERRY

UCLA WOMEN’S SOCCER PLAYER Photo Courtesy: Jayden Perry 48

“I am so lucky to be in a position where I can use my platform as an athlete to help others… I really want to encourage other people and make them know that they’re so brave and courageous.” ALLIÉ: Well, you're making me miss, you are making me miss the west coast very much. I'm in Michigan. JAYDEN: <laugh> West Coast does it best. ALLIÉ: There's that, there's that for sure. Back to ‘joy’, we know that joy doesn’t come from a box or a bottle, but it can come from a jar. Please tell us about the joy you were able to deliver in jars - JoyJars. For those unaware, what is a JoyJar? Will you share the story of your recent delivery? JAYDEN: So a JoyJar is a plastic jar stuffed with a bunch of fun toys and other cool things that bring joy to a child that is fighting cancer. Recently, my teammate Emma and I had the opportunity to go to Mattel Children's Hospital just right down the road from UCLA, and we got to deliver some of these JoyJars to kids whose ages range from, I would say, 2 to like 14. And it was truly amazing and life changing… to see the smiles on the kids' faces when we handed them the JoyJars. We also got to spend time with those kids and play a little with the toys. There was one kid specifically… He got a little drill car, and apparently he is obsessed with all different types of cars and trucks. We probably spent like 10 minutes in his room, and he was just playing with Play-Doh and this little drill truck. He was making the sound effects, and it was so cute. Also, we got to paint with another girl and it was just, like I said, super life changing. We got to learn about her favorite color, her favorite music artist, what her favorite movie was. And I think all that time spent with them just took them out of their reality and brought them so much joy. I was really lucky and honored to be given that opportunity to deliver those JoyJars. ALLIÉ: We’re all tied to a cause. In working with TEAM NILO and serving as a Champion For Change, you cause of choice is cancer. You shared, “​My mom has worked with kids with cancer ever since I was a young girl and I want to follow after her to help the cause.” In giving these JoyJars, what did you get in return? JAYDEN: For me, as soon as I stepped out of the hospital, I was just like, what more can I do? I’ve been working with TEAM NILO, and it's just like, what more can we do to help others? I've really enjoyed that, and I am so lucky to be in a position where I can use my platform as an athlete to help others. And so it's just what more can I do? I really want to encourage other people and make them know that they're so brave and courageous. ALLIÉ: Paint a picture for us, Jayden, what does your future look like? What do you want to do after college? JAYDEN: As a collegiate soccer player right now, if I could paint a picture of my life after college, I want to play soccer professionally. That's been my biggest goal since I was a little girl. Also, it’s just to continue to encourage kids fighting cancer to never ever give up. 49

AwareNow Podcast

FINDING JOY Exclusive Interview with Jayden Perry


ALLIÉ: In all that you’ve given of your time and talent, what have you got the most joy from? JAYDEN: I can go a lot of different ways with this. Soccer related, we just won a national championship with my UCLA team two years ago, and I can't really compare anything to that moment. All of the hard work that I've done really just paid off, and it was such a surreal feeling. I obviously want to get back to that feeling next year with my final season. And also as we were just talking about the hospital and delivering JoyJars, it’s just giving back to others, because seeing how kids with cancer… how their face lit up and how they smiled, you know, I just can't… It was just amazing, and it really brought me a ton of joy. ∎

Follow Jayden on Instagram: @jaydennperryy Learn more about JoyJars and The Jessie Rees Foundation:

TEAM NILO Connecting Athletes to Causes TEAM NILO connects student-athletes to causes, capturing the essence of the impact that student-athletes have in and around the communities they represent.


We should all advocate for dismantling damaging narratives. DR. TODD BROWN




Not that long ago, I woke up and learned that another woman was destroying the career of a perfect man. Who was this dastardly female shamelessly crushing an innocent male? It is none other than the goddess Taylor Swift. Her victim? Her boyfriend, Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce. The cozy companionship between the two had become the center of a heated storm after the Chiefs were upset by the Las Vegas Raiders weeks ago. How was I so sure that Ms. Swift was the reason? Well, fragile men on TV and the internet told me. The Fox Sports host Skip Bayless felt the need to chime in with his clueless opinion. He insinuated it was high time to label Ms. Swift a distracting force. But it wasn't just Skip Bayless throwing around accusations, either. The controversial founder of OutKick, Clay Travis, took it to a whole new level by comparing Ms. Swift to the specter of Yoko Ono (of course). He had boldly declared that Kelce should retire. Yet, as we dive into this infuriating blame game, it's impossible to ignore the persisting glaring double standards. The haunting ghosts of powerful women accused of dismantling the careers of their significant others are not new. It's a tired, bullshit narrative that should have been buried in the annals of history, but no, it persists like a festering wound. The female partners of professional athletes, the royal family, and more find themselves unfairly shackled by comparisons to Yoko Ono (who, by the way, according to Paul McCartney, was not the reason for the Beatles breaking up). It’s as if these women’s existence is a curse upon their partners. This blatant sexism reeks of antiquated stereotypes and a refusal to acknowledge that men, like everyone else, are fallible human beings. Believe it or not, there are good and bad days, even for men, and sometimes shit happens, as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid admitted. But apparently, for men, it's easier to find a scapegoat in our twisted world, where emotions seem to be running higher than ever. And what better scapegoat than a "dumb blonde" entwined in the tumultuous world of superstitions and baseless speculation? Men need to wake up and recognize the absurdity of scapegoating women when things go awry. Taylor Swift isn't casting spells from her miniature purses; she's a person, not a magical object. It's time to move beyond these outdated narratives and give credit where it's due. Blaming powerful women for the failures of men is not just infuriating; it's a disservice to progress and equality. For what it’s worth, take a look at some of the things over the last few decades that have popped up: · · · · · · · · · 53

Yoko Ono broke up the Beatles. Courtney Love was the demise of Kurt Cobain. Princess Diana was a black stain on the Royal Family. Carrie Underwood is called hockey's Yoko Ono. Olivia Munn was accused of carrying the "Jessica Simpson Jinx." Jessica Simpson was called a dumb blonde that was damning Tony Romo’s career. Janet Jackson ruined the Super Bowl. Meghan Markle destroyed Prince Harry’s family. Let’s not forget Taylor Swift is now the reason Travis Kelce isn’t scoring touchdowns.

AwareNow Podcast

WOMEN RUIN EVERYTHING Written and Narrated by Dr. Todd Brown


As the Chiefs began to gear up for another Super Bowl, they happened to be riding the wave of several thrilling come-from-behind victories. I wondered if the realm of sports commentary would take an unexpected turn. Was Taylor Swift now secretly influencing the Chiefs' success, transforming herself into an inadvertent good luck charm for the team? It may sound outlandish, especially given the absurdity of attributing wins to a pop icon. However, considering the past speculations that Swift was a jinx for the team, how is she being a good luck charm any different? The dichotomy of labeling her as a reason for losses but not as a good luck charm leaves me puzzled. As we eagerly approached the 'big game,' it's noteworthy that no publications had credited her for any positive impact on the Chief's performance. The sexism sports superstition continues to unfold right in front of our eyes. Well, the Chiefs have now won the Super Bowl. I may be going out on a limb here because I think the Chiefs' Super Bowl victory was a testament to their ability on the field rather than any mystical influence from Taylor Swift. Again, the idea of her being the secret ingredient for success is just as absurd as her being the reason for the Chief’s losses. The reality is that the athletes' performance determined the outcome because on that given Super Bowl night, the Chiefs were better than the 49ers, and Taylor Swift had nothing to do with any of this season’s outcomes. But we pivot slightly here along the same sexist, idiotic road. Now that the Chiefs have won, people are complaining that the constant showing of Taylor Swift during the game was terrible and derailed the entire Super Bowl experience. Constant? Really? Is that actually what happened? Let’s take a quick look. In review, she was on screen for four minutes and forty-one seconds during the pre-pregame show, the pregame show, and the game itself. That is .9% of the eight-hour coverage—less than 1% (by the way, that’s two minutes more than Carrot Top). So now that the confetti has settled and the stadium has gone back to sleep for another offseason, maybe it’s just me, but I’m sensing a pattern. Ultimately, the Swift and Kelce relationship is a call to reject past mistakes, particularly the harmful stereotypes and scapegoating of women for the failures or even bumps in the road of men. We should all advocate for dismantling damaging narratives and adopt a more enlightened perspective that recognizes the complexities of success and failure instead of throwing our hands up in the air and blaming women for everything. If we can’t do something as simple as that, well, we could always blame Taylor Swift, especially if the Chiefs don’t three-peat next year. ∎ DR. TODD BROWN Awareness Ties Columnist Dr. Todd Brown is a winner of multiple education awards, including the U.S. Congressional Teacher of the Year Award, U.S. Henry Ford Innovator Award, Education Foundation Innovator of the Year, and Air Force Association STEM Teacher of the Year. Dr. Brown is the creator and founder of the Inspire Project and cocreator of Operation Outbreak, which was named the Reimagine Education Award for Best Hybrid Program in the world. He is also an Education Ambassador for the United Nations and an Educational Ambassador of the Center for Disease Control (CDC).


Why is it that the times you feel your weakest are the exact times you have no choice but to be your strongest?

My goal was to find beauty in the blindness… ADAM MORSE FILMMAKER

Photo Credit: @themorseforce 56



SEEING THE WORLD THROUGH A DIFFERENT LENS This story shared by Google about their 2024 Super Bowl commercial, ‘Javier In Frame', takes us behind the scenes with Adam Morse, who is not just a blind filmmaker. Rather, he’s a filmmaker who happens to be blind. Read Adam’s personal statement below and meet the Pixel team using Google AI to make the impossible possible for people with blindness or low vision.

“This project was conceptually unique, which is why I felt it always needed to be executed with originality. I was fortunate that everybody believed in my vision to try and do something outside the box and be bold in the direction we took. I had the creative license that I needed to put across my perspective. It was a really interesting and exciting opportunity to translate the blind experience. My goal was to find beauty in the blindness when establishing the point of view of our protagonist Javier and open the eyes of the sighted viewers to show them how empowered the blind community can be. The process of making this film was incredibly collaborative and I count myself very lucky that I was surrounded by so many talented artists. My background as a narrative film maker was definitely a massive advantage and how I wanted to take a super subjective approach to how every shot and set up was imagined. Directing the spot is definitely one of my proudest moments as a filmmaker. I’m extremely happy with the end result, and the reaction to the work has been sensational.”





I always try to stay positive in this life I live. PJ HAGGERTY




A CANDID CONVERSATION ON FUNDS, FAMILY AND THE FUTURE In this exclusive interview with PJ Haggerty, rising basketball star and advocate for financial literacy, we take a look at his journey both on and off the court. From his early love for basketball to his involvement in initiatives like ‘MAKING CENT$’ with TEAM NILO, PJ shares insights on his personal and professional aspirations. Through candid conversation, PJ offers invaluable advice for aspiring athletes and emphasizes the importance of financial preparedness for life’s unpredictable moments. ALLIÉ: Tell me about PJ. PJ: I'm just a very calm, cool, collected type of person. I mean, I'm just good to be around. Never like negative. I always try to stay positive in this life I live. I'm a basketball player. I love basketball. I love my family, and I'm big on believing in God. He got me where I am today. And that's just me.





If you just believe in yourself, work hard and never give up, dreams come true. PJ HAGGERTY


“Off the court, it’s about becoming a better person…” ALLIÉ: When did you fall in love with basketball? PJ: I started playing when I was four. I mean, I didn't really know a lot about basketball when I was four years old, but as I got older, I just fell in love with it. I was always good at it. I just had skills. I always played with older people when I was younger, and I think that helped me get where I am today. ALLIÉ: All right. So you've been at it for a few years now. PJ: <laugh> Yeah, like 15. ALLIÉ: So, let’s talk goals now. What are some of your goals on and off the court? PJ: On the court, for our team, it’s just to go as far as we can. I hope we make it to March Madness, win a conference tournament, and just go as far as we can. For personal goals, it’s just being able to show people how good of a basketball player I am. It’s showing how I'm a leader on and off the court. Off the court, it’s about becoming a better person, connecting with my family, and things like that. ALLIÉ: When did you know that basketball could be something that could potentially change your life? Was there a particular game or a particular moment? PJ: I'd probably say it was my eighth grade summer. I played in a tournament where I think I averaged throughout four games, like 23 points. And then I just started like to feel I could probably do something good with basketball. From there, I just started getting offers and recognition. It just took off for me. ALLIÉ: If you weren't playing basketball, what would you be doing? PJ: That's a hard one. <laugh> I’d probably be playing football. I played football when I was younger. I was pretty good. I just wasn't as good as I am in basketball. So, probably football. ALLIÉ: That's fair. Let's now talk about something completely and absolutely different. If you could invite 3 people to a dinner, who would they be and why? PJ: Anybody? Even if I didn’t know them? ALLIÉ: Anyone in the world. 61

“Rainy days do come when you might not make the most money, but I feel like if you save it, then you’re on the right track.” PJ: Probably, Kevin Hart. He's a comedian, and I gotta have somebody funny. <laugh>. Probably LeBron James. He's my favorite player. And probably Druski. You know, who Druski is? ALLIÉ: Who is that? PJ: He's like an up-and-coming comedian. A lot of people know him. So, that would be me three. ALLIÉ: Let’s talk dollars and cents. You are involved in a financial literacy campaign with TEAM NILO called ‘Making Cents’. When it comes to making sense of money, what does it mean to save your money for a rainy day? PJ: Just save it, because you never know. I think with money, you could lose it all very quickly. I try my best to save my money. Rainy days do come when you might not make the most money, but I feel like if you save it, then you're on the right track. ALLIÉ: Personally, I’m not good with numbers, I’m better with words. When it comes to numbers, dollars specifically, why do you think people have a hard time saving their money? PJ: I think it's a lot of things… There’s a lot you can buy in the world. There’s cars, houses, clothes, jewelry... There’s a lot of stuff that people want, instead of need. So, I think that might be one of the reasons why people aren’t good at saving money. I know even sometimes I like to buy stuff, but I know I should save it. ALLIÉ: If you make it to the next level, rather, when you make it to the next level, what are the first 3 things that you plan on doing with the dollars that come with leveling up? PJ: The first thing is probably to buy my mom, a car. She’s been saying if I ever make it, this is what she wants, a car. So, I'll probably buy her that. And then probably I’ll buy my sister like a nice watch or something like that. And then probably I’ll buy myself a house for me and my dog. ALLIÉ: I love that you said your mom and your sister first. You put them before yourself that says something. 62

AwareNow Podcast

MAKING CENT$ Exclusive Interview with PJ Haggerty


PJ: Yeah. I would say my dad, but he always says that if I ever make it, it’s just for me to be happy and to take care of my mom sister. ALLIÉ: That's awesome. And you've got a dog. What kind of a dog do you have? PJ: I’ve got an American bully. ALLIÉ: What's his name? PJ: His name’s ‘Cash’. ALLIÉ: So appropriate for this conversation. <laugh> One more question for you today my friend. What advice would you give to all those young kids that are looking up to you one day hoping to play division one basketball? If there was one piece of advice that you could give, what would that be? PJ: Probably to never give up, and just stay working hard. I mean, growing up I wasn't the fastest or the most athletic or even the best, but I had a work ethic that I stuck to every day. It helped me get better each and every day leading up to this point. And then, if you just believe in yourself, work hard and never give up, dreams come true. ∎

Follow PJ on Instagram: @pj_haggerty_4 Learn more about ‘MAKING CENT$’: TEAM NILO Connecting Athletes to Causes TEAM NILO connects student-athletes to causes, capturing the essence of the impact that student-athletes have in and around the communities they represent.


Our hard work turned into something new and full of promise. BRENDA EPSTEIN

CO-FOUNDER OF MUSE KITS Photo Courtesy: Muse Kits 64



INSPIRATION AT YOUR DOORSTEP Beginning anew is where every journey starts. In 2017, Reed and Brenda launched their company, then known as ‘Smart Art Box’, marking the genesis of our collaborative relationship. Their timely outreach during a pivotal moment in our nonprofit’s growth and development was a blessing. Over lunch in December 2017, as Artists For Trauma celebrated its fifth year, we shared our visions, missions, and values, discovering a mutual commitment to empowering individuals through artistic expression, human connection, and community collaboration. Since that initial meeting, our bond has flourished over seven years, evolving from partners to cherished friends. It’s with immense pleasure that we introduce Brenda, Reed, and their rebranded art subscription service, now known as ‘Muse Kits’, bringing inspiration to your doorstep. They, alongside their Muse Kits team, are integral members of our chosen family, united in our mission to empower through heart and art. Purchasing a Muse Kits membership not only enriches your life but also supports trauma survivors, thrivers, and changemakers worldwide. Together, we can amplify our creative healing impact on the world. Get Mused and join us in making a difference! LAURA: Reflecting on the journey from the establishment of Smart Art almost ten years ago to the rebranding as Muse Kits, can you share a personal moment or experience that encapsulates the emotional significance of this transformation for both of you? BRENDA: One special moment stands out as we transitioned from Smart Art to Muse Kits. It was the evening we unveiled our rebranding, surrounded by friends, collaborators, and supporters. As we shared our vision for Muse Kits, the room buzzed with anticipation and excitement. In that moment, we felt a whirlwind of emotions—pride in how far we'd come, nostalgia for the journey behind us, and exhilaration for the path ahead. Our hard work turned into something new and full of promise. Seeing that happen was really touching. It showed how much this change meant to us, bringing hope and fulfillment. LAURA: The commitment to providing thoughtfully curated and high-quality monthly art kits is a core aspect of your company. Can you share a specific instance where you felt a profound impact on a customer's life through the artistic expression facilitated by Muse Kits, and how does that resonate with your mission? REED: We had a special instance when we received a heartfelt letter from a customer. They expressed gratitude for the profound impact Muse Kits had on their mental health journey. They described how our monthly art kits became a therapeutic outlet during a challenging period. The kits allowed them to explore emotions and find comfort through artistic expression. Seeing how art helped someone heal made us even more committed to giving people great experiences with our kits. It reminded us how powerful art can be in helping people feel better and live better lives. That's why we want to make art accessible and enjoyable for everyone. LAURA: As co-founders, you've grown not only as business professionals but also as artists. Can you describe a specific artistic endeavor or exploration that has had a lasting impact on your own personal creative journeys and has influenced the direction of Muse Kits?


Collaborating with Artists For Trauma is a privilege due to our joint mission of healing through art. REED EPSTEIN

CO-FOUNDER OF MUSE KITS Photo Courtesy: Muse Kits 66

“Seeing creativity from around the world inspired us to create kits that celebrate diversity and encourage exploration.” BRENDA: One journey that has really impacted us as co-founders and artists was our travels in search of artistic inspiration. Exploring different places and cultures opened our eyes to new artistic styles and techniques. It gave us fresh ideas for Muse Kits. Seeing creativity from around the world inspired us to create kits that celebrate diversity and encourage exploration. Our travels not only helped us grow as artists but also shaped Muse Kits into a platform that connects people through creativity, no matter where they are. This journey has also led us to collaborating with social media creators worldwide. Their input inspired us to innovate our kits and cater to a broader audience. These partnerships not only expanded our reach but also deepened our understanding of global creativity. LAURA: Beyond artistic endeavors, let’s discuss those that are philanthropic. As the Founder of Artists For Trauma, I am honored by our collaboration supported by our shared intention to help others heal through art. Will you share for a moment why you’ve named Artists For Trauma as one of your preferred charities? REED: Collaborating with Artists For Trauma is a privilege due to our joint mission of healing through art. Seeing our donated materials being used to aid trauma survivors underscores the impact of our partnership. Artists For Trauma's commitment to empowering individuals resonates deeply with us, motivating our support. Naming them as a preferred charity acknowledges their remarkable work in utilizing art as a tool for healing, as well as the profound difference they make in the lives of those they serve. Witnessing firsthand how art materials positively impact the lives of those in need reinforces our dedication to this meaningful collaboration. It's an honor to contribute to their cause and witness the transformative power of art in action. LAURA: The transition from Smart Art Box to Muse Kits seems to carry a deeper symbolism. How do you see Muse Kits serving as a source of inspiration beyond the tangible art supplies, touching on the emotional and creative wellbeing of your customers? BRENDA: The evolution from Smart Art Box to Muse Kits indeed signifies a deeper transformation beyond rebranding. Muse Kits aspire to be more than just a provider of art supplies; we aim to be a source of inspiration that nurtures emotional and creative well-being. We curate thoughtful themes and content, seeking to ignite the spark of creativity within our customers. Our goal is to empower individuals to step out of their comfort zones and try new things with ease, promoting growth and confidence in their artistic abilities. We work hard to make projects that are interesting and engaging, striving to create a supportive community that uplifts spirits and enriches lives beyond the tangible realm of art supplies. 67

Photo Courtesy: Muse Kits

LAURA: Building a workplace culture that feels like a family is a remarkable aspect of your company. Can you share a story or example that reflects the strength and warmth of your team dynamics, and how this family-like atmosphere contributes to the success and unique identity of Muse Kits? REED: We have lots of moments where we work together like a family. One time we had a tough product launch, and everyone on the team came together to help out. They shared ideas and cheered each other on. Because we care about each other and respect each other, we were able to solve problems and make the launch successful. Our team is really close-knit, and that helps us come up with new ideas, get closer, and be more creative. Our friendly atmosphere is what makes us who we are, and it helps us do well. It shows what Muse Kits is all about - working together as a community. ∎

Learn more about Muse Kits:

LAURA SHARPE Artists For Trauma Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Trauma Survivor & Artist LAURA SHARPE contributes to AwareNow with her exclusive column, ‘Fellow Travelers’. Trauma, tragedy and miracle are all part of the life process. They do not discriminate nor are they fairly distributed. Simultaneously they occur across all diverse cultures, countries, colors, ethnicities, genders, religious beliefs, and dimensions of time and thought on planet Earth. In this process of life, birth and re-birth; decay and destruction are integral to creating new life. As fellow travelers, we are mindful, compassionate, and intentional through our attitude and actions to one another. We share our authentic personal story of survival or service to offer relatability, respect and hope to others who are navigating intense physical, mental and emotional life impact. Uncomfortably or joyfully, we share the range of human emotions related to our personal trauma or miracle. In the end or the new beginning, we learn we are all fellow travelers.



It’s through a combination of patience, adaptability, continuous learning, and boldness that you can thrive in these impactful fields. ALANOOD ALHASHEMI




A JOURNEY IN ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE AND SUSTAINABILITY As Vice President of Organisational Culture and Impact at Dubai Holding Entertainment, Alanood Alhashemi spearheaded comprehensive social impact initiatives, with a primary focus on culture, impact, and sustainability initiatives. She has two decades of experience in Human Resources and has been practicing for 16 years at Dubai Holding. She also acts as the Strategic Advisor to the CEO of Dubai Holding Entertainment and is a member of the Executive Management Team. Alanood has been involved with HR strategy in various capacities for Dubai Holding. In these HR capacities, she has prioritized organizational effectiveness, employee relations, performance management, and talent management. She has provided strategic leadership in shaping key HR policies, including compensation, cultivating a positive workplace culture, and ensuring compliance with employment regulations. Notably, Alanood was one of 17 Emirati women to receive the prestigious Accredited Directors Certificate by the Director Development Program. This program provides premium Corporate Board training for senior executives in the UAE. She maintains a generalist, holistic, and strategic approach in all endeavors. ALEX: Can you share some insights into your professional background and the journey that led you to your current role as Vice President of Organisational Culture and Impact at Dubai Holding Entertainment (DHE)? ALANOOD: In my professional journey, I've been deeply passionate about people and fostering positive environments. Recognizing the significant time individuals invest at work, I've championed the idea that a thriving organizational culture enhances productivity. As Vice President of Organisational Culture and Impact at Dubai Holding Entertainment, I leverage my people-centric approach to contribute to the core concerns of any CEO: finances, revenue, and, crucially, the well-being of their workforce. Embracing the digital era, my individuated interest extends beyond conventional business paradigms to being ambassadors of exceptional customer service, with a commitment to creating happiness. Sustainability is a long-term investment. This is why I emphasize operational efficiency and being a strategic partnership with the planet. On the social responsibility front, I strongly believe in giving back to society and supporting people of determination. By aligning our strategies with a broader societal impact, we position ourselves as more than just a business entity – we become a valued and responsible partner, contributing to a better world. This multifaceted approach, blending cultural transformation, digital adaptation, and social responsibility, defines my role in steering Dubai Holding Entertainment towards a future of sustained success and positive impact. 71

My advice is to embrace patience and take your time in each stage of your journey. ALANOOD ALHASHEMI


ALEX: Having been with Dubai Holding Entertainment for some time, could you please elaborate on the key milestones and experiences? ALANOOD: During my tenure at Dubai Holding Entertainment, several key milestones stand out. One significant achievement was spearheading the certification of The Green Planet and MotionGate as Autism Friendly Centres by IBCCES. This involved training 100 employees in sign language, ensuring our team is well-equipped to assist people of determination. In another impactful initiative, I led a campaign during Breast Cancer Month, providing free mammograms through pink caravans at global village and Dubai parks, addressing a critical health need not typically covered by insurance. We've also prioritized well-being and inclusion through projects like the Wellness Hub in DHE HQ, offering a dedicated space for breastfeeding mothers. Sustainability is a focus as well, with a shift away from single-use plastics at our headquarters through the adoption of reusable cups and cutlery. Additionally, we value employee feedback, piloting the "Idea Express" survey to recognize innovative ideas and enhance DHE. ALEX: How would you describe the role of Organisational Culture and Inclusion? ALANOOD: Dubai Holding Entertainment places a broad focus on Organisational Culture and Inclusion, which extends to areas such as CSR, wellness, well-being, and planetary inclusion. We implement strategies for talent development and employee well-being, including personalized professional development plans, diverse resources, and coaching sessions led by high-caliber individuals. This approach aims to foster a positive and inclusive work environment for our diverse workforce. ALEX: In terms of talent development and employee well-being, what strategies does Dubai Holding Entertainment employ to ensure a positive and inclusive work environment for its diverse workforce?





ALANOOD: Dubai Holding Entertainment prioritizes talent development and employee well-being through personalized Professional Development Plans (PDPs), offering a broad range of resources for skill enhancement, and conducting coaching sessions led by high-caliber individuals. This multifaceted approach ensures a positive and inclusive work environment for our diverse workforce, fostering continuous growth and a sense of belonging. ALEX: What is your favorite quote that you use in leadership? ALANOOD: I often draw inspiration from Peter Drucker’s quote: "Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." This resonates with my approach of balancing efficiency in execution with a strategic vision that aligns with the broader goals and values of the organization. ALEX: What advice do you have for anyone aspiring to enter the inclusion and sustainability fields? ALANOOD: My advice is to embrace patience and take your time in each stage of your journey. Understand that progress takes time and be open to adapting to change with agility. Educate yourself extensively, identify your strengths, and work on enhancing them. Most importantly, don't be shy – actively seek opportunities to contribute to positive change and make a meaningful impact. It's through a combination of patience, adaptability, continuous learning, and boldness that you can thrive in these impactful fields. ∎

ALEXANDER TAYLOR Social Entrepreneur Alexander Taylor is a social entrepreneur who empowers leaders to address societal, community, and environmental issues using the entrepreneurial method, in partnership with the United Nations and other international organizations. He is the Advisor for the Global Challenges Forum. His focus is the UN's social entrepreneurship program 1M2030. He has spoken at The United Nations, has a UN Traineeship, and has presented at The Global Peace Summit in Dubai. He received the Mckinsey & Company Achievement Award in 2021, was on NBC for his efforts, and was the Claes Nobel (Nobel Peace Prize Family) Awardee & Scholar for 2022..


The value of the time spent outweighed the cost. PAUL S. ROGERS




Release The Genie Fact: A Genie has never lost a game of Rock, Paper Scissors. “Remember, time is money.” - Benjamin Franklin. This is the war cry of the corporate world. As a solicitor in the UK in my early years, this mantra couldn't be any clearer. Value of time was paramount. We followed a strict practice of time recording. Commonly, there are 2 methods of billing clients: one is on a time spent basis versus a fixed fee. Using the time spent basis, the fee earner’s hourly charge rate is divided by 10 units per hour, each unit being 6 minutes long. Here is a typical example of how this time recording works. Reading a normal letter, 1 to 1 ½ page long, or write a normal length letter would be one unit. A telephone call in or out would also be one unit. A long letter or telephone conversation would be two units upwards. Preparation and attending the clients could be anything up from 1 unit to all day. Are you starting to feel the pressure and anxiety from the above example of micro managing 6 minute units of time? Thankfully, there is a more flexible approach to addressing how to value time. A fixed fee quote. However, this approach requires both experience and knowledge. Time still needs to be recorded in 6 minute units, however, the fee earner has a large discretion as to what part of the time incurred working on the matter they chose to ultimately bill. In my personal life, my value of time has changed as I've gotten older. In 2013, I was diagnosed with skin cancer. I suddenly became painfully aware of the finite nature of time. One of the hardest things in your battle with cancer or other serious illness, which nobody tells you about, is the terrible agony of waiting for the results from various tests. Referred to as ‘scanxiety’, it is the stress caused by imaging tests used to find cancer or other problems. In a broader sense, the term means the worry that occurs before, during, and after any medical exam or test. Forewarned awareness is forearmed if you or someone you know is currently going through this process. Know that the cost and the value of this time is very difficult. I have also discovered that time can be cyclic too. With PTSD there is a moment in time when a traumatic event occurs. If a person is triggered in the present by a sound, sight or feeling the body at the traumatic level is transporting back to traumatic events and time. “It's not the person refusing to let go of the past but the past refusing to let go of the person.” - Dr Hugo Stevenson. There is also a subtle difference between PTSD and CPTSD (Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). PTSD is a trauma that has occurred in the past. CPTSD is a set of traumas. For myself the ‘C’ of my CPTSD is pain. Chronic pain triggers all of the prior trauma experiences from the last 5 1/2 years thus renewed and affirmed the trauma to the present time and day. The trauma is not post but current. 77

AwareNow Podcast

THE VALUE OF TIME Written and Narrated by Paul Rogers


“What it comes down to is what we do in the moment.” My Invisible disability is acute sensitivity to light and sound. I have a very strong startle response. The nervous system is transported in those few seconds to a place outside of reason, logic and control to an unchecked feeling of imminent danger and terror. When control is eventually returned, and my nervous system returns to the present moment, it’s not uncommon that I feel awkward about my automated initial response. Finally, there are times when we have to weigh the value of the time against its cost. This is a regular occurrence since my severe TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). One of the most recent examples took place when my 8-year-old broke up for the Christmas holidays. His school put on a Christmas show. It was in a local village hall. It was bright, crowded and exceptionally noisy. My son was not expecting to see me at the event, as he is aware of my issues with light and noise. I decided it was too important a thing to miss. I lasted about 45 mins. This was just long enough to see him sing and dance with his class. After which I couldn’t bear it anymore and headed for the door. The cost of that 45 minute time was 2 days in bed with chronic head pain. Do I regret it? No. The value of the time spent outweighed the cost. When we look at life through the looking glass of time, there is no right or wrong way of putting a value on time. What it comes down to is what we do in the moment. It is here that we create the narrative of a lasting memory. Not only for ourselves, but for everyone else in our life too. ∎ PAUL S. ROGERS Transformation Expert, Awareness Hellraiser & Public Speaker PAUL S. ROGERS is a keynote public speaking coach, “Adversity to hope, opportunity and prosperity. “ Transformation expert, awareness Hellraiser, life coach, Trauma TBI, CPTSD mentor, train crash and cancer survivor, public speaking coach, Podcast host “Release the Genie” & Best-selling author. His journey has taken him from from corporate leader to kitesurfer to teacher on first nations reserve to today. Paul’s goal is to inspire others to find their true purpose and passion.


It’s about actually making something go beyond awareness and into measurable change. LAURA SWANSON




EMPOWERING CHANGE THROUGH SHARED STORIES In this conversation, Laura Swanson, CEO of Creative Embers, and Allié McGuire, Co-CEO of AwareNow Media, discuss the transformative power of storytelling and their shared vision for societal change. Through diverse formats, they empower artists to authentically share their narratives, fostering inclusivity and unity. Their personal reflections illuminate the profound impact of storytelling in driving connection and social impact. ALLIÉ: A world where artists are valued as an essential part of societal reform. This is the vision of Creative Embers.This is why we are honored for you to be an official partner of AwareNow. You are very aware of the power of storytelling to create impact and sustain change. How is it that you go about supporting the artists who do this work? LAURA: We work a lot with independent artists. With independent artists, sometimes while they're good with creativity, they don't know how to get it out. They don't necessarily know how to collaborate. And it can be really confusing and almost intimidating, especially as an independent artist when you're looking at how to do things that





It’s the authenticity that inspires… ALLIÉ MCGUIRE


“When you read, watch or hear a story that’s raw and real, it allows you to feel connected.” LAURA: (continued) major networks or other entities that are bigger than yourself are doing. So, we try to meet artists where they're at. We try to help them understand that there is no set way to do things. There are guidelines, but whatever you have to do for your project to make it whatever it is, we're going to work on. From how to collaborate to how to really make everything that we do educationally based. It’s about actually making something go beyond awareness and into measurable change. ALLIÉ: I absolutely love that model. Being aware is not the end point, right? It's a starting point that leads to action. LAURA: And I think that's something that is needed. The awareness is obviously where everything starts from, but I think there are so many times where we show a film or something and people just get riled up… They want to do something, but they don't know how and where to go next. So, I think being able to find ways for the art to have those initial steps into action is very important to actually create the results in society and change the culture in the way we want to change it. Now, I have a question for you. We know the business of creative storytelling and social activism lacks resources and can be an uphill battle in the face of so much hate. How does providing a platform for artists to share their stories not only inspire your audience but also inspire the artists you interview to keep pursuing their work? ALLIÉ: It’s the authenticity that inspires both our audience and the artists featured as well. It’s the alignment with our vision and mission to raise awareness for causes that you see in each and every story shared that inspires. How could it not? When you read, watch or hear a story that’s raw and real, it allows you to feel connected. It’s that connection that drives inspiration. We’re not selling anything. We’re sharing everything. I think people are just tired of being sold to, be it a product, a concept, a belief… They don't want to be sold. We don't sell things. We just share things and give people permission to have an opinion. You know? I think that's what inspires. LAURA: Yes, I like that with the connection. I think that's ultimately what all of it comes back to in the reality of not being sold something. Because I think the selling and the branding of everything, with the ideas that are just unrealistic is everything that disconnects us and makes us think that we're disconnected from people when we're not. ALLIÉ: Absolutely. So again, it's that connection that's vital. And this is where you and I very much agree, as do so many of us, that it all resides in the power of the story. And the thing of it is, there are many sides to every story and many ways to tell each of them. With the storytelling you do at Creative Embers, you employ multiple formats from photo exhibits to stageplays to filmed documentaries. What value does this variety and versatility provide to Creative Embers and to your audience? LAURA: Well, I think, just like you said, there are many sides to a story. I think sometimes when you pick a topic or you share a story, the way in which it gets shared and exhibited to people can really make a difference in how people 83

Where is the common thread in the connection that you can get with the audience that you want to have and want to inspire? LAURA SWANSON


“We need to think about how do you get people outside of your normal echo chambers to be connected with stories that they wouldn’t normally be connected with.” LAURA: (continued) connect. I think one of the biggest things that we're looking for is that we’re not only having to think about the art itself and where the artist is coming from and the story that they're sharing and what's the best format for it. We need to think about how do you get people outside of your normal echo chambers to be connected with stories that they wouldn't normally be connected with. That's something that we consider in options of how to display things. For instance, take our Broken Mirror project that we're working on. We felt like it was going to be best in a photo gallery because we felt like individuals that needed to hear about the stories wouldn't necessarily be drawn to go to the theater to watch a full movie. But if you could use exhibits, photos, and short video clips… Put them not in just art galleries, but in different places from coffee shops to human trafficking shelters and things like that, you could get access to a larger group of people that may not be drawn to that story, but then also may need to hear that story and have more access to it. Because accessibility for a lot of things is also really important. ALLIÉ: Well, and then to your point, to get out of your own echo chamber, right? You can preach to the choir all day long, but what good is that going to do? So I love how you just shared that you're meeting your artists where they are. You're meeting your audience where they are. Where are you at the coffee shop? We'll come to you. It’s brilliant. LAURA: I think that's the biggest thing too, because if we want to actually have change happen, then we have to find ways to get outside of people who are already doing the work in certain areas. And that's also complicated. How do you address that? How do you get people to change minds and opinions? So, it’s thinking about what format is best for that or how to present it in a way that they can possibly understand or relate to it better. Where is the common thread in the connection that you can get with the audience that you want to have and want to inspire? ALLIÉ: I mean, it goes to the whole common denominator, right? What's the common denominator here to make this work? We need a common denominator. So the fact that you are actively seeking out what that is and creating a body of work based on that denominator… It’s awesome. LAURA: Similarly, we've partnered because of that array of creative formats that our organizations produce. So my question for you is, has AwareNow seen a difference in the audience demographics associated with its different storytelling platforms? If so, how do those audiences vary? And if not, what connects your audiences across all of AwareNow's storytelling platforms? ALLIÉ: Sure. So, you know, let's talk about furniture. That's fun. People often reference ‘the table’, like ‘room at the table’, right? And so different audiences want to be seen and heard at this table. So the topic of conversation becomes about finding room at the table. For us, as opposed to finding a place to sit at one table or another, we just created one of our own. We literally created a ‘Table of Causes’. It’s one where all are invited to connect through the stories shared. And whether you come to the table for this cause or that cause, the fact of the matter is, at the end of the day, we're all sitting together at the same table with the one cause that unites us all - the human cause. 85

“The reality is that we’re all actually tied and connected to all these different causes in ways that we might not understand or see.” ALLIÉ: (continued) You know, when we started this, Jack and I were talking with other people about our concept. And they said, “Okay, but maybe choose one cause, two causes, or maybe three causes, but pick a lane and stay in it.” And we're like, “No.” I mean, we're not known to color in the lines anyway, nor to stay in one lane or another. And so people would say, "Well, you're gonna fail. You have to choose one and focus." And we said that was the very problem. The ‘one’ we want to focus on is all of us, not some of us, but all of us… which is ‘one’. We are one, and that's the one we're focusing on. So, I guess that's the thing that connects our audience. When you can have someone who reads a story about something that they thought had nothing to do with them… “No way is this related to me.” Then they reach out. “Allié, I had no idea. Do you know that this is actually my story? I had no idea…” And so when we can create that space for connection, that's where our audience connects. LAURA: I like that. I get what you're saying. It’s like how creatives come out and, and they're told to do something some way. It’s to understand that those are just ‘guidelines’, but there's also creativity to be had in the way in which you design, market, and program things. And I like that because technically you are focusing on one thing, which is that we all are at this table. That's what I see as the common thread between all of them. The reality is that we're all actually tied and connected to all these different causes in ways that we might not understand or see. ALLIÉ: Absolutely! Again, it's why I'm so in love with Creative Embers, and why I’m so glad that we’re connected. Now, let’s get personal, Laura, of all the stories you’ve heard in your life as a little girl or a grown woman, what is one that you can share that’s made the greatest impact on you? LAURA: This one was incredibly hard for me. I will tell you one that's made the biggest impact on me, but I will also say that the reality for me is that it's not these individual stories that stand out, it really has always been that connection piece… There are so many themes of just wanting to feel heard, accepted, and supported in society. It’s that feeling like there are a lot of people and entities that have failed you that comes into play. It's sticking too much to those guidelines or rules for the way you're supposed to be in society that has actually hurt individuals. At the end of the day, it is just that desire for connection and acceptance through all the stories that has really inspired me and made me want to continue sharing. I feel like when we're more open and we connect better, I just feel like it's better… It's a better life. It's better in so many ways. I will share one story that I feel really hits me about a human trafficking survivor from one of my documentary films, ‘Break the Chain’. His name was Kwame, and he was brought over from Togo, Africa, He was trafficked in front of a community, a nice community in Ypsilanti. His trafficker was a pastor, and he was well known and accepted in the community. This pastor had like six kids that he was essentially abusing that weren't really his. And it happened for like six years. These kids were going to public school and everything, and nobody noticed, or if they noticed certain signs, they just felt like it wasn't their business to question, or they just wrote off like, “Oh, that's just a problematic household. I don't need to go there…” I feel like that hits me because I feel like it's part of the problem. It’s feeling like we can't connect or reach out to one another. It’s also dismissing or dehumanizing certain people in certain populations. And so I felt like that just kind of shows that problem that we have in our society. But then also with Kwame is the fact that he came out of that finally, 86

AwareNow Podcast

NARRATIVE UNITY Exclusive Interview with Laura Swanson & Allié McGuire


LAURA: (continued) trafficking efforts, and he's on these boards. To see him go from the state that he was in when I first interviewed him, which was very soft spoken, could not look in the eyes, originally wanted his face blurred and was going to be anonymous in our film... And to go from that to speaking out, being a part of the artistic process, and now he's actually on the stage speaking and doing my job of the Q&A’s at film screenings and everything. That's just been amazing to see that entire transformation and how that affected his life and how just speaking out and being open about experiences changed everything for him. Now, he's completely empowered by it, and now he's a full U.S. citizen getting his passport to be able to go back to Togo to see the rest of his family. That inspires me because he's just someone that really went through it and has gotten to a better place. And if he can do that, I always think, I got this. ALLIÉ: Thank you so much for sharing that. When you look at how healing the sharing of his story was for him and perhaps the healing that because he shared he can give to someone else who can now find the strength that they didn't have before… There are wins on both sides that just really speak to this power of storytelling. It’s how one story can change a person and anyone else that they come into contact with. LAURA: I think that's also powerful because a lot of times, especially when I'm working with survivors of trauma, it's a long process and healing is not linear. I know that's a saying, and it's very true. When you're working with individuals and sharing their stories, you don't necessarily get to see that full transformation because it takes time, and transforming into something else looks different ways. But for him, I felt like that was the one where I was with that individual during just the right time when they fully understood what happened to them, broke their silence, and then made something out of their experience. And so that was powerful to see everything come full circle. So, I’m going to throw it back your way and get personal too. AwareNow highlights unity in all of us being tied to causes, but I am curious what particular causes you are personally tied to that got you interested in this in the first place. ALLIÉ: When I was 3-years-old, my mom, little sister and I lived in a tent in Philadelphia for a period of time. My mom tells me that while we didn’t have much, it was the very cleanest and neatest tent ever kept. Homelessness is a cause I’m tied to… When I grew up as a young girl of mixed ethnicity being both black and white, I often wasn’t white enough or black enough to feel I fit in. Early on I decided I didn’t want to be defined by my color, but rather by my content. I began to write and recite poetry to unite us, not divide us. Unity is a cause I’m tied to… A few years back, I was diagnosed with MS after losing vision in my right eye and an MRI confirming lesions of my brain and spine. That said, I still have great vision in my left eye. MS is a cause I’m tied to. We all have a collection of causes that we find ourselves tied to over the years. Again, it’s the cause that connects us that we all need to hold onto. If we can keep ourselves tethered and closely tied to ‘the human cause’ that connects us all, I think there is hope for humanity. ∎

Learn about AwareNow’s Fiscal Sponsor & ‘Partner In Purpose’ Creative Embers:


Never held in your hands JACK MCGUIRE




Time isn’t real But you are Go Where time can’t follow There is never enough Wish we had more Wasn’t the right Time Measures no one Takes no pride Has no ego Can’t escape Time It lines our face Cares less about our pockets Changes the land Never held in your hands Time I thought we had more


It creates a sense of place, ownership, and community. CHARLES ‘CHAZZ’ MILLER ARTIST & EDUCATOR

Photo Courtesy: Chazz Miller 90



AN ARTIST, A MURALIST, AN IMAGINARY REALIST A vessel of creative energy overflowing with the passion to inspire, Charles ‘Chazz’ Miller is a life-long, Detroit based, community driven artist, muralist and teacher. His imagery is a passionate reflection of struggle, voice and daily life he calls Imaginary Realism. Chazz is an integral part of many neighborhood communities. In his public art works, he engages neighborhood residents with the goal to uplift and inspire community members to use their creativity, and foster their cultural pride. His process encourages them to stop looking and start seeing as they co-create a vision for their lives. ALLIÉ: Your work as a mural artist brings communities together, as you offer in invitation for community collaboration and connection. Chazz, can you share a story about a connection you made with someone at one of your mural projects? CHAZZ: Well, there are a lot of them, but most of all my wife – she's number one. The first mural I did in Detroit was at Patton Park with supposedly troubled teens. These were the good kids because their parents were getting them involved in programs. The teens in crisis would come and steal our paint when we went to lunch. True story. My wife






Photo Courtesy: Chazz Miller

Artwork by: Chazz Miller 94

“We don’t talk about politics, religion, or other contentious topics. We focus on art, creativity, and making things better.” CHAZZ: (continued) brought her daughter to the summer program. And, you know, I don't usually hit on moms, I don't do that. But yeah, we just hit it off. And her daughter now has a catering business. Our son actually bought the house next door to ours. So yeah, that's the best story I can think of… You can’t top that, right? ALLIÉ: No, meeting the love of your life at a mural project? That's pretty epic. So, you know, when it comes to art, you use it as a tool, not only for personal expression, but for public education. Would you speak for a moment about public art and its importance to our communities? CHAZZ: Well, the number one buzzword that comes to mind is 'placemaking'. You know, everybody can relate to that now. It's been in our vernacular for the last few years; it's been a big buzzword. So, you know, it creates a sense of place, ownership, and community. And through the process, engagement builds those relationships. I mean, that's how I met my wife. You get to know people, you get to talk to them. And oftentimes when we're doing these projects, we don't talk about politics, religion, or other contentious topics. We focus on art, creativity, and making things better. We try to keep it positive, really keep it positive. And if you want to vent, that's something different. Maybe at lunch, you can go over there and vent and all that. But right now, it's about coming together, engaging, putting all our petty differences aside, and accomplishing the goal together. And at the end of the day, we'll have a shining beacon to motivate and inspire. That's what I've always wanted to do as an artist. Not to be rich, not to be famous, but to maximize my talent to its fullest potential, to be as versatile as possible in many different genres and areas—whether it's painting, drawing, or charcoal. It doesn't matter. I just want to be able to experience it and then share it to educate and uplift. So, that's what it's been about: art education, and community beautification. ALLIÉ: I love that you've committed your talent to this the way that you have.Let’s switch gears for a moment now. It seems you and I have something in common with regard to an affinity for butterflies. From ‘Wings of Liberty’ to ‘Migration of Inspiration’ to the ‘Papillon Project’ it’s a recurring element in your work. Please share the personal significance it has. CHAZZ: Well, it started with a third-grade class and me being late for school. I think I had a bit of a party night that weekend, <laugh>. And I didn't have my lesson plan together, so I needed to come up with something. So this was like the first day of school, the first week. As I'm driving to school, I'm thinking, "I didn't do my lesson plan." But I had been teaching long enough to improvise, so I thought, "Okay, it's a third-grade class. How hard can it be to come up with something to keep them busy?" Right. So I thought of Rorschach inkblots. You don't need a lot of materials – just a piece of paper and some paint. That's it. So it doesn't take a lot of setup. That's what we did. And of course, kids started seeing butterflies. And that gave me an idea. Bing! 95

So, that’s what it’s been about: art education, and community beautification. CHARLES ‘CHAZZ’ MILLER ARTIST & EDUCATOR

Photo Courtesy: Chazz Miller 96

Artwork by: Chazz Miller

CHAZZ: (continued) So I went home and researched butterflies and saw all the cool patterns and stuff. I brought actual printouts of the butterflies to class the next time. Now I had a lesson plan. Took that back to class. I had the kids analyze them and then re-visualize them, coming up with these morphed-out butterflies with subliminal images that their minds projected, which you could call astral projection. So they started seeing infants and birds and came up with some of the coolest ideas. Then we took those projects and blew them up and did paintings. And then it just took off. I loved the idea. It was a great lesson plan. I started implementing it in some of my other classes. I thought about one of the volunteer days we had, where we had stacks and stacks of donated plywood. We had so much raw material donated, you know, it's crazy. So this particular summer, I don't know how much plywood it was, but it was like plywood that had been on the sides of buildings, so it wasn't new. Instead of throwing it away, we were boarding up houses at the time, but we had so much. So I started painting butterflies on them and doing cutouts. We had 2,000 volunteers that day. I had 500 of them painting Papillons. And that's when the Papillon effect really took hold. But the whole mission statement behind it was the metamorphosis and the change of Detroit at the time. Detroit was still all the documentaries that were coming out, showing how blighted Detroit was, you know, everything. You remember that period we went through. So the whole thing was, you would never know this ugly caterpillar is going to turn into this beautiful butterfly. And so that was the thing. It was a symbol of not only metamorphosis but vision and foresight… a future vision. Seeing beyond the ugliness, you know, seeing beyond the veil. And I just fell in love with it. And then with, you know, just taking it to another level by putting my silhouette faces and characters into it, again, spawned from the inspiration of the kids, you know, seeing all the images. And, you know, that's what the Rorschach psychological blot is all about. It’s analyzing us through shapes, colors, and forms. 97


Artwork by: Chazz Miller

Artwork by: Chazz Miller 100

AwareNow Podcast

IMAGINARY REALISM Exclusive Interview with Chazz Miller


“Understand that there’s more to this existence than what we see.” ALLIÉ: One last question for you today, Chazz. One day, when you are gone Chazz, your art will remain. It will continue to speak to the communities it serves. What do you hope it says to those who see it? CHAZZ: Well, it says to work together, stick together… Understand that there's more to this existence than what we see. Just like there are radio stations you can't hear, but when you tune into them, you catch that frequency. And I think that's one of the biggest things: we limit ourselves in our possibilities and our capabilities. So I just want people to really realize that there's no limit to the sky when you look at all my different diverse talents, my different diverse subject matters, the topics I deal with, and so on and so forth. And my approach is to try to be an example of versatility and diversity and to embrace diversity. And that's through people, through education, through music, and through food. And you will be a much richer person. ∎

Learn more about Chazz and view his art online:


Time passed. Our bond strengthened. DEBORAH WEED




HOPE & HEALING IN THE ARMS OF AN UNEXPECTED ANGEL When everyone abandoned me, little did I know that a 70 year old house cleaner from Cuba, would be my earth angel. I was so weak that I could barely get out of bed. The house was becoming as messy as the anger that was brewing in my heart. It wasn’t fair. I had so much life in me. Yet, here I was, unable to mop up my own floor. It was time to hire a house cleaner. The knock at the door was unremarkable. When I looked through the peephole, all I saw was the top of a grey-haired lady’s head. I opened the door. Standing there was an older woman who was humped over and carrying a long stick that looked like an odd croquet mallet. My first impression was that she looked like the old lady in Snow White. Luckily, she did not come bearing a juicy red apple. Instead, she laughed with the laugh of a young girl. “I’m Tata,” she said, with a Spanish lilt to her voice. My heart stirred. Tata entered my home as if it was her own. I watched in wonder as this 70 year old woman moved the couches as if she was bench pressing weights. She took such pride as she cleaned every nook and cranny. To Tata, cleanliness was truly a sign of Godliness. And, the laugh. That laugh. It filled my condo with the life that had been waning out of my body. I hired Tata to come once a week. The day that she came to clean the house became the day that I felt a little brighter. Most of the time, I was in bed. My laughing angel would come into my room, take my blanket and put it in the dryer. Then she would bring it back while saying, “Caliente Momma. Here’s a hot blanket.” Gently, Tata would put it up to my shoulders and then brush my hair out of my eyes. Instinctively, Tata must have known that the warmth of the blanket was the best medicine in the world. Soon, she was taking my socks, putting them in the dryer and I got both hot blankets and hot socks. She would clean the house, then come in to my bedroom and wash away the tears from my eyes. I soon learned that the long stick that looked like a mallet was kind-of-like a mop. Tata would take clean towels and put them at the end of the stick. Then, she would polish the tile floors with them. Two totally different cultures clashed to create order in my life. Tata could get really angry too. She was angry at my mother for never visiting. She was angry at my family for not understanding. She was angry at all of the friends who left me as soon as I could no longer do anything to help them. Tata would coo to me, mainly in spanish; mainly in a language that I couldn’t understand. Her passion for my welfare made me feel safe. It was no wonder that I began to believe that Tata was a living, breathing, angel. Time passed. Our bond strengthened. After three years in bed, a brilliant doctor discovered that my iron was a 3. He said it was a wonder that I was still alive. I had been hemorrhaging to death because of a fibroid tumor that was hidden behind my uterus. A litany of doctors had given me the wrong diagnosis: always dire. I marveled that my gynecologist could have caught this at day one. The only thing that was a constant during all this time was Tata. My house cleaner. 103

AwareNow Podcast

THE HEART CLEANER Written and Narrated by Deborah Weed


“Now I know that, even when the world crashes around us, the heavens above will send someone…” Fifteen years have passed since Tata entered my home... my heart. I moved away, so she can no longer clean my condo, although I know she wishes she could. We speak on the phone ever week and every week we say the same thing. “I love you too mucho, mommacita,” Tata will say. “Momma! I love you. Caliente, caliente, caliente,” I’ll say. Even though it would make no sense to anyone else. When I visit Tata, both of our eyes well up with tears. We hold onto each other so tight that sometimes I think we stop breathing and have to catch our breath. Tata will say, “My sister asks, why you love that lady so mucho?” She’ll shake her head and shrug her shoulders. Her body seems to get tinier and tinier every time I see her. When I leave, she stands in the driveway, sobbing. The love is so pure and expressed that it almost makes up for all those people who weren’t there for me. I always thought that I knew who I would be able to count on if times got bad. Now I know that, even when the world crashes around us, the heavens above will send someone... for me, someone named Tata, who will be there to guide us back towards hope. During our darkest times, sometimes what we really need is a heart cleaner. There are a lot of Tata’s out there and they come to us in the most mysterious ways. ∎


I wish I could give everyone access to a platform to nurture them to their full potential. KEITH RICHARD KWAGALA




FROM PROMISE TO PRIMITIVUS - A GLOBAL HEALTHCARE GAME CHANGER Keith Richard Kwagala made a promise to his late grandmother Sarah when she died that he would find a lasting solution to the atrocity of stroke so that nobody, in his family or humanity as a whole, would have to go through that. He kept that promise by innovating a medical device that detects early warning signs of stroke and monitors cardiovascular issues. His portable device named Primitivus has won numerous awards in academia, industry and has even attracted the attention of the President of the Republic of Uganda and many leading experts. Given its potential to revolutionise healthcare, especially in underserved regions, Keith’s initiative stands as a testament to what innovation can achieve in service of global well-being. TANITH: Keith your amazing innovation was created to fulfil your promise to your late grandmother Sarah who you were clearly dedicated to. Tell us about her and the impact she had on your life? KEITH: Grandmother was a storyteller. From childhood during holidays she always told me of how my mother was unique, how she would discipline her children. She'd tell me stories of governments past and why I was among her





KEITH: (continued) favorites of all her numerous children. I think I was her ultimate favorite. She had heart complications, but it was a surprise when she suffered her first stroke attack. It had no permanent damage. The second however, took her mobility. This attack is what caused me to travel from University to her hospital bed. She did what she did best, told me stories. Stories of how I behaved as a baby, stories that brought back memories from the first Christmas I shared with her as an adult. I then made her a promise, that I'd invent a device which would stop stroke. It was a promise I made to protect her, our family and humanity just as she indiscriminately loved everyone. Little did I know that this was the last thing I would say to her - a promise. So I went back and fervently embarked on the journey that gave birth to Primitivus, a statement of innovation and a personal bodyguard I am offering humanity. TANITH: Where did the knowledge to create your incredible device come from, Keith, and how did you come up with the concept? KEITH: The knowledge came from my Biomedical engineering. My practical approach to health problems in the light of innovation, technology and engineering has shaped so many of my decisions. I first researched to find a common ground for all stroke victims. I discovered each of them had indicators before stroke happened. The indicators can be so subtle that sometimes they are ignored or brushed off, an action which spells catastrophe. So I discovered that there are objective signs that occur in every individual before such major attacks happen and these take place at a base level of the cardiovascular system. When detected accurately with precision, these can be used to predict a major accident before it happens, and preventive care can be initiated. TANITH: We have already mentioned that Primitivus has won numerous awards and I am aware that it has been cited in technical reviews and that you now have MOU’s with top hospitals, but how does it work? KEITH: There are 4 causes of stroke - atherothromboembolism, cardioembolism, hyperviscosity and vasculitis. The more accurately these are detected, the more the precision with which stroke can be predicted. Atrial fibrillation is the other major cause factor for stroke. Primitivus is built to pick up the unique indicators of the major causes of stroke and its integrated ECG sensor picks up on the atrial fibrillation. The diagnostic capabilities of Primitivus increase with use because it continues to pick up individual data and use it to learn new patterns for prediction. Its life cycle has been designed to require a new update every 1.2 years(general) and 6months(custom). The patient places Primitivus on the neck so that it detects atherothromboembolism and on the chest to detect cardioembolism. Within a minute, Primitivus is able to match the newly acquired data with patterns it has learnt to either warn the patient of a pending 108

“The recognition on a global stage is not only fulfilling but also a testament that a promise can birth a miracle.” KEITH: (continued) attack or to give results as normal with visual evidence as to why. Another notification is sent to the patient's caretaker to close any gaps of missing vital alarms. TANITH: You recently won an award at our Global Youth Awards and have since joined our Global Change Ambassador network with young innovators such as yourself across the globe. How does it feel to be recognised for your work on a global stage? KEITH: Exhilarating. The recognition on a global stage is not only fulfilling but also a testament that a promise can birth a miracle. To me, receiving the GYA was an honor to my grandmother and I dedicated the award to her. Winning the GYA also places me where opportunities can see me. I believe I can change the world, GYA validated my long held confidence, an audacious confidence everyone who knows me holds, one I am very grateful for. I remember calling to my sister when I got the email from RoundTable that I won the GYA for innovation, the night is unforgettable. TANITH: I understand you are in the process of applying for a Masters Degree in Biomedical Engineering, tell us more about this and where you hope it will take you in the future? KEITH: I am applying for my Master's degree in Translational Cell and Tissue Engineering. Given the opportunity to pursue this career which I have held in my goals since I was only 12, way before grade 8, because I want to solve the enigma of cardiomyocyte regeneration. This is the key to us solving heart attacks and cardiovascular atrocities. When we can ably regenerate the heart cells, we can find a way to regenerate brain cells so that alzheimers, dementia and other neurological disorders can be solved too. So, I want to pursue my Masters degree so that I can help humanity in this sense. I hope Johns Hopkins University and the others to which I apply accept me with a scholarship. TANITH: If you could create one change in the world what would it be and why? KEITH: Access to opportunity. I wish I could give everyone access to a platform to nurture them to their full potential. Platforms like Global Youth awards (GYA) are doing great and numerous others. And yet I know for one, I could be so much more given the opportunity, and so could so many others. ∎

Learn more online:

TANITH HARDING Director of International Development, The Legacy Project, RoundTable Global Tanith is leading change management through commitment to the RoundTable Global Three Global Goals of: Educational Reform, Environmental Rejuvenation & Empowerment for All. She delivers innovative and transformational leadership and development programmes in over 30 different countries and is also lead on the international development of philanthropic programmes and projects. This includes working with a growing team of extraordinary Global Change Ambassadors and putting together the Global Youth Awards which celebrate the amazing things our young people are doing to change the world.


We all have parts of our lives and parts of ourselves that we might be afraid to share… LAUREN PIRES




LAUREN PIRES REDEFINING STRENGTH WITH 100% HEART Born with central core disease, a rare neuromuscular disorder, Lauren Pires has about 33% of the physical strength of the average person, but the strength of her spirit is 100%. Born into challenges many never face, Lauren’s story reshapes our view of resilience. From hating her scar to proudly owning her story, Lauren's narrative shifts our perspective on strength and vulnerability. It's not just about managing with 33% strength; it's about thriving with 100% heart. ALLIÉ: For those unaware, you have central core disease? What is it? And how does it affect you? LAUREN: Central core disease is a rare muscle disorder where some of the mitochondria in the muscle cells is depleted. So, you might have seen the meme or remember from science class that the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, and it helps convert food into energy and energy into strength. But my own strength is about 33% of the average person. So everyday things like going up a flight of stairs, opening a heavy door, getting up from sitting on the ground… Everything is just a little bit harder for me. So I have to work a little bit harder at the things that a lot of people take for granted.





I decided to talk about the impact of my muscle disability and come out about it for the first time. LAUREN PIRES


“Basically, the doctors didn’t think I was going to live back then, so they didn’t put too much into the aesthetics of the scar and the surgery.” ALLIÉ: Thank you for that education, Lauren. Now, let’s talk about scars. Scars come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, from the physical scars you can see to the mental and emotional ones that go unseen. Tell us about your scars and how they’re part of your story. LAUREN: I've had three muscle biopsies in my life. One when I was 10 days old, one when I was about 12, where I was misdiagnosed with something. And then one in my early twenties where I was finally diagnosed with central core disease. The scar from when I was 10 days old with my first muscle biopsy is a three inch scar on my thigh that I always hated. Basically, the doctors didn't think I was going to live back then, so they didn't put too much into the aesthetics of the scar and the surgery. And as I grew up, it grew with me. It always felt like the telltale sign of my disability. I didn't talk about it openly for over 30 years. And for over 25 years, I didn't really wear shorts in public. I tried to hide it as much as I could. And it's only now that I feel like later in my life, in the last year and a half, that I've started to accept it as a part of me and kind of acknowledged what I've gone through because of that. ALLIÉ: For so long, you hid your disability. When you stood up, spoke out and publicly shared it, how was it received by those who knew you and by those who you’ve never met? LAUREN: Yeah. So for most of my life, I would say only a few people knew about it: my close friends, my family, and my director at work. But I had coworkers and people who knew me for years who had no idea. And I first openly decided to talk about it in a virtual speaking competition called Speaker Slam, where I had to submit a video with a story. The theme was impact. So I decided to talk about the impact of my muscle disability and come out about it for the first time. I recorded the video on a Friday, and I had to submit it that night and post it to social media on Monday. I spent the entire weekend just out of my mind. I was terrified, so nervous, not only because it was going to be out there and I was going to talk about it publicly, but also because people were going to know this about me now, like it was going to live on the internet. Some people might see that before they met me, and I had a really hard time wrapping my mind around people finding out before they knew me. But I realized I spent a lot of time and energy trying to hide it because I was worried that people would see me differently. It didn't occur to me until I shared it that a lot of people felt the same. I received so many messages from people who live with central cord disease as well, because it's a rare disease. I've never met anyone with it in person, but I got so many messages from Germany, Sweden, France, the US, literally from all around the world. People who have it and who also never felt identified and felt like they related to my story. They were so happy to see it shared and to see me talking about it and telling people about it. For a lot of people who live with it, I've heard there's a certain amount of shame and feeling like you're not able to do things that other people without it are able to do. So it was an amazing feeling to have that kind of response from 115

By sharing it, we help each other feel that we’re not alone. LAUREN PIRES


LAUREN: (continued) people who related to it. Then, in my own life, people who knew me, it was the wildest crosssection of people from my life who replied and commented on the video. My old driving instructor, people I worked with in high school, people I went to university with 10 years ago who knew me then but didn't know anything about it, they all saw me in a new light. They were amazed at what I've been through and what I've kind of done with it. So I was very afraid to first share it and didn't think that I would have this kind of feeling afterward. But it has felt very liberating and freeing since I've shared it. ALLIÉ: And those people who did know you so long ago to then say, “I never knew that, but wow… I can't believe you even did that with this.” You must have said to yourself, “Yeah, I did do that. Yeah, good job!” Right? LAUREN: Yeah. I think I did and do kind of still struggle with giving myself credit for things. And when I hear those kinds of responses, I'm like, “Wow. Yeah, I guess that's kind of cool.” I guess I feel pretty accomplished when I think about it. When I first found out about having only 33% strength, it was only quantified to me in my early twenties, and I was kind of blown away and kind of upset because I didn't realize how far off from the average amount of strength I had. But then when I thought about it, I was like, “Well, I have a job. I have a great social circle. I have a very full life.” And so I used to joke that if I had 100% strength, I'd probably be out fighting crime or something. And so I'm doing pretty well with 33%. ALLIÉ: Some see adversity as a limitation. You see it as an opportunity. Please share your perspective on ‘joy’, as it pertains to not finding it but creating it. LAUREN: If I'm being completely honest, I think I do see my disability as both a limitation and an opportunity. I have always felt that there are things I can't do that I've had to accept, but I've also always felt it's an opportunity to try. I never let it stop me from trying to do something, whether I know if I'll be able to do it or not, because I've proven myself wrong a lot of the time. I've tried something not knowing how it's going to go, and then felt very accomplished when I did do it. So because everything in life has been a little bit harder for me somewhere along the way, I think I started using creating my own joy as a survival strategy, because it would be very easy and very understandable, I think, to feel down about all the things that I can't do or all the limitations that I feel. But I want to keep moving. I want to keep feeling like I can do things. And I've been lucky that my mom, as I was growing up, never let me feel like I couldn't do anything. So I kind of grew up with the mindset of, well, let me try, let me see what I can do. And I started looking for joy. I'm very known in my life for saying "yay" all the time. And I've developed this concept that I live behind now of the daily yay, which is creating your own joy and finding the things that make you happy and putting energy into them. So a daily yay might be that something fun and exciting happens naturally and you actually consciously appreciate it. Or it could be that you're going through a difficult situation and you need to actively look for something good about it. You need to find the silver lining or the positive. So an example is, a lot of the times when I'm on vacations with friends, I can't do everything that they do if we're having a long day. So I'll rest up in the morning, I'll take my time getting ready, I'll have some tea, I'll do my makeup, and they'll have already gone off to explore and then they'll come back for me at lunch. And so I used to feel more focused on the fact that I'm missing out on what they're able to do, and I can't spend that time with them. But then I realized, well, by the time they get back, they already know how to get everywhere. They already know the shortest routes to wherever we want to go. They've looked it up, and I was like, oh, that's really good for me because then I don't have to spend time wandering around and going back and forth, not knowing where we're going or planning it out. So I was like, that's a yay. I'm saving time this way. And luckily, they're fine with it. So kind of creating your own joy. I always have joy, I feel, because I create it for myself, and I want other people to know that they can do that too. 117

AwareNow Podcast

FROM SCARS TO STARS Exclusive Interview with Lauren Pires


ALLIÉ: And I love that fact that you are a “yaysayer” and not a naysayer. I love it. So, let's end this way today, Lauren, as an award-winning speaker, finding strength in the sharing of your story. Lauren, what advice would you share today right here, right now with those who are afraid of their disability being exposed, as you once were? LAUREN: I would say we all have parts of our lives and parts of ourselves that we might be afraid to share or afraid that we'll be judged on. It might be a physical or mental health condition. It might be a family or financial situation. It might be an aspect of our appearance. It could be a lot of different things. And I realized when I started sharing that, that is how you find people who will empathize and understand. That is kind of how you create empathy. Because everyone is going through something that we don't know what it is. And by sharing it, we help each other feel that we're not alone. So, like I said, I spent a lot of time hiding my disability because I was worried people would see me differently. And it didn't occur to me that other people would feel the same, and that I would feel identified; that completely was not on my radar. And it's amazing to finally share something that you've been hiding. It felt so much more freeing and liberating than I thought. My friends tell me I started wearing brighter colors like I've changed now as a person because I shared it, and I did not see any of that when I was still keeping it to myself. So I would encourage people to share whatever they feel is holding them back or whatever shame they have, because when you let it go, you receive so much more support than you ever expected. And you will find other people who feel the same way as you. ∎

Follow Lauren on Instagram: @laurensaysyay Learn about Speaker Slam here:


I’m a big believer that trauma does not have to be a life sentence, and I live that truth every day. JAS RAWLINSON




Jas Rawlinson, raised in Australia’s east coast valley, hid the trauma of living with domestic violence beneath a seemingly privileged life. Battling anxiety and depression from a young age, she transformed her struggles into resilience, emerging as an awardwinning speaker, anti-human trafficking advocate, and author dedicated to empowering others in overcoming adversity. ERIN: Thank you Jas for taking the time to let me interview you. Can you tell us a bit about your background? JAS: I grew up on the east coast of Australia, in a small country valley. To the outside world I probably looked like I had a very privileged life, and in some ways I did. I went to a private school, we lived in a beautiful area, and I had my own horse along with some pet chickens and dogs. Unlike kids today, I didn’t have to worry about things like social media or online bullying…but like so many young people, I was living a double life. For years I didn’t know how to describe what was actually happening in our home – that I was living with a perpetrator of coercive control and domestic violence – all I knew was that I felt hopeless and alone. As a result, I struggled with severe anxiety and depression before I was even a teen, and ended up going into a number of unhealthy relationships and situations. I hit rock bottom at age 20, and it was there that I had to make a choice. I could keep going down the same path – and suffer more trauma – or change the direction of my life. I chose the latter. Obviously life didn’t change straight away, but I’m so grateful that my reality today is very different. I’m an awardwinning speaker, anti-human trafficking advocate, book coach and author, and I spend my days empowering people to transform shame into strength and adversity into advocacy. I’m a big believer that trauma does not have to be a life sentence, and I live that truth every day. ERIN: Your book, The Stories We Carry, is an amazing read, and dives deep into – as you shared above – your story of growing up in a home filled with domestic violence, losing your dad to suicide at age 18, and how you rebuilt your life and learned to thrive. What was the hardest part of writing the book? JAS: I was totally unprepared for how this project would impact me, and I think that’s something that’s important to talk about. Even as someone who spends her life helping other changemakers to write books about transforming adversity into advocacy, I didn’t know it would hit me as hard as it did. I knew there would be tough memories to wade through, but mostly, I thought it would be fun – which it definitely was not, at times! The hardest part for me, wasn’t necessarily the challenges of diving back into traumatic memories (including sexual assault), but more so, the memories I had suppressed. It wasn’t until I was sitting on the floor, pouring through dozens of old journals, that I realised that some of the relationships I’d been in as a young person were, in fact, emotionally abusive. For years, I’d told myself that because I’d never been physically assaulted, it wasn’t that bad. That these people were ‘just a bit immature’, or ‘not that nice.’ The truth, however, was very different. And going through those diaries, I could see – word for word – exactly how abusive they were. It felt like I’d been slugged in the stomach; but it also showed me how far I’ve come. That I’m not the vulnerable, people-pleasing young girl that I used to be. I also went through a few panic attacks during the writing process, and I feel it’s important to share that the most powerful tool I used throughout the book journey was EFT (tapping). When you experience or relive trauma, you need 121


“The chains that often hold them in place are mental and emotional; their bonds born of financial inequality, cultural expectations, and internalised shame.” JAS: (continued) to be able to release it from your body – and EFT is one of the most effective ways of doing this. I recommend it to everyone. ERIN: Not to give too much away from your book but you got right in the trenches when it comes to human trafficking, going so far as to walk into many of the massage parlours in your city to find out what was happening, and what you could do. Can you share a little about what you discovered, and why you decided to become an advocate for ending human trafficking? JAS: The reality of what is happening to so many young women – mostly asian – in massage parlours around the world is absolutely horrific, and most people are shocked when I tell them about the things I discovered during the 18 months I spent personally investigating exploitation in my city. There’s still a perception that human trafficking only happens in ‘other countries’ or ‘poor places’ – not Australia, America and the UK. The reality, of course, is that trafficking (whether it’s forced labor or sexual exploitation) happens everywhere. There’s a quote in ‘The Stories We Carry’ that sums it up really well. ‘So often, when people think of human trafficking, they picture a young girl sitting in a dirty basement, her limbs chained to a wall or tethered to the floor. This is just one of many visual assumptions and stereotypes that people often lean toward and one of many that fails to address the complexity of exploitation. In reality, exploitation occurs in every culture and country across the globe, and those who are trapped inside the trade are not always held under physical lock and key. Instead, the chains that often hold them in place are mental and emotional; their bonds born of financial inequality, cultural expectations, and internalised shame.” I’ve been advocating against human trafficking for over 10 years now – I’ve spent time with survivors and undercover investigators in red light districts in SE Asia, and also investigated locally here in Australia – and it’s important to me that everyday people know the signs to look out for. To understand that they have the power to create change. I’ve had so many people read my book and say, “Oh my gosh, there’s a massage shop right near my house that looks just like what you’ve described. The windows are all boarded up or tinted. There’s a flashing neon light out the front. They’re always open until 10 or 11pm…The women couldn’t speak english…but I never realised what it was. I never knew…” This is why I advocate so strongly on human trafficking awareness, and why it had to be a big part of the book. ERIN: One part of The Stories We Carry that made me very emotional was when you were in the “massage parlour” and got to talking with the two masseuses. The way you interacted with them both as humans and were able to help and provide them with information (because what was happening was illegal) was so heart wrenching. What I loved, though, was hearing how you kept in touch with Chelsea, one of the girls who was working in the massage parlour. Are you still friends today? JAS: Thank you – that’s also one of my favourite parts of the book. Obviously I don’t want to give too much away, but the relationship that came about between Chelsea – one of the massage girls – and I was really beautiful and unexpected, and we did keep in touch quite a bit even after she left Australia. We’ve both moved on with our lives – as many people do over time – but I’m so glad I could be there for her during that period of her life, and to do what I could. Women like Chelsea are preyed upon because they are vulnerable; they’re (often) young, they’re in a foreign country where they 123

JAS: (continued) don’t always understand legalities, and may have limited (if any) English skills. This is something that happens all around the world, and to be honest, government’s aren’t doing enough to stop the exploitation of these vulnerable women. ERIN: You’re also an advocate for domestic violence. Given your history it seems obvious that this would be a subject you’d choose to advocate on. How did you get over your trauma so that you could turn it into success? JAS: It’s interesting you say that, because many years ago, I never would have expected to go into this area. I didn’t like to think or talk about my childhood experiences, and anytime people asked about my dad, I usually just replied, ‘He’s not here,’ or ‘He’s dead.’ People didn’t always know how to respond, and sometimes they were awkward, so I never planned to speak about my experiences with domestic violence. Probably because, at that time, I hadn’t healed enough. The turning point came when – at the age of 25 – I volunteered as a photo journalist at a music and cultural festival, and chose to interview a number of charities and advocates who were fighting important injustices; things like human trafficking and domestic and sexual violence. It was here that I really found my passion; the direction that I was meant to take. Over the next few years, I focused a lot on writing about important social issues, but I still wasn’t ready to share my own story. That took a good five years – but it was through this process of volunteering, writing, and blogging, that I found the courage to eventually start speaking out about my own experiences with sexual and domestic violence. Everything changed when I decided to write my first book, ‘Reasons to Live: One More Day, Every Day,’ – a collection of short stories from people who had learned to thrive again after or despite their trauma. With every person who I interviewed and spoke to, I realised that I wasn’t alone. That these lived experiences – these traumas – were so prevalent. There was no need for me to feel ashamed, and if these people could tell their stories, so could I. As I did, more and more people told me how much my story had impacted them, and that gave me the courage to keep speaking out. 124

“It’s time to have an honest conversation about how we can empower our kids…” JAS: (continued) It wasn’t an overnight experience, and I think it’s important to note that the biggest reason I’ve been able to transform trauma into a successful life and career, is because I have intentionally created safety in my life. Choosing a healthy partner, choosing to make decisions that nurture me, learning to create boundaries and break through self-destructive patterns have all been essential healing steps. ERIN: Another favourite from the book was the chapter where you talk about your work to create a permanent Domestic Violence Memorial in your city. By giving these women a permanent legacy so they won’t just be a faceless name and memory, you’ve really done something wonderful. How did it feel to be able to do this and do you have plans to do any more around Australia? JAS: Thank you. That was a huge project, and one that my friend Bonnie (my co-founder) and I are really proud of, as we wanted to do something that would last a lifetime, rather than a candlelight vigil. On rare occasions when I’m in the city, I like to see that the plaque is still there for all to see; that the words ‘No more violence, no more silence’ are shining back from the garden. Whilst I don’t have plans to create more, I’d definitely encourage passionate advocates to look at creating one in their own state or city. ERIN: You are a TedX speaker which is an amazing achievement! How did you decide what you wanted to speak about on a stage as big as this? JAS: It was a bit of a fluke to be honest! I was actually asked to do a TEDx talk back in 2021 on the subject of trauma not being a life sentence, but the event ended up being cancelled and I never got the opportunity. In late 2023, I was writing an email to my mailing list about ‘childhood resilience’, and how the belief that kids are inherently resilient and will always ‘bounce back’ just isn’t true. Why? Because kids who are facing severe adversity or trauma are not building resilience – in most cases, they are merely surviving. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how that email would go, but it had such a positive reaction, and it was shortly afterwards that I decided to pitch it for a TEDx talk. A few weeks later I found out I’d been selected to present it at an upcoming TEDx event! (People can watch a one minute version of the pitch on my website.) As I shared in my talk, “[it’s not] about branding kids as fragile – but rather, about reframing the way we think about resilience. It’s time to have an honest conversation about how we can empower our kids as they navigate today's world – without downplaying their lived experiences.” ∎

Follow Jas on Instagram: @jas_rawlinson Learn more about her story and purchase her book: ERIN MACAULEY International Director of Advocacy for #SameHere Global @egmx ERIN MACAULEY is passionate about all things mental health and is a compassionate voice for those who are struggling with mental illness. Driven to help those most in need, through her vulnerable and open blogging about her own personal struggles, she lifts up others up and gives them hope.


There is time to dream about the infinite possibilities of quality healing from trauma. Emotional, mental and physical healing is not bound by time but powered by hope.

Artwork by: Pablo Damas (@sickdotone) Photo Credit: Artists For Trauma (@artistsfortrauma)

Creativity. Connectivity. Community. W W W. A R T I S T S F O R T R A U M A . O R G

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