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So, this is a word we just created that contrary to its name is a non mathematical means of defining the term ‘trigger’. In this publication, as it pertains to the articles within, we will define a trigger as ‘content that may serve as a reminder of a past trauma’.

As the stories published here are not intended to traumatize, but rather to empathize, we respectfully will be adding ‘trigger warnings’ as needed indicating exposure to content that may elicit an uncomfortable emotional response by those who have experienced an associated trauma.

Awareness Ties began and continues with a vision of raising awareness for causes a story at a time. With AwareNow Magazine, every month we are doing just that.

As Lex reminds us, there is no need for sight when you have vision. Within the pages of 'The Vision Edition' prepare to see the world through 31 different lenses with exclusive interviews and personal stories that inspire and inform. From Lex Gillette's cover story on breaking barriers in this world as a blind paralympic medalist to seeing behind the scenes in Afghanistan with never before seen photos and commentary in an exclusive interview with the man getting people out of Kabul who has become known as 'Legend', get a glimpse behind the curtain of the reality you thought you knew so well.

We love you.


Jack & Allié


Editor In Chief & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

Allié is a Taurus. She 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 original 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™.


Production Manager & Co-Founder of Awareness Ties

Jack is a Gemini. He 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™ was born.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in AwareNow are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Awareness Ties. 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, it’s intent is not to vilify anyone or anything. It’s intent is to make you think.





We formed a global connection through empathy and eliminating barriers. MURSHIDUL ALAM BHUIYAN






SUPPORTING HUMANITY WITH STORYTELLING And then you meet a young man who lives on the other side of the world who with is team of amazing young people are working to do the very same thing that you are - change the world a story at a time. It was long ago that Murshid and I connected. It wasn’t long ago that he was invited to have a column in AwareNow Magazine and come onboard as an Official Ambassador for the Human Cause. Allow me to introduce you to Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan and the incredibly talented Team Bertho. It’s truly an honor.

“Team Bertho” is a platform, hailing from Bangladesh, collecting life lessons and stories from people of all walks of life around the globe. Founded in 2016, our organization is delegated to the course of education and community build-up through spreading human wisdom. Here we work on documenting the stages of understanding life through people’s learning and pass them on as innovative, creative & effective solutions for everyone to live their best life.

In 2021, our work was honoured by the prestigious Diana Award. Overall, Team Bertho’s projects have received recognition & appreciation from people all over the world. Our harvested life lessons have reached more than 350 thousand people all across the globe so far. We had the great opportunity to collect life stories and lessons from a myriad of people of various occupation, socio-economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual identity. From a Clinician in Tanzania to a Sustainable Communication & Strategy Official in Germany, to a Hypnotherapist & Wellness Coach in UAE, to a Poet from Australia, to a Transgender female in Bangladesh — we formed a global connection through empathy and eliminating barriers.



The group was first formed with the idea of creating a platform where people can learn from stories and experiences that are carried by other people from all walks of life.

Team Bertho started in the November of 2016; the founding members Mushidul Alam Bhuiyan, Md. Redwanul Islam (Risad) and Quazi Sakhawat Hossain (Faiaz) were students of class 9 in ‘Faizur Rahman Ideal Institute’ back then. The group was first formed with the idea of creating a platform where people can learn from stories and experiences that are carried by other people from all walks of life. As of today, there are approximately 7.9 billion people existing in this world according to UN. All these people have gone through or will go through experiences that have taught them or will teach them something which would have lasting impact for their lifetimes.

At first, Team Bertho started their journey by making short films and photo series. Their short films showcase various social issues that are present and yet to be reformed in the society (Such as “Atmohotya” addresses the surge of youth suicides and “Songya” addresses the magnitude and social impact of rape in our society). The photo series of Team Bertho exhibit the inter-personal relations and different layers of attachment and detachment of a connection through shades of different aestheticism. Shefayet Ador, Team Bertho’s Director of Photography said, “Each album showcases narrative story with emotive photography, and each picture recites the essence of the scenery and the people in the frame.” Team Bertho started to get a jumpstart to recognition through photo series because people who saw their content found the plot and message that was conveyed through the albums and the captions to be relatable.

Team Bertho’s main media to launch their projects is mostly social media or to be more exact Facebook, Instagram and Youtube whereas Team Bertho’s Facebook page has the most reach to people in and outside of Bangladesh. But now, a ‘Team Bertho Website’ is on progress of making.


AWARD-WINNING SHORT FILM Starting from 3 friends in ninth grade, now Team Bertho is a compact Team of 13 core members. The Chief Execs are Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan (The Director), Md. Redwanul Islam Risad (Associate Director), Quazi Sakhawat Hossain Faiaz (Assistant Director) and Fahmina Faiz Semonty(Resource Head).

The incentive behind forming Team Bertho and all of Team Bertho’s projects have always been very global. Team Bertho aims to leave impact on people in every part of the world –- from the ones living in the most affluent parts of Northern America and Western Europe to the poorest region of East, West and Central Africa. Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan, Director of Team Bertho, quoted, “At first the regular followers and contributors to our work were mostly in the age group of 16-25 years. But now we have found to be reaching and connecting individuals in their middle ages as well as in their senescence.” At first Team Bertho reached people arbitrarily in order to find if those people had some notes or gems of wisdom they wanted to share with the world. The first attempt began inside Bangladesh, then through the power of global networking and social media, the focus group for life lessons kept broadening towards international spectrum. Now, Team Bertho has reached the mark where people from countries all around the globe come to know from their friends and acquaintances about the name and the work of this organization and reach out to share their story and what they want to communicate with the world. Now, as there is the story of a 15 year old Ruby Lockey-Pope from England sharing her realization about being privileged and her resilience for wanting to help others, there is also 41 year old Jamie Wilson sharing how she overcame the physical and sexual trauma and abuse she encountered as a child and how she continues to help others finding hope after encountering trauma as well. 54 year old Sophie Scott from shared her remarks about overcoming adversity through inner wisdom.

Apart from capturing the attention from people of all ages, Team Bertho has made some real differences in the 8 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION grounds of practicing inward and outward empathy. Tasnim Rhitu, a 19-year-old Cancer survivor shared her story of

Team Bertho’s main media to launch their projects is mostly social media or to be more exact Facebook, Instagram and Youtube whereas Team Bertho’s Facebook page has the most reach to people in and outside of Bangladesh. But now, a ‘Team Bertho Website’ is on progress of making.

Starting from 3 friends in ninth grade, now Team Bertho is a compact Team of 13 core members. The Chief Execs are Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan (The Director), Md. Redwanul Islam Risad (Associate Director), Quazi Sakhawat Hossain Faiaz (Assistant Director) and Fahmina Faiz Semonty(Resource Head).

The incentive behind forming Team Bertho and all of Team Bertho’s projects have always been very global. Team Bertho aims to leave impact on people in every part of the world –- from the ones living in the most affluent parts of Northern America and Western Europe to the poorest region of East, West and Central Africa. Murshidul Alam Bhuiyan, Director of Team Bertho, quoted, “At first the regular followers and contributors to our work were mostly in the age group of 16-25 years. But now we have found to be reaching and connecting individuals in their middle ages as well as in their senescence.” At first Team Bertho reached people arbitrarily in order to find if those people had some notes or gems of wisdom they wanted to share with the world. The first attempt began inside Bangladesh, then through the power of global networking and social media, the focus group for life lessons kept broadening towards international spectrum. Now, Team Bertho has reached the mark where people from countries all around the globe come to know from their friends and acquaintances about the name and the work of this organization and reach out to share their story and what they want to communicate with the world. Now, as there is the story of a 15 year old Ruby Lockey-Pope from England sharing her realization about being privileged and her resilience for wanting to help others, there is also 41 year old Jamie Wilson sharing how she overcame the physical and sexual trauma and abuse she encountered as a child and how she continues to help others finding hope after encountering trauma as well. 54 year old Sophie Scott from shared her remarks about overcoming adversity through inner wisdom.

Apart from capturing the attention from people of all ages, Team Bertho has made some real differences in the grounds of practicing inward and outward empathy. Tasnim Rhitu, a 19-year-old Cancer survivor shared her story of how she battled cancer and the overwhelming amount of pain it brought at her age of 13.

Her story moved so many of Team Bertho’s followers that they wanted to send their love and encouragement towards Rhitu. So, Team Bertho arranged handwritten letters from these people and sent them to Rhitu via email. Rhitu contacted Team Bertho stating that this little gesture made her feel really loved and she was grateful to everyone who worked behind this arrangement.

“Team Bertho has connected people in over 65 countries in every continent.”

A global effort to unite humanity is underway. Team Bertho has connected people in over 65 countries in every continent. The countries include Germany, Vietnam, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Bhutan, Japan, Nepal, USA, Kenya, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Peru, Venezuela etc. And citizens from these countries have not only shared their stories, but also spread remarks about Team Bertho to their friends and acquaintances. The life lessons that Team Bertho has documented reached more than 350,000 people worldwide so far. But Team Bertho has plans to go further, connecting people hailing from every corner of the world and creating a huge global community itself via the power of personal stories and experiences and collective wisdom. Fahmina Faiz Semonty, the Resource Head of Team Bertho remarked, “Trying to initiate and prolong such a diverse platform from Bangladesh might be tough, but it’s worth the effort. Plus, with the power of global networking via Internet, it has become easier.” 9


Team Bertho has plans to go further… MURSHIDUL ALAM BHUIYAN



“Team Bertho started sending out their films to international competitions and film festivals as well. There they gained significant international recognition.”

Team Bertho started their journey through making short films. In the beginning it was only Murshidul, Risad and Faiaz and they were school kids back then. Murshidul’s uncle, Tafsin Ankon (currently the Director of Post-Production of Second Studios Inc.), showed Murshidul the ropes of video shooting and editing. He also helped Team Betho during their beginning projects with the work of post-production. The scripts were mostly written by Team Bertho’s Content Writer Atokia Maimuna Orthy. The films were made with the members’ pocket money. The cameras used during the shoots were Murshidul and Risad’s personal camera and they didn’t cast any professional actors in the films. It was a total friends’ venture. The shoot location were sought and decided by Murshidul, Risad and Faiaz. Sometimes, these three youngsters called in favours from friends to be a part of their film, either from behind the scenes or acting in front of the camera.

Team Bertho started sending out their films to inter-school and national competitions. There, they were appreciated and won some of the competitions thus won prize money which they used later to fund their next films and projects. Then Team Bertho started sending out their films to international competitions and film festivals as well. There they gained significant international recognition. Some of their notable short films are, ‘Never Give Up’ (to raise awareness on depression), ‘Atmohotya’ (addressing the surge of youth suicides and how to find reason to start living again), ‘Songya’ (addressing the magnitude and negative social impact of rape in our society) and “Simpering” (this one showcases how every smile in every part of our society is beautiful in their own way). “Simpering” won UNICEF Certificate of Merit for Rights Education (Corti a Ponte 2020) in 2020. The judges for this accolades commented as follows: “For the ethical value of the project idea, for the quality of the video made with narrative immediacy, and for comparison of images and clarity of assembly, there is a strong reference to the condition of childhood in the world as a ‘right opportunity for every child’.”

What film, podcast, exhibit or project is next for Team Bertho? Stay tuned. ∎

Learn more about Team Bertho online:


Founder of Team Bertho & Official Ambassador for the Human Cause MURSHIDUL ALAM BHUIYAN is the Founder and Director of "Team Bertho", a Storyteller, Advocate, Filmmaker, Actor, Dancer, Scout & a Wisdom Historian who is highly motivated by a passion to make a difference in the lives of the people all around the world. Murshid is an educator whose life is dedicated to collecting human wisdom and educating the rest of the world on it.


Every now and then,

I pray that you somehow knew that you were loved before you died. LORI BUTIERRIES




A MOTHER’S WORDS ON LOSS AND LOVE Every now and then, I think of you.

I can't do it too often, or I will start grieving all over again.

Pain like that never really goes away.

It gets especially tough to manage around your due date or during Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Month - when the memories throw my feelings into complete disarray.

Every now and then, the guilt sneaks up on me.

Like when I see other people's sonograms on Facebook or Instagram.

Because when I found out that I was pregnant with you, I didn't celebrate the news.

You were a surprise, and I got scared thinking that I'd give you a disability too, and I didn't want that for you.

The birth control hadn't worked, and I was terrified that you'd be born with a degenerative and terminal illness like your brother, and I wouldn't be able to save you either.

Every now and then, I wonder if I was responsible for your loss.

I was going through a lot back then.

Like getting told that I was having panic attacks and then getting labeled with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and an eating condition when I'd only gone to the behavioral health clinic looking for help with depression after getting your sister's recent Autism diagnosis.

I wasn't prepared to find out that I had medical issues too.

Was it the stress of it all that caused your heart to stop beating?

Or did you feel unwanted and decide to leave?

Because as soon as I embraced your little presence inside of me, I was told that you'd ceased to exist.

I couldn't help but wonder if God was punishing me after the doctors cut you from my body and a piece of my soul went missing after the D&C.

Every now and then, I remember what the Geneticist said at a follow-up appointment and feel relieved all over again even if I shouldn't.

His words cut through the guilt, shame, and grief when he told me that EVERYONE has terrible genes.

That's a scientific fact, not an opinion.

Suddenly the oppressive weight sitting on my chest lifted, and I could breathe again.

Does that make me a bad person? 13 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

AwareNow Podcast: ‘Scarred Not Broken’


Written and Narrated by Lori Butierries

Every now and then, I dream about who'd you be if you were still alive and part of our family.

Would your heart be as big as sisters?

Would you make me laugh as hard as your brother?

What holiday would be your favorite, Christmas or Halloween? Or would you like them both like your siblings?

Would you be Mommy's biggest helper or Daddy's partner in crime?

What unique dreams or goals would you have had?

I would have supported them all if you were still mine.

Every now and then, I pray that you somehow knew that you were loved before you died.

Because when the shock wore off and the fear lessened, I desperately wanted you to be my child but did you ever learn that truth when I was so full of turmoil?

You weren't a mistake, but sadly, you are one of my biggest heartbreaks to date.

Every now and then, I miss you, and that’s okay. ∎


Author, Navy Veteran & Mother of 2 with Special Needs LORI BUTIERRIES is a full-time caregiver to two children with special needs, one child being terminally ill and physically disabled. Lori uses her life experiences and the medical knowledge she gained while serving as a Hospital Corpsman in the United States Navy to help others facing similar hardships. Lori focuses primarily on advocating for and educating others about the special needs, mental health, and veterans communities. Her long-term goal is to reduce the stigma associated with disability by talking about it with people of all ages, thus minimizing the fear and the mystery attributed to the unknown in this regard.



…if it doesn't go as planned, all is not lost. LEX GILLETTE




VISION’S NOT IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, BUT IN THE HEART Neither private nor commercial, Lex flies with wings spread with his own vision. Manifested the moment he hits the board proceeding the long jump pit, Lex Gillette, a blind paralympic athlete, fivetime medalist, and four-time world champion, literally takes a ‘leap of faith’, as he jumps into what he can’t see but only trust. While blind, he sees what others don’t or can’t. Unafraid of flying in the dark, he soars beyond sight. He’s proof that vision isn’t found in the eye of the beholder, but in the heart.

Allié: In every loss, there's a win to be found. With the loss of your sight, what wins did you find?

Lex: I think the biggest one is finding that purpose. And specifically a lot of everything that I think about revolves around vision. My mantra is ‘no need for sight when you have a vision’, because it's not the sight that determines our success. It is our ability to have a vision and to do everything in our power to bring that vision into fruition. My loss of sight really helped me to see that there still is something to achieve in life. There's something to contribute to the world. And when you have that vision, it helps you bring about positive change in the world.




…it’s not about you,

it’s about everyone else. LEX GILLETTE


“As we think about the journey…you have to enjoy the ebbs and the flows.”

Lex: (continued) When I lost my sight, I felt really isolated and disconnected from the rest of the world. What brought everything back to the forefront for me, that's it closed the gap and bridged the gap was to understand that everything that has been created and everything that will be created starts with a vision. You see that within yourself; you see it within other people. I told myself, well, all right, if it's something that you see within yourself, or beyond what is in front of your eyes, then the eyesight shouldn't matter. And it doesn't matter. That has really been the springboard that has propelled me into a lot of success in life.

Allié: As a professional athlete competing at the highest level, the wins are sweet, and the losses bitter. Between the bitter-sweet losses and wins, what has been your greatest lesson learned in competition?

Lex: Enjoy the journey. I think that a lot of times we get trapped up into thinking about the results purely in. If you don't get the results that you want, it feels like everything is lost. It feels like nothing good happened. It's like going to Tokyo and you win a silver medal, which is an awesome accomplishment… As we think about the journey, you have to keep going and you have to enjoy the ebbs and flows, the ups and downs, the good and the bad, and know that within that journey, there are a lot of skills that you're acquiring. There are a lot of goals that you're achieving, a lot of things that you are excelling in.

So just because you get to this one moment in time where you have the opportunity to put your skills on display, be it a competition, a recital, a job presentation, or whatever it might be, if it doesn't go as planned, all is not lost. You have had a remarkable journey. And there's been a lot of things that you've acquired in terms of skills and abilities within that journey. Don't forget that because those are the things that continue to help you push forward. It's not solely those tests and quizzes and opportunities for us to put those gifts on display. It's really about all of that hard work, the perseverance, the diligence, all of those things that you experienced and that you tap into within that journey.

Allié: As a 5 time medalist and 4 time world champion, you’ve achieved so much as a professional athlete. I’d like to switch gears for a moment and get personal by asking what is your greatest personal achievement?

Lex: I was checking my email earlier this year, a few months back, and I ran across this. I keep older emails just to be able to circle back. They're kind of like a journal of sorts. You go back to a certain date in your email, your journal, and you look at it. What was I feeling this day? What was I thinking about? What was I doing? And so there are certain emails that I keep, and there was one email that I ran across. It was me reaching out to a person who worked at the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Now, it's the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee. I reached out to this gentleman named John Register. I was said that I would like to become a speaker. I saw there was a program offered by the USOC - a Paralympic Ambassador Program. I said that I would love to learn how I could be a part of that.

I sent that email in the latter part of December in 2009. Mind you that at that time, I was just a year or two removed from college. So to bring this email back to answering your question, that was the beginning of me going down this journey as a speaker. That first correspondence was sent in December of 2009. Now, we're in October of 2021. And it's been a really remarkable journey that started with me learning from other speakers and other people. It started with being a part of the Paralympic Ambassador Program and learning how to give an elevator pitch, learning how to speak for 10 to 15 minutes, learning to be comfortable in front of other people, being able to overcome, working beyond a lot of the insecurities that I had at that particular time. 19 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

You do your absolute best to tap into someone else's potential and to help them unleash it to the world. LEX GILLETTE


“Your sight dies, but your vision can live forever.”

Lex: (continued) As it related to blindness, the reality was I would be asked to speak, and I would be asked a lot of questions. A lot of people find athletes inspiring and ask so many questions. What's your mile time? What's your fastest hundred meter time? What do your meals look like? What do you eat? What should I eat? What things are going to help me lose weight? What do you think about hydration, sleep, etcetera? I think people naturally want to know when it comes to athletes. And for me, I would get a lot of those questions. And I would be really embarrassed, not because of the question per se, but about being able to answer and speak in front of people. I wondered if they were looking at me a certain way because of my disability or thinking of me a certain way because of my blindness. Being able to join that Paralympic Ambassador Program and other speaking sessions really helped me to get comfortable with being in front of others and speaking.

One of the biggest lessons that I learned that really helped me shift to another level and another way of thinking was understanding that at the end of the day, when you have the opportunity to stand in front of people to speak, it's not about you, it's about everyone else. It’s about who is sitting in that seat before you. It’s about everyone who is in front of you. If you can positively impact the life of at least one person in that group, you have done a tremendous feat. That was a really huge learning for me. Since that time, I've been able to grace a lot of different stages, speak to a lot of different companies and be heard by a lot of different people. All of that has been awesome. It was that first correspondence sent many years ago that really opened the door for me to be able to connect with a lot of amazing people and to not only teach them a few things, but for me to learn so much from those audiences and people who I've connected with. It’s been reciprocal.

Allié: I once was blind, but now I see. Amazing Grace. It’s you, Lex, gracing us with your presence in every issue of AwareNow with your column… that is amazing. Taking the time to help others see won’t they don’t and hear what many won’t, your service to others is inspiring. From presenting on stages before large masses to speaking with students in small classrooms, one of your virtues is that of ‘service’. Please share what inspired you to serve others as you do.

Lex: I think growing up and having the circle that I have, the supporters who I have… they really set that framework, from my mom to a lot of my teachers and counselors. Even the relationship that I have with my guide, he is a person of service. He is providing direction so that I know which way to run and know when to jump. I feel like every single day of my life, I am connected to someone who is living in that capacity in some degree. And it’s contagious. It’s infectious. I think that when you have that type of special connection with other people, you really get to see firsthand what is truly possible. At a time in North Carolina, where I grew up, it was really easy for people to ask me to sit on the sidelines because I had a disability. However, I had a lot of people who took the time to understand my experience and what I was dealing with as someone who is blind. They met me where I was, and they really challenged that thinking. They asked the question, “Why does this kid have to sit on the sideline?” Yes, something is wrong with his eyesight, but there's nothing wrong with his arms, his legs or his body. He has a lot of potential, and he has ability. So let's figure out a way to adapt these activities and provide accommodations so that he can participate. I think that's huge as we talk about service and being a servant leader. You do your absolute best to tap into someone else's potential and to help them unleash it to the world. To be that person who is helping another realize that… That’s something where you can be at home by yourself, amongst your own thoughts and revel. That you played a small role in someone's life and them being able to see beyond their current reality so that they can go and pursue their own unique vision for success… That’ll put a smile on your face every single day of the week.


Enjoy the journey. LEX GILLETTE


Lex: (continued) I wrote this in my book, a chapter titled ‘No Need For Sight When You Have Vision’. As a human being, there is a time when you won't be here anymore. Your sight dies, but your vision can live forever. When you act as a servant leader and you choose to be a person who helps another, you are helping that vision to continue and to live in others.

Personally, I appreciate this platform. AwareNow is the equivalent to a stage and you give us the opportunity to speak, to educate, and to advocate for so many people. Especially as a person with a disability, we know that our population is disenfranchised and marginalized to a certain degree. For us to have this stage, to be able to bring certain topics to light and to educate the world, this is part of that vision of living in a world that is 100% accessible and safe… to have everything that we need from an equitable standpoint. This is a part of that vision. So, I appreciate you for giving us this platform to be able to push this narrative and to help change the way the world treats us.

Allié: While we’ve come so far, we have so far to go. What can be done to level the playing field, providing accessibility and equality for those with disabilities? Everyone deserves to be seen. What can we do as a society? What can we do as individuals?

Lex: I think a lot of it is throwing out these misconceptions and beliefs that we have around people who have a disability. It’s what you may see in the mainstream media, magazines, movies, and things like that. It's probably not 100% true and is probably sensationalized to a certain degree. And so I think that really being able to throw a lot of those misconceptions out the window, come to the table to, to the stage, the classroom, the office, wherever, and to have some really thoughtful conversations around the experiences people have and their backgrounds. It’s talking about things that they have dealt with and things that they continue to deal with. It’s figuring out a way to act as an ally or a catalyst. It’s asking the questions. How can you meet someone where they are? How can you use your gifts and your talents and your privilege to open the door for someone else?

That was exactly what my teacher in high school did for me. He saw I was blind, but he also saw that I had a lot of abilities. We figured out some adaptations and alternatives so that I could participate as well. If we really take the time to be empathetic and to think creatively, to learn about someone's experiences, their background, the challenges that they face, that’s going to go a long way in being able to change a lot of these structures and systems that have been put in place for years upon years.

Lastly, I think that for anyone who does not have a disability… The reality is as we get older and things change and our abilities may decline or deteriorate from a health standpoint. You may very well end up becoming someone who lives life with a disability. So when you think about it from that perspective, having these conversations, taking them very seriously and figuring out how we can really improve systems and structures is important to us all. The reality is that you might very well become a person who needs those same things. At some point, you may need to tap into those accommodations or need that access. So, have these conversations and take them seriously. Make this space an amazing place for all of us. ∎

Follow Lex on Instagram: @lexgillette

Learn more of his story online:


The thing is, the harder you try not to be ‘crazy’, the crazier you become. OLIVIA CADE





Want to clear a room? Talk about suicide. Want to please a room? Make a joke. Want to confuse a room? Make a joke about suicide. As of 2019, I had a couple of fun letter combinations that specified my special brand of “crazy”. You didn’t ask, but here they are: ADHD, GAD, MDD. An attempt to neatly package the type of suffering I endured and the duration of said suffering.

I’ve had many people in my life call me crazy. They used that word to invalidate, wound and belittle me. But I sure showed them! Crazy people don’t get full-rides to fancy New York colleges. Crazy people don’t date and have friends. Crazy people definitely don’t live independently and pay for their own apartments. No, crazy people end up in institutions where they get lobotomized a la Cuckoo’s Nest. Right? And that was definitely not me.

The thing is, the harder you try not to be ‘crazy’, the crazier you become. I thought that if other people didn’t perceive me as insane, then I was a-okay. It’s like the tree falling in the forest situation, except I’m the tree and the tree is on fire and all the other trees are laughing at my tree-self’s jokes about being on fire. Instead of reaching out and being honest about how miserable I was, I secretly attended AA meetings, went to therapy and eventually got on medication, all while never actually addressing or accepting the severity of the issue. Mama needed the big guns, not just weekly talk therapy, a low dose of Lexapro and a seemingly ‘high functioning’ facade. But I didn’t know that yet.

Finally, in August of 2019, after 6 months of worsening and hidden suicidal ideation, the other shoe finally dropped. I showed up to my primary care doctor's office looking like I had gotten the sh*t beat out of me on the subway platform. (Sidenote: No, I didn’t have a psychiatrist. I only had a primary care doctor. She was lovely, but I think she was always hoping I’d have a cute little yeast infection instead of rampant suicidal thoughts. But the US mental health system hates poor people, and I didn’t have the mental capabilities at 23 to learn the in’s and out’s of health coverage policy. But we’ll get into that another time.)

After some casual conversation, she asked me what I wanted to discuss. I remember my throat closing in panic as I realized I was about to ruin this poor woman’s day, my high functioning facade and her perception of me as the ‘fun patient’. I made a joke to warm up the crowd. We both laughed and I slipped in this very casual sentence: “The suicidal thoughts are getting bad. I am very worried”. Now, I can read a room, and let me tell you the crowd was not ‘having a good time’. I thought I was suicidal before, but in the silence that followed, I have never wanted to throw myself through a window so badly. She put her daisy adorned clipboard down and looked at me with “I am so out of my depth here, please dear God, show me the way” eyes. You could tell we were both at a loss. Apparently, primary care doctors are for the run of the mill, down in the dumps, worried about work, kind of mentally ill and not the “is this train going fast enough to get the job done” kind.

She prescribed me Wellbutrin on top of the Lexapro. Wellbutrin is an upper. It jolts you up. It’s for the immobile, lethargic depressives. She hoped it would push me violently out of this depressive spiral. Instead, I finally had the energy to go through with what Depression was proposing. I panicked. Thankfully, the jolt also brought back the slightest bit of Anxiety. And she swooped in and finally called home, to Arizona. I had seen the inpatient psychiatric centers in New York. I knew I wouldn’t get what I needed. And I needed this to work. I boarded a plane home the next day. 25 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

I constantly joked that we were the A-Team of the facility… OLIVIA CADE


“The walls were entirely too white and the fluorescents were enough to make anyone want to end their life.”

I’ve never understood the phrase: “Home is where the heart is.” I’d like to offer a revision: “Home is where the trauma is.” I avoid my hometown like the plague, and my family knows this. So imagine the shock when I suddenly showed up, suitcase in hand. Of course, they had no idea why I was actually coming home. All my mother knew was that I “desperately needed a break”. I waited until my mom and I were three bottles of wine into the night to suddenly ‘ruin the vibe’. I decided the route to go was casual. Shocker. I mentioned that the reason why I was home was to check myself into a psychiatric facility. I hoped the conversation would end there, but like any normal human, my mother asked why. I believe my exact words were “I’m just feeling a bit suicidal”. She promptly drove me to the crisis center the next morning. Quick and easy. No heart to hearts. No tears. Just the way I like it.

They took me back into a small, sterile room. The walls were entirely too white and the fluorescents were enough to make anyone want to end their life. A nice faceless woman assessed me. She asked me the dreaded, “Do you have any step-by-step plans to end your life?” I responded, “a few, but I have ADHD and a penchant for perfectionism”. She didn’t laugh. I put on my blue scrubs and was sent to what I will refer to as “general holding”. It was me and other women waiting to see where they would ship us. I asked for something to read. The literature I received was an obscure romance novel from the 80’s. Raunchy, poorly written, fantastically detailed and authored by a woman with a name like Ramona Sinclair. I was just getting to the part where the brooding horse trainer ravishes the general’s daughter when my name was called. I was put onto a gurney and shoved inside a small ambulette. The EMT’s were kind as they rolled me into the entrance, asking what I did for work. I explained that I was an actor in New York City. I realized, as they cooed a condescending “woooow”, that I looked completely out of my mind. I was restrained to a gurney, in blue scrubs, hair wild, being rolled into a psychiatric facility for treatment. They were being nice to the crazy lady who thought she was a Broadway stage actor.

I spent 7 days at a wonderful inpatient facility. I was seen by real mental healthcare professionals who deal with the “is that train going fast enough to kill me?” types on the daily. I was safe. Finally. Not to mention, I had Time Magazine’s Hottest Male Psychiatrist taking care of me. And yes, I know that “hypersexuality” is a symptom of my mental illness, but Dr. Wilkinson could have savagely taken me in my loose fitting scrubs right then and there. Dr. “Blow My Back Out” Wilkinson explained to me in the most sensual way that I had Borderline Personality Disorder, another fun letter combination that I added to my mental illness resume. He gave me a book titled “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me” which felt patronizing, but he was hot and I was desperate.

My days were spent with a small group of men and women all over the age of 40, who treated me like a curiosity because I could not stop my onslaught of comedic bits. But I was hell bent on making everyone have a good time. We were in the “low security” block because we were nonviolent. I constantly joked that we were the A-Team of the facility, Varsity if you will. It wasn’t my best material, but it landed nearly every time. They brought in a woman to take us through a Tai Chi exercise. The Klonopin the nurses had given me an hour ago suddenly hit me full force and I swear I could feel God. I have never been to a rave, but I imagine it felt something like 7 mentally ill adults uncomfortably doing Tai Chi in scrubs while I was essentially stoned out of my mind.


AwareNow Podcast: ‘Tragic Hilarity’


Written and Narrated by Olivia Cade

“…being around others like me, makes those flames a bit more bearable.”

In art therapy, we had to draw who we would be as superheroes. Me, being the overachiever, took the assignment literally and went full out. I drew a wonderful depiction of my superhero alter ego, “The Unextinguishable Flame”, a symbol for overcoming obstacles and suicide. Yes, I know it is “inextinguishable”, but you try remembering letters when your brain is swimming in benzodiazepines. I thought I nailed the assignment. Seriously, knocked it out of the park. I showed off my brilliant version of the assignment only to be met by my peers: “The DoobieQueen”, “Schizo Fabulous”, “The Clap”, “Your Wife’s Dream” and (my personal favorite) “Dirt”. Everybody else saw the opportunity and took it. I instead chose to look like a pretentious asshole in front of all my new friends. Awesome. It was like a sleep away camp, but for adults who have hit rock bottom. Spending years surrounded by wealthy NYU students whose futures were painted bright with the colors of nepotism, Sonora Behavioral Center felt like coming home and being surrounded by people like me, people who were openly on fire.

So, am I still on fire? Yeah, for sure. That’s not going away anytime soon. But being around others like me, makes those flames a bit more bearable. People who receive my jokes with the laughter of familiarity and understanding rather than uncomfortable titters of people wondering “is she actually joking about that?”. I am, and I’ll continue to do so. That’s how I find my way through those moments of uncertainty, when I can’t tell up from down - sharing my own truths through the lens of comedy with a community that understands me. In those awful scrubs, under those bright fluorescent lights, those moments brought me some peace. And I hope I can bring some of that peace to you. ∎ OLIVIA CADE

Comedian, Actor & Mental Health Advocate OLIVIA CADE is a recent New York-defector and current LA-based comedian, actor, writer and IBS warrior. Mentally ill and no longer shy about it, Olivia unabashedly advocates for destigmatizing mental illness and neurodivergency through the use of comedy and performance. She focuses on creating work that straddles the line between tragedy and absolute hilarity: the place where life mostly exists.






U S E C OD E ‘ AWA R E N O W 1 0 ’ F OR A 1 0 % D I S C O U N T

I remember my oath… LEGEND





Referred to as ‘Legend’, he started as an American Soldier and has become an Afghan Legend by those who reach out for help that no one else can provide. For this man who is not a myth but an actual living, breathing legend, his name will not be revealed in this interview, as he’s on the ground in Kabul as we speak rescuing those seeking safety. We’ll simply refer to him as others do… ‘Legend’.

Allié: When the Taliban took hold of Afghanistan, you held to your personal oath to protect those you love. As a member of the US military, you are also a member of a family that is in Afghanistan and in hiding in Kabul. When the US pulled out, you went in. On your own, against all odds, you’ve fought and continue to fight to keep your family safe. What has been the hardest part of your mission so far?

Legend: The hardest part or one of the hardest parts since the start of this has been funds. I learned about footpatrols, not fundraising, during my time in service. Now I wish I had learned that trick as well. The hardest part in this has been securing funds we so desperately need for houses, meals, medicine and movements.

Allié: While born in Afghanistan, you are a US citizen and serve in the US military. You must have been offered assistance. While on the ground, have you received help from any branch or US embassy?

Legend: I have received messages of support from the American people. I have also received a bit of assistance from volunteer veteran groups in the form of medical advice and overland movements but unfortunately no support from where it matters - our government or the US embassies.

In fact, during my recent trip to Islamabad to seek assistance for myself and my family as well as some US citizens, Legal Permanent Residents (LPRs), and our Afghan allies who have either active, approved or pending SIV cases and are currently stuck at the Torkham region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the US embassy representatives refused to permit me entry on US soil.

I left the area in tears… and I don’t cry.

I tried everything that was true from “I am an American citizen,” to “I am a former US Army Staff Sergeant,” to “I am assisting several sitting members of the US Congress with evacuation of their constituents.” However, my pleas fell on deaf ears. The US embassy refused to allow me entry. That was extremely offensive and an embarrassing moment for me... I am sure their inaction was illegal too. It felt like a betrayal - a stab in the back. The US embassies abroad have a duty to serve and assist US citizens and offer them protection. In this case, they simply hung up the phone, transferred me to pre-recorded messages and made comments like, “I am not satisfied with your pleas.” Accompanied by, “Everyone calling the embassy says it’s an emergency.” I left the area in tears… and I don’t cry. While running away from the Taliban and ISIS-K, all along the way you have this mental image of this paradise, a safe haven, the US embassy compounds. But when I was denied entry, it left me in tears. 31 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Today, I saw Taliban chasing people to go for Friday prayer… LEGEND


“Every street, every wall, every brick and stone is secretly weeping.”

Allié: In addition to protecting your own family, you are also protecting the families of others. How many have you helped so far?

Legend: I have lost count. It’s in the hundreds. I just heard about a family of 10 Afghan Christians who were sought by the Taliban because of their beliefs. I moved them to a different province on a 12-hour dangerous path past several checkpoints. They just made it to safety. They are now out of the reach of the Taliban. That was my good news for today and it made me feel good about what I am doing. I am happy for them. I only wish I could do the same for my own family as well. There are many more families in similar circumstances, especially minorities, women who held positions in the former government and those who were activists and journalists. They are still stuck and in hiding at safe houses across Afghanistan. Like my own family, they too are in dire need of assistance.

Allié: What is it like right now on the streets of Kabul?

Legend: The streets of Kabul are silently humming the saddest song one could imagine. The streets of Kabul have been desecrated by terrorists including ISIS-K and Al Qaeda. Every street, every wall, every brick and stone is secretly weeping. Here and there, you will see new graffiti drawn in the darkness of the night of an Afghan woman in her religious garment and scarf holding an AK47 rifle and pointing it toward her enemy. They are resisting, organizing, and preparing. The West betrayed them but that does not stop them. The collective voices of these millions of women will be led by One Voice, an echo, although silent at the moment to the rest of the world, but turning into a war cry, now for justice, now for victory, now for equal rights, and now for freedom and democracy. They are an encouragement to their brothers and fathers and all of us across the globe. Their courage gives me chills.

The graffiti reads, “Wherever destruction is found, Taliban are found.” LEGEND


Now, the US Embassy’s entrance is covered in Taliban flags and logos. LEGEND


Allié: This mission is a dangerous one. In keeping others from being harmed, have you yourself been hurt?

Legend: I am hurt constantly. Every time I see or hear the suffering of these people, I feel hurt. And that feeling hurts more than any physical injury.

Not too long ago, I helped an elderly Afghan Catholic couple cross the border into safety of a third country where they had assurances of a flight and a safe path to the West. The husband held on to his cross tightly as we moved around. Oftentimes he would look to me and then point toward the heavens, silently telling me, “God is watching and I am praying for us.” After the couple had been handed over safely and on the way back, I was caught and questioned as to why I was there and if I was a human smuggler. I am a tension smoker, and so for emergencies, I usually carry a few extra packs on me. I told the questioner I was smuggling cigarettes. He took one of my packs but then lashed me 7 times. I am not sure how many lashes one gets for “human smuggling” but I am pretty sure it’s far more than the 7 I received. I felt chills a few hours later and reached out to an army special forces friend with some background in the medical field. He thought I might have caught a fever and that the lash or whip could have been infected with another’s blood. He recommended Tylenol. It worked out great.

Allié: Many refer to you as ‘Legend’. Some call you ‘Saint’. The definition of ‘saint’ is a very virtuous, kind, or patient person. When it comes to your virtues, it seems that ‘service’ is perhaps at the top of the list with your selfless contribution to the welfare of others. From your service to this country to your service of complete strangers, why do you serve to the degree that you do?

Legend: Allié, my lady, you are very kind. I am no saint. I am a mere soldier, a veteran… just another person.

When I was a very young boy, my father took our family and fled from the war in Afghanistan. We lived in Pakistan where I would attend a Madrassa to learn about my religion, the Quran and my Creator. However, this was a time of war and recruits were needed, especially young recruits. And so, the Imams would usually preach their own views, perception and personal interpretations of Islam. I remember the Imam in my Madrassa sat at the head of the room and to his right leaning against the wall was his AK47 rifle. Plastered to the butt of the rifle was a black and white photograph of a man on one side and some writings on the other.

He would call me and question me about my memorization of the Quran for that day and no matter how much I tried to recite—I would always fail. I was a good memorizer and had probably memorized better and more than all of the other boys but I was in love with the rifle. I just wanted to hold the rifle. And so, whenever I would be called upon to stand 5-feet from the Imam and recite or answer his questions—my eyes would be fixed on the rifle and I would completely screw up my answers.

“You like the gun?” I remember the Imam asking to which I nodded. He picked up the rifle and turned the butt toward me and without saying too much, asked that I look at it closely.

“What is Jihad?” he then asked and I couldn’t answer and then, “Who is the commander of the believers?” Once more, I stayed silent and after a few more questions, he hit me in the stomach with the butt of the rifle and pointed to the photo saying, “This is the commander of the believers… Usama Bin Laden… This is Jihad.” I didn’t know who the guy was. I even thought the Imam’s name was Usama but after a few hits and pointing, I got the point. The man in the blurry black and white photo was some old guy named Usama and he was my Imam’s commander—whatever the word commander meant to a 7-year-old boy. He kept hitting me until my sister who was peeking from the other side of the curtain in this gender-segregated class ran out, grabbed my hand and pulled me away. We ran out of there. Of course, the next day, we returned back to class.

The beating continued, but I stopped looking at his rifle. I still loved the gun though and I knew from early on that I would either be a soldier or a police officer. 35 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Now, women are back in full head to toe cover (chadari).



“It felt like I had been given a very important task for the rest of my life - to support and defend the United States of America.”

Legend: (continued) A year or so later, an opportunity came up and my parents decided to send me to the US with a relative. That is a long story perhaps for another time. But I came to the US a few days before 9/11 and I didn’t have anything except a few traditional Afghan clothes and a few English words.

During my first walk on US streets, a car stopped and kids from within it threw ice cream at me. They said things which I didn’t understand. I was just surprised as to why they wasted the ice cream. I remember they called me Usama Bin Laden—I wasn’t sure why. Similar incidents happened at school where my teacher would make a lengthy statement wherein he would use the word Usama and other kids would look at me and laugh. I barely knew English but I knew the words Usama Bin Laden.

I first learnt of who Usama Bin Laden was and about 9/11 from a US Army recruiter 5 years after the horrific attacks against the United States. Again, another long story for another time.

When I saw the recruiter and agreed to walk into his office, I only wanted to see his gun but he had different ideas for me. One thing led to another and at the age of 17 and a half, I became a soldier in the US Army.

That was the first time I ever felt proud of myself. In the Army, I found a place I belonged and one I could identify with. I remember my oath. I cried when taking my oath. I took it to heart. It felt like I had been given a very important task for the rest of my life - to support and defend the United States of America.

To an Afghan kid with nothing to his name, that oath and that task felt like being offered an Olympic Gold Medal or a Knightship from a King. I was now responsible for something and someone out there was counting on me. I loved my weapon when I finally got one, and I was the happiest kid in the world after graduating Basic Combat Training. I learned many things in the Army... defend the oppressed, protect the weak, honor, courage, duty and selfless service. These are the same ideas I found in my faith, in the Quran. I saw how wrong my Madrasa Imam had been.

As an American Muslim and as a proud former American Staff Sergeant, it is my duty to help others in need, whether family or not. There are Americans stuck in Afghanistan as well as LPRs and many others who helped our military over the past 20 years. We owe it to them to help them. Every American veteran like myself, even those dealing with disabilities and PTSD that I have spoken to, wishes to return to Afghanistan and help. They lived here. They saw first hand the help we received from our Afghan allies. A lot of us would be dead if not for our Afghan allies. That is why every veteran I know back home has stopped everything and is focused on helping people escape the Taliban.

Even if I die here, so be it. It’s better that I as an American pay with my blood, than for America to pay with its reputation. America is that shinning star the whole world turns to. Even if our government sometimes forgets that fact, we, the American people, will not. I will not allow any stain on America’s reputation. Not on my watch. No soldier, no veteran ever will allow it. And that’s why I am helping.

I was born outside of America. I have lived outside of America. That is why I appreciate America and American values. And that’s why I am helping. I am doing this for America. I am indebted to America. America gave me a home. America made me who I am today. Our leaders might sometimes forget what America is and what America is supposed to do on the world stage but I won’t forget, and the American people won’t forget. I am here paying my debts to America and helping fulfill America’s promises. 37 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

The Taliban have massacred former government and security members… LEGEND


Allié: If the world leaders would stop, turn to you and ask what can be done to help those currently unseen, unheard and unsafe in Afghanistan, what would you say to them?

Legend: I am not a politician. I don’t know politics. I don’t speak politics. I am a mere soldier, a veteran. I am no one. I am not in a place to tell world leaders what to do. However, facts are facts, and the facts on the ground are as follows...

There is no ‘Taliban 2.0’. If you tell yourself this, you are lying to yourself. The Taliban are not ‘businessmen’. The Taliban are the same as they have always been, but this time in revenge mode. Public execution of Afghans in stadiums. Murderers of Afghans. Murderers of American soldiers.

Western media can come here as often as they like and interview Afghans which is then broadcasted to millions of concerned Americans but what the cameras don’t show is that the Afghan being interviewed who is facing the camera only sees what’s behind the camera. And what is that? A dozen armed Taliban fighters in the background.

The Afghan has a family to worry about once the cameras turn off and the Western journalist leaves the area. He does not want a knock on his door in the middle of the night. He does not wish to be charged with apostasy or for the crime of supporting the ‘infidel’ West against the ‘Mujahideen’ of the Islamic Emirates. That Afghan’s interview will suffice as evidence of his crime should he speak his heart.

The Taliban have massacred former government and security members. Not too long ago, they massacred a unit of former National Directorate of Security (NDS) agents after the unit had disarmed themselves and agreed to a peaceful surrender.

Afghan ethnic minorities, women, journalists, and academics have also seen their share of brutality against them.


Now, infants and children sleep and receive medical care on the floors of safe houses… LEGEND


“A young Panjshiri boy was recently sprayed with bullets as he tried to fill his motorcycle’s tank with petroleum. Why? He was wearing camouflage pants which the Taliban interpreted as a symbol of the resistance.”

Legend: (continued) Panjshir, the last beacon of hope for any return of democracy in Afghanistan saw severe fighting. Panjshiris were killed inside their homes. A young Panjshiri boy was recently sprayed with bullets as he tried to fill his motorcycle’s tank with petroleum. Why? He was wearing camouflage pants which the Taliban interpreted as a symbol of the resistance.

Hundreds of thousands of Panjshiris left their homes and are either still camped on the mountain tops or have left Panjshir and are living in tents near the Capital or near the borders. They are desperate to receive aid and/or permission to enter one of the bordering counties and seek refuge therein. The province of Panjshir is still surrounded on all sides by the Taliban and they are still doing door to door searches and labeling whole families as members of the resistance and massacring them inside their homes. The people who have remained in Panjshir need aid, fuel, food, water, winter equipment, medicine, blankets and tents.

What Afghanistan needs is not the so-called Islamic Emirates but a new inclusive government, one wherein every ethnic group is represented and especially minorities. Afghanistan has a constitution which must be respected and followed.

How do we get there from where we are?

Support the Northern Resistance Front (NRF) which comprises most of the Afghan ethnic groups and large groups of former Afghan National Security Forces.

Give recognition to the NRF as suggested by officials within the US government and members of the US Congress as well as several European countries and Afghanistan’s friendly neighbors.

Send urgent aid to the NRF and to the people of Afghanistan, especially those who have been displaced and those near the borders.

The US already has a good trust based relationship the NRF. After all they were our first allies on the ground during the initial stages of the Global War Against Terrorism. And shortly after the Bonn conference, they surrendered their weapons and went back into their villages to become teachers and farmers. Now they have taken up arms once more.

The NRF shares our values of freedom and democracy and peace and pursuant of happiness. Take a look at Panjshir between 2002 and 2021. There were almost no attacks and people lived peacefully with one another. Panjshir remained the safest place in Afghanistan throughout the war. The NRF and the Panjshiris have an even stronger historical tie with the US. They helped defeat the Soviet Union and won the Cold War for the West. Who else can claim that?

Only with a forceful resistance can freedom return. At that point, the Taliban’s leadership can participate in the elections and fight for the votes of the Afghan people. If they are that confident, claiming to be representatives of the people of Afghanistan, let them stand in elections. Only the people of Afghanistan can decide for themselves and their country. It is our duty as Americans to help facilitate it for them. ∎







NOTHING COMPARES TO VISION Vision cannot be seen with our eyes…

That faded image with vivid colors and liquid form, it has smell, it has shapes, it has form, but I can change it anytime I want and create anything I want. I can be whoever I want to be, in any timeline as I want to be - a hero, a warrior, a man, a woman, a butterfly or a flower... In our vision, where the whole universe resides. It is there for all of us, we all have access.

The door to the other side, it’s the gate of God's eyes.

It looks more real, more touchable, but not with my senses… with my soul. My vision is the dance floor of the soul, there my vision and soul are able to connect to my ego. They can dance together in peace. Things become real there. Behind the eyes, it all happens there. All creation is happening there. In my vision, what I feel in the realm is confined by no judgment or limitation, no box or rules, no walls or prison. Floating on an endless journey of vision, it's a perfect freedom.

As much as I let myself go deeper and feel it, deep inside my vision, I see God is sitting there, radiating light for me to have a brighter sight and helping me to become able to see and understand “me” as a creator of the story of my life. To understand what I see is not what it is. My eyes can only project what is meant to be seen, as perspective from brain analysis, but the vision is beyond words, it is all that is.

Keep the mind calm. Let it just ‘be’ for awhile, then you realise with closed eyes, you begin to see beyond the imagination. You begin to feel yourself as all and all the power within. Let the mind flow with your vision and observe this infinite creation. Let the mind learn there is no limit in you, let the mind believe in infinite possibilities for the best version of you.

All the closed doors you see with your eyes, they are open there. All the unreachable mountains are reachable. You can surpass the depths of seas and go deeper to an ocean of love and light. No storm can push you back. No hands can drag you down.

Your power is sitting there. The real YOU, is there. Let your eyes play with reality and your vision design your dreams. Trust it. Set free your mind and trust your vision because that is your power of creation, limitless forms allowing you to experience yourself. It is all there, you can see it now. You can be there now. Just trust and believe in your vision. ∎


Artist & Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for LGBTQ+ Awareness I am a creative intuitive artist sharing the universe I see and experience beyond the boundaries of our planet. My creations come from inner awareness that is heart centered and does not rely on analysis or head-based questions. It is a way of creating that reflects the connection into your emotions and responding to what feels right. This intuitive space is a place of trust that opens doors to my imagination that I would never find by reason and sensory perception.


Just when I thought

I had defeated cancer,

I now feel defeated. FOUZIA MADHOUNI




H E R B AT T L E W I T H B R E A S T C A N C E R C O N T I N U E S There are many fights worth fighting. Fouzia is fighting one of them. The war that wages within her is that of Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She fought it before and thought she had won. Now that it has returned she must battle again. This time, however, she will do so as an Awareness Ties Official Ambassador for Breast Cancer Awareness.

My name is Fouzia Madhouni.

I am 26-years-old, and I live in Morocco.

I’m an American football player.

I do social work with my NGO ‘We Can Morocco’ in collaboration with The Star Wright Foundation.

We focus on the women and youth in my community by giving them access to education through sports.

During the pandemic, I was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer which devastated me.

With the help of my family and friends, I was able to afford my expensive treatments.

I went through chemotherapy, tumor removal surgery and radiation.

In June 2021, I was finally cancer free and able to get some normalcy going in my life.

However, earlier this month my breast started becoming very painful. I went to the doctors and I received medication that destroyed my skin. My breast began to produce puss and blood. My cancer has come back with a vengeance.

I can't even describe the pain.

Just when I thought I had defeated cancer, I now feel defeated.

I don't have any medical insurance and I need to do testing to see if the cancer has spread to my bones and other organs. I may have to do chemo and radiation all over again. I feel worse and worse every day that goes by.

At this point I am fighting for my life. ∎

Learn more about Fouzia and her story online:

Honored to support her as she battles this new bout of breast cancer,

we are proud to support her and ask you to join us.

Please share her story, and if you are able, please donate:


…there are rules to the game, psychological rules, and we definitely played them. JAYME BURTIS


Jayme ‘Vision’ Burtis and John Sciano, Beyond the Streets, Downtown LA CA

Photo Credit: Josh ‘Bagel’ Klassman



A CONVERSATION WITH JAYME BURTIS AKA VISION From running the scene in Venice as a b-boy with his crew, to running in the mountains as a man grounded with nature, lessons learned along the way by this graffiti icon are many. This is Eddie Donaldson, aka GuerrillaOne from The Seventh Letter. I had the privilege to have a conversation with a legend in the graffiti world, Jayme Burtis, better known as Vision. It went like this...

Eddie: So, I guess today we're talking about the writing on the wall, which is a big, big thing for both of us. And it has been for a majority of our adult and childhood lives, right? How long have you been writing graffiti?

Jayme: Yeah. So, I started probably scratching, scrawling and imitating probably around 86. That was the beginning of, you know, just sort of imitating what I saw with the New York influence because of the early days in Venice... We were break dancing. And that's what came first for us. And it eventually kind of moved into graffiti.

Eddie: So you were a b-boy?

Jayme: Oh yeah.

Eddie: I tried to breakdance. I mean, I look black, but I got no soul. So that lasted a very short time. But that's awesome. So, Venice was your hood and that was a big influence in your decision to write graffiti. Were you drawn to the gang graffiti? What was it about graffiti that drew you in?

Jayme: So, I think it was a little bit of both. Living in Venice, it was like growing up at land's end in a surf neighborhood and territorial. So, there was always writing on the wall. Growing up in a certain spot that was localized, there were always messages written everywhere. Warnings placed. Directions on how to behave. So, in elementary school, I was imitating that. Eventually I'd find my spot down at the beach, maybe with a pad, eventually it led to a spray can just imitating what these guys were doing and, you know, basically, the next generation coming up. So yeah, I was influenced, but not so much gang - but territorial, sort of surf culture.

Eddie: Understood. Locals only. If you don't live here, don't surf here. That's right. And some of those images that Bagel has are pretty profound, even the writing on the wall... I heard that you're a runner.

Jayme: Yeah, my love for just doing endurance stuff and the mountains has morphed into doing a lot of long journeys in the mountains… anywhere from 20 to 75 mile runs.

Eddie: Would you say that's kind of a form of meditation for you?

Jayme: Definitely. For me, it's like a reset. When life gets... you just head up into the mountains. Neutralize, and come back, drained, ready to kind of start fresh. Rebuild. It's a constant process. It's just a way of life for me running in the mountains. 47 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION


Eddie: So, that's interesting. I just did an issue with another magazine. It's all about loving and appreciating mother earth. I recently had an experience where I talked to a tree, and I'm dead serious. No, dead serious... So I went and I was supposed to speak on a panel at the Free And Equal festival in Cambria about art and mental health. I go there, and they did this whole ceremony with this Kandi from the Kogi tribe. I'm spiritual myself like that. I meditate. I do yoga. I've come to terms with the fact that there's a higher power greater than myself. And I've come to terms with that in a couple of different ways thru program, but also just in general life. So we did a ceremony where we had to thank the guardian of the territory for allowing us to come there and do our work. And I went and I shook the the root of a tree which was the guardian of the land the festival was held. I didn't see colors, and i wasn't downloaded with immediate messages, but I definitely felt this really crazy energy and this exchange take place between myself and the guardian. I come out of the woods and the Jon Nash from Venice basketball league is there, and on the bball court he’ dunking on people and doing his major. He is actually the founder of VBL. And I'm like, “What's up, G?” He's like, “Nah, bring it in.” He shook my arm. Solid... like how I shook the tree root. And it was just immediate... I don't know. It just brought my relationship with nature to a whole other level.

Jayme: Good. Very similar, I relate to that. Going up into the mountains, there's always a process. So it's really about the whole thing of going up the mountain and then coming down. So, two different experiences done all with mindfulness, but usually when I start in the mountains, I reach down on the ground and I grab a handful of dirt and rock and I run with it for a little while. I just get grounded... just connect. And the process is never with music. I never tune out. I listen to everything. See the signs, the birds flying. They're always communicating, they see me coming or warning others, you know, letting all the mountain creatures know, you see fresh bear poop, whatever it is. You're constantly reading the signs. So, you're connecting. Picking plants, smelling them as you run. So, it's a complete connection.

Eddie: That's amazing. I had no idea. 49 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION


“I had many levels of experience and influence that were cemented into my future.”

Jayme: You're doing this in the back of LA while you're staring at downtown and the ocean, if it's clear. So you're just making a connection… stepping out of where we live and this busy life and making that connection on a daily basis.

Eddie: I need to go up there. I don't run, but I need to get up there... That’s amazing.

Jayme: You can go one mile or two… or ten.

Eddie: That's an amazing juxtaposition to be standing up there with all of that nature and being aware of all those elements all at once. Getting all your senses open to where you are and out of your normal environment and still being able to see it. That's lucky for us here in California.

Jayme: Yeah. It's a blessing in LA. It's one of the gems of the city that not many people know about.

Eddie: So yeah, what happened during the 80’s?

Jayme: That's a big question. Yeah, I had many levels of experience and influence that were cemented into my future. It was crazy… like completely nuts to just total Zen. We knew we had something really good. The convenience and the sort of special place that it was.. because it was sort of surrounded all by walls and then there were outer walls. Depended on how you wanted to express yourself. We had the ability to surf and hang out during the day and enjoy what we did at night. And then also just be down there all night long and paint.

It was another territorial thing too, you know, in the beginning… until it became popular.

Eddie: Who was one of the people you painted with back in the eighties?

Jayme: Well, it started with the neighborhood kids. We had a little crew called TNG, which was the new generation. So, we were just letting everybody know that we were coming up. You know, we looked up to a lot of crews. So I painted with TAME, Severe, JEST, Vane… all kinds of kids. But eventually people started coming to Venice, and the cast of painters got bigger. So, these were guys that I grew up with, and it started as something just fun. I mean, young kids just sitting and drawing, influenced by New York… and then we just started getting more adventurous… I had a bunch of young kids that would gather around me… I don't think my influence was too much on my ability to paint. I was probably just an average writer, but I think my energy and enthusiasm and sort of command of controlling the environment… 51 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Photo: Josh “Bagel “Klassman

Painting: Jayme Burtis 52 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Eddie: Why don't you tell us a little bit about what you and Bagel are up to now with this colab stuff that you do.

Jayme: Yeah. So back in the day, he couldn't stand us doing graffiti. He would just tell us this bullsh*t that you guys are doing this is everywhere and...What would he call it? I don't know. I can't remember. I can't quote him… But the colorful kind of graffiti sh*t versus just writing Venice breakwater on the wall. Because I'd have on any given Friday night a half dozen people in the house drinking and drawing in black books. I mean, you could follow the spray paint path to our house just about if you were smart enough to…

Eddie: Right… follow the writing on the wall.

Jayme: It just used to bother the sh*t out of him. But he always took pictures. And it's really fortunate because he captured that time in our lives… in a real tasteful way, not overproduced just in sort of a real classical, real pure way. So, now as grownups, we've sort of tapped back into the past, and he dove back into his photos from when we were younger. And to see these things come to life and be printed, which is important, I mean we’ve both just been really moved by it. It led to us actually working together to express another level of the photos and maybe another level of what I used to do as far as graffiti… So, we've come together and just meshed these two experiences. We've been able to do a handful of pieces and be in a couple of shows together… and we're just riding it along.

Eddie: What happened in your life to make you switch it up and calm down?

Jayme: Well, that's a good question. And I think it's important to talk about because you know, even thinking about coming over here and having a conversation… You know, we like to paint ourselves as like, “Oh, this is how it went.” And “It was pure all the way.” And “I've never left that.” You know, like “I've been bombing and doing graffiti.” But no, at a certain point I had to step back. And it was, I think, because everything moved so fast at such a young age, and I was fortunate enough to be like, you know, “I can't do this.” It was either gonna run me into the ground or I was going to wind up in prison, you know, 21 years old. So I just reached out. I reached out to friends who had once planted a little seed, you know. I knew that they were available. They might be able to help... living on friends' couches at 21. Just like, “What the hell am I doing?” You know, “Where is this all going?” And it was about drinking, graffiti, fighting. That was pretty much it. It was just a vicious cycle. So I, myself… I sort of intervened in my own life. And fortunately there were people there.

Photo Credit: Luke ‘Doc’ Hudson 53 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Photo: Josh “Bagel “Klassman

Painting: Jayme Burtis 54 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

“…drinking, graffiti, fighting.

That was pretty much it. It was just a vicious cycle. So, I sort of intervened in my own life.”

Eddie: So, you got sober?

Jayme: I got sober. That was the initial step into opening that door of other opportunities in life. So that led to many years of being sober and walking that path and helping people and growing as a young man finding a career. I started doing woodworking. I never had a boss, and I've been doing it ever since. But that path had led to opening other doors. I've had the opportunity to travel the world, do retreats - meditation retreats in different parts of the world, many of them in Northern California on a regular basis, twice a year. The initial shift was, I think, just to answer the question correctly, it was that I just hit a real wall in life and knew that there was something else.

Eddie: Well, for me, what made me switch was when PURE killed himself. It really changed everything for me because he was like my big brother - the protector and the provider of this thing that we call our crew. And when he was gone, the crew just disassembled, everybody just realized it was time to grow. We can't just keep doing this. It was fun, racking and doing nitris, having all these good times associated with our lifestyle... but we were like, that's where it could end up for us. I didn't grow up immediately. There was a few other steps that happened, but that was kind of my turning point where I was like, I need to figure it out. You know, we got serious about The Seventh Letter, and we got serious about trying to figure out how to help other people figure it out together.

Jayme: It was a big shift for me too, because I kind of had to leave that world that I knew - those patterns of what I thought being a graffiti artist was. Holding a strong presence in the community, I had to deflate my ego completely and be humble with like, yeah, I'm just taking care of my life.

Eddie: I'm human. I mean, I don't know for you, but for me, like, I thought I was invincible. No one could tell me anything. I was a big and bad dude, and then all of a sudden, I wasn't. All of a sudden, I was human.

Jayme: The gift is to know that it's okay and you don't have to be that way. I mean, at least for me, to be humble... I sat down at a table recently with a group of people, and they brought up the past and they started telling stories with people that know me just as an adult, maybe within the last five years. And I had to actually go. It wasn't because I regretted the past, but because I've changed my own history. I've rewritten that. I'm a man of word who I am is who I say I am and how I present myself. So, you know, it's a fine line even with the painting that I do now. I tap into the past, but it has to be about now and who we are as men. I'm constantly letting go of the ego. To bring it back full circle about going up into the mountains, you know, the mountains humble you every time you go up. You constantly have to let go of your ego because the mountains command respect constantly. If you want to be in the presence and move through those mountains, you have to humble yourself. And sometimes you have to just turn around and abandon your ideas and your plans.

Eddie: So, that's interesting because graffiti is definitely not about humility. At least it wasn't for me or any of the people I hung out with.

Jayme: No. You have to hold that presence strong, but it's nice to approach it as an adult, a mature adult who walks the spiritual path in a sense.


“…it’s like a stained glass window in a church. It's not just reflecting color, but like a stained glass window, light is coming through.”

Eddie: I tell people all the time that I got into graffiti for fighting and stealing. I did not get into graffiti for art. I got into it because the first time I heard somebody ask, “What you write?” I just perked up. I was like... I didn’t even write yet. And then I was like, “I want that.” I want that feeling... magnets that don't attract or do. Sometimes they attracted, sometimes they didn't. Either way, I welcomed it... that feeling, that charge, that energy.

Another thing is when I went to 7-Eleven, one of my homies went into the back of the cooler and racked two forties. I'm going to get my forty, and my boy’s in the back of the cooler. And he's the littlest dude in the bunch. And I was like, I wouldn’t going in there. And I'm kind of a bad-ass, and this little kid is like, “All right, dude, see you later.” And I was like, I want it. This is my lifestyle. This is my tribe. These are my folks.

Jayme: When I talk about the past and going into recovery, I say that I recovered from not only drinking and partying, but I recovered from violence. I mean, that was probably even bigger.

Eddie: That’s interesting. We have so many similarities. I just didn't realize how many. But I mean, I guess you do, because we're all from this thing. You know, I used to tell people too that I was addicted to violence. I would get in a fight with my girlfriend and I'd be like, “I'll be back in an hour,” and I'd go find a person or somewhere to let that out. One time it was so bad, Jayme, that I jumped out at a bus stop. I was like, “What's up? Y'all want some?!” And they looked at me like I was out of my mind, and I was. I literally drove to the bottom of the hill from my house, jumped out at some fools at the bus stop. Luckily, they didn't jump me, because they could have. I was addicted to violence.

Jayme: It was a big part of the transition. Yeah, that was the turning point, back to the beginning of the question. Just reaching that point where enough is enough.

Eddie: So, the environment… you go beautify these neighborhoods. Do you think that there's a subliminal message there when you paint these pretty murals in these bright colors in the hood? Bringing nature - not nature, but an element of that optic.

Jayme: Of course. I feel as though most painting, not all, but most painting has a historical representation of the past in the sense of it came from a religious base, in a sense. So, I kind of look at beautifying a neighborhood that's all f*cked up and ghettoized, and there's this mural that it's just purely expressing color in the middle of. To me, it’s like a stained glass window in a church. It's not just reflecting color, but like a stained glass window, light is coming through.

Eddie: So if you had one piece, you know, that one piece…

Jayme: It's hard to say. In the past, we did a lot of pieces that I see pictures of but the memories of doing them are kind of hazy cause we were probably having a good time and pretty drunk. I say more now in the present, I'm pretty aware of what I do. I don't get too attached to paintings. I think it's more just about the experience and then giving it away. I don't know if there's a particular piece… maybe the last painting I did. Last week, I finished a painting. So, it's alive and present right now.


AwareNow Podcast: ‘The Writing On The Wall’


Exclusive Interview with Jayme Burtis by Eddie Donaldson

Eddie: Are there any artists living or dead that you feel has influenced you? Is there one artist, whether it's their philosophy or how they lived their life?

Jayme: I'm learning a lot right now because I'm doing more painting in the studio environment. And so I'm constantly being stimulated by a lot of different things aside from the past and what we used to do. Definitely, I'd say on top of the list is Risk. We were best of friends in the graffiti days, and we still are. He's always helped me. A lot of what he did influenced what I was doing, and I would never deny that for one minute. Everything from just his approach to his determination and focus. And then in the present I'd say someone that I really, really look up to and respect is a German painter, André Butzer, a really good friend of mine and has just influenced me in every way. I'm really moved by how he expresses himself through color. Not even technique, but just what comes through in his paintings. So, I've been fortunate enough to be able to be in the space with him and do a couple shows. ∎

Stay connected. On Instagram, follow Jayme Burtis (@jbvision) and Eddie Donaldson (@guerillaone).


GuerillaOne x The Seventh Letter Louisville, Kentucky native Eddie Donaldson moved to Los Angeles in 1986 and became involved with the graffiti movement as an alternative to the turbulent gang activity of his generation. Immersed first as an artist amongst diverse L.A. crews like TCF, AWR, and The Seventh Letter, Donaldson had the vision to develop their homegrown graffiti movement into something beyond the streets. His loyalty and business sensibility transformed the graffiti scene and he evolved into the point person for producing art events and exhibitions that inspire and spread the stylistic of southern California art into the world.


My passion is to help people… We help people as much as we can. SAFI MUKUNDWA




SEE LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF SAFI MUKUNDWA The conversation that proceeds is that of Devon Ogden and Safi Mukundwa. Here is the unfiltered dialogue of two women working to elevate the girls and women of Rwanda through the empowerment of education.

Devon: Hi, Safi, good morning it's so good to see you! I haven’t seen you face to face in a while so this is very nice. I’m so excited that through KNEKT and Awareness Ties we’re able to share more about you and your story and introduce you to as many people as we can. You are just such an inspiration, you’re so amazing and you bless so many people. You and Safi Life in Rwanda are doing amazing work and helping so many women in Rwanda. I just wanted to share a bit more about you and your story and introduce you to all of our viewers here. So, first, I would just like to begin, if you could tell us a little bit more about yourself, where you live, your family, anything that you want to share about you.

Safi: Thank you so much, Devon, I am very happy to be with you face-to-face, we use WhatsApp every day. It’s like we are in one house because we communicate every day, every hour. So happy to see you face-to-face again. My name is Safi Mukundwa, I’m married with three beautiful kids, two boys and one girl. We live in Kigali. I started my Bachelor Degree at Adventist University of Central Africa, then I did my Master’s at Mt. Kenya University, MBA. My passion is to help people, as Devon is so aware - we help people as much as we can. That’s why I created Safi Life in Rwanda. Thank you.




I survived alone with many physical injuries, moral and mental.

Devon: Thank you so much for sharing. So, you and I, we met long ago back in 2007 - in the summer of 2007 - and we discovered a few things about each other. One being that we are the exact same age, I think we met when we were, gosh, 21? Little babies! We’ve grown up together since then. Do you remember anything about the week that we met?

Safi: Yes, I do. I can’t forget it was a big day in my life. It was a day which opened many doors to fulfill my passion to meet with you. I remember we met when you were here in Rwanda with your colleague. We exchanged some ideas then I saw your passion for helping people. Thank you so much. It was great. I can’t forget. It’s like… I met an angel of the gods.

Devon: I feel the same way. It was very special and very meant to be. So can you tell us a little bit more about your history and your family and growing up and what it is like to live in Rwanda?

Safi: Yeah. My childhood was very good. Loving parents, my parents loved me so much. That’s why they called me Mukundwa. Mukundwa means Beloved, Safi means Good, good thing. You understand that I was very precious with my parents. But surprisingly at 8, 8 years old, in genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, I lost all my parents, I lost my brothers. I survived alone with many physical injuries, moral and mental. It was not easy for me for kids of 8 to survive alone without family, but, it happened. God gave me other “parents” which were assisting me, Yeah. Now I am good. I am the mother of kids. I’m happy.


“When you are in hard times, when you have a mental disorder, you need someone to pick you up, to say you are strong, you are able, you must go and go far, far, far from where you are.”

Devon: I think one of the most amazing things that I’ve taken away from my trips to Rwanda and meeting the people there and especially you is how positive and loving you are and how much forgiveness exists in the country. I think it’s a testament to the power of forgiveness because you all are able to live in close proximity to people who hurt you so deeply. The joy and the love that you exude is truly unmatched, and I’ve never met anybody like you and I think that you are so strong and incredible. So, thank you for sharing.

So when we met I wanted to know what I, or anyone who visited, what we could do to help. My first trip there - I was just so blown away by the strength and the power and the love of the people in Rwanda and I wanted to know what I could do to help. And you had some ideas about what we could do and starting a nonprofit. How did you know what the women of Rwanda would need and how did you come up with the ideas for Safi Life in the beginning?

Safi: To know that women of Rwanda have need of help, as by my own testimony, as a girl I wanted serious help. Because Rwanda we have gone through a difficult history in our country, so there are many orphans, many widows. Education is not good for all kids. That’s why - we have our culture in Rwanda. That’s why we created NDASHOBOYE with Safi Life. In Rwanda we have unwanted pregnancies in our culture. It's taboo. It’s not a thing that you can manage. Families don’t want to help their kids, so the women are very troubled. So in that area, we can help women. They need help, they need love, they need something to do for raising their kids. They need someone to give them hope. Which was my own story. When you are in hard times, when you have a mental disorder, you need someone to pick you up, to say you are strong, you are able, you must go and go far, far, far from where you are. So we have many more to help. We have many more to support. It’s not enough to give money, they need ideas. Encouragement. They need many things. And we do, in Rwanda, because of our history, in four people in Rwanda, one has a mental problem because of our history. So you have to improve our encouragement, improve our support, in different ways.

Devon: Absolutely. Yeah. An all-encompassing approach is so important. For people who - I think we’ve all experienced certain levels and varying degrees of needing that help when you’re in a dark place. Tell us a little bit more about Safi Life, how our programs operate. What exactly do we do as far as education and empowering the women and offering them the care that you’re talking about.

Safi: In Safi Life, we have girls who are doing the formal schools, which are from poor families, that we give the sponsorship to them to help them to access the university education. Many of them are orphans. We have another program called NDASHOBOYE. As I said before, we have teenage mothers and other women who had unwanted pregnancies, that we help them and that’s our two categories: formal school and informal school. Informal school because they have kids and they don’t have time, a long time to sit in the school. They have to do a short time of courses for going out to search how they can raise their kids, how they can get something to feed their kids, to go to school for kids. So that’s why we focus in that area.

Devon: So NDASHOBOYE means “I am able, I am capable”. So it’s an empowering statement for all of the women who are there - especially the single mothers who are bringing their babies to school with them and learning this trade. Why is trade school training so important right now? How is this helping them, in addition to being flexible like you said and allowing them to focus on being a mom as well as learning, how are these skills helping them right now?


Safi: It’s so important because of the timeline. It doesn’t cost a lot of time, that’s one. The second - the Market, they are needed at the Market, at the National Market. Second-hand in Rwanda is not allowed. So they can fabricate everything to wear, to put on, so the Market is large in Rwanda. They are needed in the Market, that’s why we focus in that area.

Devon: So the clothing that they sew, there’s going to be a way for them to earn money to support themselves and their family through the Market?
 Safi: Yes. They can go to the Market, they show what they did in their hands.

Devon: And we’re also currently looking, part of my job is to find us partners who can sell our goods internationally. Shipping is a little bit tricky right now but we’re looking for people to help us sell the goods and support them internationally as well, so, hopefully somebody will see these kinds of connections. We’re very excited. Can you tell us a little about your role in particular and how you operate with NDASHOBOYE and how you choose the women who need the help, and choose the teachers, and all of that good stuff?

Safi: Thank you. We choose our recipients with the local government. We work hand in hand with the local government. We communicate, we give them the criteria we need. Then they gather all the women, then we choose exactly the women we need from them. That’s how we get the recipients.
 Devon: And what are you looking for most? Someone who has the most need?
 Safi: Yes. We take - in Rwanda, the four categories of the population are the poor, the poorer, the middle, the rich. So, Safi Life takes the poorest, the low category, only. The poorest. And it's the sector, even if I put my ID in the system, it will show which category I am.

Safi: That’s why we work hand in hand with the local government.


Devon: That’s beautiful. We’re grateful for their support. Can you tell us about someone that you’re working with right now - and I’m excited to hear this too because I haven’t heard - this is a new class of women just this month. So is there one women, I know they’re all amazing, but can you tell us a story of one woman that you’re working with right now that is particularly inspiring to you?

Safi: Those women are very special, I’m telling you. There are so, so many inspiring stories. But let me talk about two or one? One or two?

Devon: Two!

Safi: We have one woman who has a kid with a disability. I showed you last time. Because of the kids, she didn’t finish the program, the last intake. So they go with kids to the hospital, they take care of the kids. Then surprisingly, she came back to school. She wants to have her certificate. With many, many efforts - she always has her baby on her back - and the baby is now 1.5 years old. Always on her back. She’s courageous, she’s determined, you cannot imagine. Always I see her - I say, oh God, she’s very, very courageous. The second one, she’s HIV positive and has kids. They go to take medicine for HIV, they go for her, and second for her kids. She goes for two days. But I’m telling you, she is the best. Even if they can’t always come to school because of her problem, she’s the best. What is inspiring to others is that she's always smiling. You cannot see her with a face which is not good. She is always good, she is always kind, you cannot imagine. I saw... she has… many powers of the heart.

Devon: I can’t wait to meet her. And all of them. That’s nice. Thank you for sharing. OK, whew. My last question is what do you, Safi, hope to achieve in the next five years with Safi Life and then over the course of your lifetime? What are your big, biggest dreams? Because I know you and I both hope that it will continue on beyond our lifetimes and will be something very special for helping many women. So, for the next five years and then for a long time? What are the ultimate goals here?

Safi: I have many, many, many things I can say. But as I told you last time, what I want - in five years, we will have with the help of God we will have our center. Which will be very, very, very, very, very good! Ah!

Devon: Yes! We want to build a building. Yes.

Safi: Yes. Our center. In that center, we will have a mental health program. Because as I said, if someone has good mental health which is good, we can do many things. We can reach very far. When you have your mind which is stable. In Rwanda the problem, in Africa in general I think, we don’t have the good habits to go to check the psychologist. So in that - uh - six months, many many people kill themselves. They go to the high house, they - so. Stress is very very high. We need to have somewhere. So these women, they have mental health problems. So in our center, we will have a part that is a mental health program. Then we will have a very big shop! Our girls will do something, and we’ll have a very big shop. Then we’ll ship some things to Europe, to the US! That’s what I think in the five years. Then if we can get the means, we can have more girls in different universities in Rwanda. Because there are very, very many girls who come and ask if they can have a scholarship. In five years, if we reach that, it will be.

Devon: I love your dreams! I’m so excited. I’m so excited for this. I see all of this happening! We just need to find the right partners and the right team to help us. Your message is going to reach a lot of people. Thank you for being so lovely and open as always. We adore you.

Safi: We miss you so, so much! You must come and see the seed that you put. Bam has one kid and another on the way, Jeannette is already married, Esther is married with two kids! You can come and see what you did.

Devon: Oh my goodness. All of our scholarship recipients are just doing amazing and working and having healthy lives and that’s so beautiful. I can’t wait to see them and their families. ∎

Learn more at and follow on Instagram: @safi_life


Fear of mental health stigma shamed and isolated us all. DIANA POHLMAN




P U L L I N G B A C K T H E PA N D A S C U RTA I N PANDAS Network is dedicated to improving the diagnosis and treatment of children with PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) and PANS (Pediatric Acute-Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome). Armed with an impressive network of doctors, researchers and scientists, PANDAS Network builds public awareness, provides critical support for families and gathers data and resources to better inform parents and the medical community about these devastating and commonly misunderstood disorders. To help us better understand this disorder, we have personal stories shared by organizers of PANDAS Network, Diana Pohlman (Executive Director) and Christy Jagdfeld (Treasurer).

My son had an acute, sudden and terrifying personality change at the age 7 following a “typical” strep infection. Despite round after round of antibiotics, his strep persisted and kept coming back. My confident boy who enjoyed life and second grade, changed overnight – screamed if he had to leave the house, counted and recounted his crayons, would not eat food, wept at night and begged me to stay with him. He developed odd finger tics, head movements, and eye dilation, and more. He had an acute onset of OCD, anxiety and strange Tourette-like symptoms. I would come to find out later that there was a term, PANDAS (PANS), a new disease theory named in 1998 with only a few dozen children diagnosed.

I went to many specialists; they were sympathetic but flummoxed. While they did an MRI, they explained it wouldn’t show subtle changes as brain diseases of the central nervous system don’t show changes until years of advanced symptoms. Behaviorally my son was difficult and disruptive at home and I had no help. He told me he wanted to die and I understood his pain and confusion. A nurse told me to accept it, saying “sometimes these things happen and we don’t know why.”

He suffered for two years until we discovered simple antibiotics together with immune IVIG treatment stopped this insufferable autoimmune rollercoaster. Shockingly, shortly after he healed, my younger daughter developed PANDAS from strep. Our family began the scary path to recovery all over again.

I soon found five more families near my home at Stanford University that had a similar LIFE-STOPPING reaction to strep and sometimes other infections. I heard profound changes occurring in little children ages 7 to 13 that were so disturbing. Fear of mental health stigma shamed and isolated us all. Life at home not only became depressing and chaotic but the lives we had all known stopped. One by one, I helped each family secure treatment as I had done from one kindly doctor who listened and who understood that PANDAS could be a real diagnosis.

Since 2009, we have helped nearly 30,000 families and have sister organizations in the U.S., Italy, South America, the U.K. and beyond. PANDAS is a rare disease so some doctors haven’t or don’t want to read the research and feign “fear of harming the child” with simple anti-inflammatory tests or short doses of treatment. Because they keep it “rare”, treatment is often not covered by insurance and thus financial stressors redouble the insult of this illness.

It was never difficult for me to understand this was a strep bacteria disease onset similar to Sydenham Chorea, not well known in the Western World, but common in the developing countries. WHAT SHOCKED ME AND STILL ANGERS ME is the lack of adequate testing to discern the mechanisms for this illness AND the diagnostic tools (MRI, lumbar puncture, EEG) are not sensitive enough to locate the assault to our children’s brains. 65 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

PANDAS Network advocacy has worked to change that. We discovered doctors from both Yale, Columbia and Stanford Universities to study this disease. As a result of this effort, researchers have recently discovered autoimmune markers that prove HOW AND WHY this syndrome happens. We are also closing in on likely genetic candidates that make our children more susceptible to PANDAS/PANS.

Since 2008 there has been an explosion of research on autoimmune encephalitis that we are in part responsible for and which PANDAS and PANS are a form of. There are still silos of research that we are trying to break down. In a 2018 Mayo Clinic research report, the authors reported there are an estimated 90,000 undiagnosed cases of autoimmune encephalitis missed worldwide each year.

The overwhelming majority of cases of sudden acute change to MIND AND BODY is vastly underdiagnosed. And, it is estimated that 50% have no evidence of onset in blood, MRI or lumbar puncture. Our new 2020 immune research will help change that statistic and I am very happy about that.

Every day, I speak to parents and to children predominantly ranging from ages 5 to 12 years old. I want to help because I am incredulous that our medical system has no method of rapidly teaching pediatricians, nurses and ER staff about PANDAS/PANS symptoms, signs, testing and treatments. I will keep answering the phone until I am no longer needed. My two children are healthy – it is only fair I keep helping others. Parents and children shouldn’t be left to fend for themselves with this illness.

Diana Pohlman

Executive Director, PANDAS Network

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“We need to break down the silos and start listening to each other and the common threads that connect us as humans…”

I came to PANDAS Network in the fall of 2020 looking to make a real difference. I wanted to give back to the chronic illness community as my family had made it through some of the worst of times, and I knew it didn’t have to be that hard. I had worked previously with an organization that advocated for autonomic illnesses. I was completely immersed among people who had the same goals and who were yelling all the same things. It was amazing. But when I left that world, I discovered I no longer heard any of it. Not one word. I had left one silo for another.

At PANDAS Network, we recently launched our new website. We wanted something that would not only showcase the research but also give families, educators, and clinicians a clean, organized space to find hope and help through our various resources. As we worked with our marketing and website firm, we talked about silos and how we needed to get out of our own PANDAS/PANS/AE silo so we could more effectively advocate.

Then I met Allié from Awareness Ties, and she talked about the need for bringing silos of awareness together (yes, she actually said ‘silo’), and I knew that was absolutely it. We need to break down the silos and start listening to each other and the common threads that connect us as humans – as well as through the common and often intersecting illnesses people share. Many of the chronic illnesses have overlapping symptoms and research methodologies, as well as similarities with underlying genetics.

That brings us to one of our main goals at PANDAS Network - to be the organization that brings everyone together. We are excited to showcase our newly created Research Priorities: PANDAS/PANS Roadmap to A Cure that was written together with our Scientific Advisory Board Chair, Dritan Agaillu. We hope this will bring about collaboration at a global level to advance and expedite basic and clinical science so we can have an accurate diagnosis and better treatments available for all. We are also expanding our Scientific Advisory Board to include those with more diverse research backgrounds as they work to fill in the needs of our roadmap as well as finding new outside researchers with similar connecting work. We can’t wait to see the roadmap in action and will be expanding our website to show the progress as it unfolds.

We are also excited for 2022. Our plans include a yet to be announced conference that will work to show how PANDAS and PANS are part of a larger spectrum and how they fit in. In time, we hope our work will elevate the illness from a psychiatric illness to a real and serious medical and neurological illness. We have also created a Patient Advisory Committee to give patients both a voice and a place to give back – again making and building connections. Through our Patient Advisory Committee, we hope to expand the much needed collaboration and discussion of PANDAS/PANS/AE by including researchers, clinicians, parents and patients alike. We hope to increase educational resources, videos, and webinars, distributing far and wide. It’s also important to increase our donor base as we work to break down the silos to use limited resources wisely. We all play a role in the solution.

Christy Jagdfeld

Treasurer, PANDAS Network Learn more about PANDAS Network by visiting them online:


I wanted to create something that really showcased this beautiful country that we live in. HAYLEY KING


Photo Credit: Peter Letu 68 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION



AT THE INTERSECTION OF NEW ZEALAND WATER & ART Being the innovators they are, simply releasing a new range of products in reusable glass bottles into the U.S. wasn't enough for 1907Water. In addition to promoting 'green' living, the brand's new glass bottles also feature artwork that points to the importance of staying connected with our communities, and bringing art and beauty into them whenever possible. Here enters their beautiful collaboration with the renowned New Zealand artist, Hayley King aka FLOX, who joins us for a conversation alone with the Founder of 1907Water, Dion Mortimer.

Allié: Your stunning artwork on the glass bottles of 1907Water is more than merely ‘a label design’. Your work is part of a collaboration that makes a statement. Hayley, in words of your own, what is that statement?

Hayley: I wanted to create something that really showcased this beautiful country that we live in. New Zealand is an island nation and is surrounded by such natural beauty, from the beaches to the rivers and the mountains, we have such a unique landscape and diverse flora and fauna and that to me was worth celebrating. It was also important for me to represent 1907 on the world stage, and really promote their commitment to sustainable practices and their clean green philosophy.

1907 & FLOX



We have always tried to be as sustainable as possible in an industry that is predominantly plastic… DION MORTIMER


“We have always used bottles that are made from 100% recycled materials and are 100% recyclable, long before RPET was on-trend.”

Allié: Both digital and analogue, your process as an artist is a vibrant hybrid of both. For those unfamiliar with your process, please share.

Hayley: I’m really big on merging my philosophy of the “hand made” while embracing technology and what this can bring to my practice. As it stands, I hand cut and hand paint individual assets (stencils) and high res photograph these in order to digitize and play with compositions in photoshop. It’s like my process starts with an analogue approach and then finishes in the digital realm.

Allié: Like you, I have an affinity for birds. Unlike you, I can’t bring them to life in the bold and brilliant way that you do. With signature style, you bring these birds to life. For these birds that you bring to life with your work, when did your obsession begin?

Hayley: My bird obsession began back in 2004, essentially when “FLOX” was born. The subject matter became synonymous with the aesthetic and the name, and it was just one of those things where I found myself really connecting with audiences through the use of my birds. “Kiwis” as we’re often described, have a natural affinity with our birds and we look at them as being part of our national identity.

Allié: Today, 97.3 percent of the bottled water market uses plastic. 1907Water is going with glass for a new limited release sparkling artesian water. Why glass, Dion?

Dion: Well, we wanted a package that was going to be a match for the label artwork. With the time and care that has gone into the label, we felt it deserved something special, with glass being the obvious choice. In addition, we are opening up into new markets, like restaurants and cafes that are a better fit for glass, and what we are trying to achieve with the 1907Water brand overall. We have always tried to be as sustainable as possible in an industry that is predominantly plastic, as you mentioned. We have always used bottles that are made from 100% recycled materials and are 100% recyclable, long before RPET was on-trend. Glass just seemed like the next step. The bottle shape itself is actually designed as a throwback to the old “TONIC” bottles sold by the original beverage sales men and women of the old west, which we thought was cool as well.

Allié: The story of 1907Water is special, from its source in New Zealand to its sustainable praes. Dion, what about your brand is most special to you?

Dion: It’s hard to pinpoint just one thing, but I think ultimately it's that we have created something people seem to really enjoy and see a benefit from, a product that we as a team can be proud of. Especially with the headwinds the world has thrown at us over the last few years! And, after all this time, I still get a kick out of seeing our product on our retail partners’ shelves and in the customer's trolleys or on café tables! ∎

Follow FLOX (@floxnz) and 1907Water (@1907water) on Instagram.


Go, and go bold. PABLO DAMAS





S PA R K I N G I N S P I R A T I O N T H R O U G H A R T Born amongst the stars in Hollywood, California, Pablo was told by his mother that he was destined to shine. At an early age, he knew that art was going to be his calling. It was the world of art that kept him away from the world of gangs and violence that surrounded him. As he worked to develop his craft, he carved out a space for himself in the art world, as he learned, mastered and adapted to change along the way.

Allié: ‘Create To Stimulate’ is a statement you’ve shared about your work. Pablo, what is it that you hope you stimulate in people who see your art?

Pablo: Pretty much anything… whether it's something positive or even something negative, whether it's to question things, whether it's just making you smile and walk away... pretty much stimulating any type of anything coming out of your senses. Sometimes you just like to draw something cool, but hopefully it still makes the audience, you know, feel... As long as it stimulates some kind of emotion out of you, some type of an opinion out of you. If it's something that I really work on and I think is important, then hopefully it strikes up a conversation that we might need to have - as comfortable or uncomfortable as it might be.






“…it’s just cool that somebody trusts me enough to mark them for the rest of their life.”

Allié: With your artwork featured at the Museum of Latin American Art, California State University, Plaza de la Raza and countless galleries, you do more than exhibit your work, you use it to teach and to inspire youth. When speaking to children about your art, what lesson is it that you hope they learn?

Pablo: Whether it's kids or adults, a lot of people have their canvas, their sheet of paper or whatever it might be, but they want to draw or paint this tiny little image right in the middle of it. The rest of it is just blank. So, the initial thing that I teach is to use the whole canvas… Go big. And that goes back to just having self confidence and courage to do that. Don't try to hide behind this tiny drawing and leave everything blank around it. Go, and go bold. Go big. Use the entire canvas. Have that confidence in yourself that no matter what you do, it's going to be… It's going to be good. If it's not ‘good’, you know you're going to learn from it and hopefully grow from there. Also, especially with the kids, if this is what you really like, you just have to go for it. Follow it. Continue, and don't give up.

Allié: More than ‘seen’, your art can be ‘worn’. As an apparel designer and tattoo artist, you take your talent off the canvas and into wardrobes and onto bodies. Of all the forms your art takes, do you have a favorite format?

Pablo: I think if I was going to say my favorite, it would still be on the canvas or on the wall. I've been luckily getting into muraling lately with the whole pandemic. But I love each of them for different reasons. My favorite is painting. Then, I really like the apparel because it's super cool to see. Luckily I've gotten into certain brands and things where I see it on TV. I'll see it in a movie. For example, I saw it on Method Man. So, it's a trip to see him or whoever is wearing my stuff. Not that it puts me at any stature. It's just cool to see somebody at their stature wearing my stuff. When it comes to tattooing, especially when you're doing a tribute piece for a parent that passed away or something, it's just cool that somebody trusts me enough to mark them for the rest of their life. So, all of them have their things and I like all of them, but I guess if I had to pick a favorite, it would still be painting.

Allié: Live art. Live DJ set. Always good vibes. For those not familiar with ‘SickBlessing’, please share.

Pablo: My longtime friend, my brother, Dominic, and I… when I would have art shows, he would do me the favor of going and deejaying for a lot of them. So, I would do a live painting. He would be deejaying. He goes by ‘B.Bless’ as a DJ name. I started using the moniker of SickDotOne. So, we put it together and made it a ‘Sick Blessing’. Actually, just today he sent me a picture from 2005. So that's 16 years that we've been doing it. When we got shut down like everybody kinda did, we all kind of went to a dark place for a little bit. So, we decided to start doing it virtually just to keep in contact with a lot of our friends and to have something to look forward to when we were all locked up and not doing too good. We started doing it, and we've just been maintaining it every week. Every week since then, you know, just trying to do that… to spread the good vibes. It’s just something positive when we were all going through something pretty negative. He deejays, and I paint for about four hours. Then every week we raffle off last week's painting. So it's cool. ∎

Follow Pablo on Instagram: @sickdotone

See his work online:


I’m going to make something better. KRISTY CHONG




A MISSION TO GIVE SUPPORT, A MOVEMENT TO END STIGMA Periods are a natural, normal part of daily life. Yet for some, they’re a source of stress, shame or stigma. Modibodi is committed to encouraging open, frank, and real conversations about periods – and pregnancy, incontinence and menopause for that matter – and to helping provide access to menstrual products for every body. Founder, Kristy Chong, believes that “Together we can create great change and huge impact.”

Allié: Modibodi started with the conversion of a challenge into an opportunity. Kristy, please share your ‘ah-ha moment’ with the development of your period panties that have changed the lives of people around the world and the conversation you were committed to start.

Kristy: Absolutely. Modibodi really developed out of this idea to give women and I suppose all bodies a better solution to manage their leaks. For me, it came from a personal need. I was a mum of two, and I was living in Seattle. My periods had not long returned, but I'd also started to experience some light bladder leaks, which one in three moms actually suffer from just on the odd occasion. I was training for the Seattle Marathon. I suppose with all that time I just came to the realization that my underwear was failing me and that I've been putting up with disposable hygiene to manage these leaks, which are equally damaging and inconvenient and seriously uncomfortable.




There's so much more than just what’s been portrayed. KRISTY CHONG


“Let's show the spectrum of emotion and the full experience that women go through.”

Kristy: (continued) I know Seattle's a really organic and very high tech place. Maybe that was where the inspiration came from, but I just thought there has to be something better. And when I did a little bit of research, I realized there wasn't. So I thought, “I'm going to make something better.” There are all these advances now in high-tech fiber technology. So I decided to go out and design something. I spent the next 18 months researching and scientifically proving the fiber technology behind our brand.

Allié: With a product to bring comfort to women and a platform to support conversation about menstruation, Modibodi is breaking down barriers and crossing boundaries. Most recently with your social change project entitled ‘Embodied’, Modibodi partnered with Getty Images photographers around the world to rewrite the narrative with ‘Postpartum Unfiltered’, a library of raw images sharing real bodies, moments and milestones so postpartum women feel seen, understood and supported. Kristy, please share the story behind this initiative.

Kristy: Modibodi’s vision is about limitless positive impact whether that's designing very innovative products that are more sustainable and actually offer you better performance than the current solution, or whether that's creating change through opening the conversation and normalizing the experiences that the majority of women face. That's what I've always been about: being really honest about what periods look like. I'm speaking about the facts and how they impact our lives, and this includes how we represent our bodies and our models. It’s about everything we are showing — the diversity and inclusivity. It’s just about the realness, by not Photoshopping them. That's been a very important mission of ours to make other women and all people feel more comfortable with the marketing that they're seeing so when they look at those images, they go, “yeah, that's more like me.” They can connect and not feel bad about themselves. That's been a big push of ours.

After we launched leak-proof underwear and we saw great success, I always knew I wanted this to be bigger than just a one-product brand. I saw an opportunity to grow and develop new technologies in new areas. Being a mom of four, I realized one new market that was very underdeveloped was reusable nappies. Yes, they did exist, but they were either not very absorbent, they didn't keep the baby dry or they're a little bit difficult to use as they have to be washed and then take hours to dry. So, we developed a more advanced version which I'm really proud about.

We're getting lots of great feedback from customers, media and awards. But again, I didn't want to just produce a product. That's not what we're about at Modibodi. We're all about social change and pushing to normalize the experiences that go along with choosing these products. The entire postpartum experience was either being portrayed as really sad or very joyful. There was no other emotion. And when you looked at the images available, I thought enough is enough. Let's show the spectrum of emotion and the full experience that women go through. Every single one of the journeys with my four children has been absolutely different. I've had nights of days of insomnia, days of exhilaration and days when I didn’t want to go back to work. There's so much more than just what was being portrayed. So that was the whole reason behind it.


The entire postpartum experience was either being portrayed as really sad or very joyful.

There was no other emotion. KRISTY CHONG


“The reality is there are 800 million people menstruating daily.”

Allié: Period poverty is a global health issue which reinforces gender inequality, increases hardship and causes people to miss out on education, work and social activities. In response to this issue, in 2021, Modibodi is donating 100,000 pairs of reusable leak-proof underwear to 20,000 people in need. In addition to this, you’ve provided an open invitation for individuals to join you in addressing period poverty. Tell us about the ‘Give A Pair’ program.

Kristy: Absolutely. I wanted to start this in the US as research has shown that for low-income women one-fifth do not have the resources to afford menstrual products. That's how bad the issue is. It's phenomenal that there's so many people on the poverty line, and so many are women who have to choose food over menstrual products. I know that often disposable products are given out, but that's for just one month, then they've got that anxiety of worrying about next month. They turn to things like rags, newspapers or they use the same products over and over again. This is very unhygienic, and we don't want that for anyone.

We're all about social impact and social change. Yes, we have customers who can afford our products, but I asked myself what we could do to get our products into the hands of those who can't. So, this year we decided to give away 100,000 pairs, and now any customer can join us. They can go on to our website and make a donation. We will directly distribute those products into the hands of women in need. We've got partners in the US, the UK, Australia and all over the globe. We have a global partner in Plan International.

Because we are supporting areas all over the globe, 100,000 is just the tip of the iceberg. We've got more to do. For our leadership team, it's a key priority. We want to look at this whole shared value model working with these major charitable organizations like Plan International and the UN to really help champion change, whether that's reducing the stigma that's associated with periods or whether it's actually getting a product into the hands of people in need. As we grow, that area of our business is going to also grow. We will keep championing and finding those partners to help us deliver those products. Another thing is that we are following through on the impact. We're not just distributing the product. We're ensuring that the actual product gets to the administration and into the person's hands. We're following through to deliver good social change, whether that means people can go back to school or get out of the house and continue to work. That’s our objective. And we will measure that to ensure that it’s happening as part of our campaign.

Allié: While periods are natural, normal and a part of daily life, they are incredibly taboo. How do we change this and provide people with ‘permission’ to speak about their periods? Why is this important?

Kristy: We have to break down the stigma around periods and remove the embarrassment and the shame. It's an absolute necessity. We need to be more open and talk about them so we can help normalize the conversation. If we don't talk about it, we can’t normalize it. Yes, they can be messy for some, rather most of us. And, let's face it. They can also be quite debilitating. For those who have very debilitating symptoms, we can't silence them and let them live in shame. So, we always want to remove that. We ‘mention the unmentionables’ is what we like to call it. The reality is there are 800 million people menstruating daily. Look around at all the women and girls, and most likely one of them is bleeding on that day. It's just, as you said, so normal yet there's just been all this shame and terrible stigma. I believe part of that's come about through the products that have gone alongside the management of periods from back in the fifties when the tampon was launched. It was all medicalized. It's all about, just plug it up, forget about it, shut it up... It doesn't exist. And then of course the use of the blue liquid when advertising products. There's no shame in the color of our blood. This is why we need to open these conversations, share real images and talk about the real stories that people experience while menstruating. 81 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

We're going to continue to use our voice and our brand to keep championing for change… KRISTY CHONG


“We'll always do everything possible to be more sustainable and to give back because that's the brand we truly are.”

Allié: As a woman who has used femine products to manage my period all my life until only 6 months ago, I can share that period panties changed my life. No longer uncomfortable about that time of the month or the way I feel about my body while bleeding, I find comfort with a garment that gave me the security and safety I have always wanted but never had until now. Kristy, to anyone who has not yet had the Modibodi experience, what would you like to personally share?

Kristy: I suppose I want them to know when they're purchasing the Modibodi products, they're purchasing a product not only from a brand that has their back but that we are out there fighting for social change and impact. We'll always do everything possible to be more sustainable and to give back because that's the brand we truly are. And that comes from a leader who believes in authenticity and leads by authenticity.

Second to that, our products are all scientifically proven. We've used science to make sure they work. And they've been tested. We are one of the first brands to ever launch in this space, and they've now been tested by hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people globally. And the safety's there. We’ve done the safety checks.

One more thing is that if you're never used them and want to try them, don't just buy one pair. Buy a couple of pairs in different absorbances because getting to know your flow, especially if you've been using tampons or other products, is something that you'll need to adjust to. So, we suggest purchasing a couple of pairs, and if you feel more comfortable, try them first in the comfort of your own home as you get to know your flow and what absorbency you need.

We're going to continue to use our voice and our brand to keep championing for change and innovating in this space to be the most sustainable, best performing and safest products. ∎

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We never lose our value… AALIA LANIUS





As an Ambassador for Domestic Violence (DV), beyond bringing awareness, I pray for victims to find a way out of a difficult situation and experience an awakening that heals their soul, because nowhere is more important about how we thrive, than where we live and how safe we feel in our environment. Our thoughts play a major role in that because they shape our reality. They can keep us mentally caged or set us free.

As part of my personal journey, I had to dispel some limited beliefs and misguided thoughts to change my situation when I found myself married and experiencing DV in my previous marriage.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I felt compelled to share a few of the many beliefs that can be had by a DV victim, and how looking at them differently allowed me to move forward.


I married someone who had truly never really faced many hardships or traumas and because I was the opposite— having experienced many, I carried shame I didn’t have to and felt devalued. I thought of myself like a piece of property, like a car, which fluctuates in value, as opposed to currency, which largely doesn’t.

Let’s say we are standing in a parking lot, and I offer you a $20 bill. You’ll likely want it. What if before I hand it over, I crumple the bill, drop it to the pavement, stomp on it with my shoe and then pick it back up and offer it up? What if I rip it in half? That’s nothing a little tape can’t fix. Right? Because it never lost its value.

We never lose our value, and despite how broken or damaged we can feel as a result of our traumas, it uniquely stays the same and we remain worthy of an environment that does not include physical violence.


Have you ever seen those blow-up clowns that pop up no matter how many times it’s knocked over? That’s me! In my mind, I was in the fight for my marriage. That meant I was willing to get back up as many times as I needed to, but it’s okay to tap out when a partner becomes the opponent. Emotional intelligence has taught me that our strength can be our greatest vulnerability.

We all hope for a successful relationship that stands the test of time, but an ended marriage doesn’t equal failure if there was genuine effort. I had to learn that it was okay to “fall forward”, taking the lessons learned into the next chapter of my life and more importantly, I was ready to stop limiting myself. I wasn’t quitting life; I was ending a toxic relationship. 85 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION


No, it doesn’t. Love doesn’t look like bruises that have to be covered up. It doesn’t look like stitches or X-Rays in an ER. It doesn’t require us to lie to our children and family. Respect and consideration for someone we share space with does not act like that. In fact, DV is the opposite of love. It births anger and resentment towards the abuser as well as the victim themselves, in the form of self-loathing, often for taking back a partner after they have been abused. Love is respecting one another even in the face of tempers flaring and raw emotions flowing.


Just because someone else is foolish enough to put a limit on our potential, doesn’t mean we do too. I was guilty of this, for a while. Maybe it was the “soulmate” belief coupled with my lack of self-worth, but I struggled to transition from negative potential outcomes, like a life of loneliness, to ones that ended with me fulfilled, living a life of endless possibilities. I can still remember my ex also saying during arguments, “What are you going to do without me?” In my case, I restocked the “what if” jar with visions of me making my dreams come true and then I manifested that sh*t! Today, he is eating those words.


If you experience domestic violence and you have children, the reality is, they will suffer whether you stay or leave. To what degree, will depend on the events that take place and how soon the impact can begin to be mitigated. I wanted to give my kids a fighting chance and I believed it was possible that I still could be in a relationship that would provide for a positive example that my kids would witness, and they have. But even if I hadn’t remarried, I was focused on continuing to provide a loving and supportive environment.

My first novel, Tough Love, is a fictional biography depicting my life at the end of my previous marriage. I hoped that by sharing my story, the people who related to it could be inspired. One reader shared with me that she found the courage to file for divorce from an abusive husband. In London, another reader who watched her mother go through similar experiences, related to the character of my teen daughter and gained a different perspective.

In brief, people saw the growth and success, the husband, the kids...but they didn’t see the DV. In addition, because of my personal story, I was considered a “strong” woman—a term we associate with someone who has met and overcome extraordinary circumstances. To be honest, it confused me at times. Which strong was I supposed to be? The strong person who stayed married through thick and thin, or the strong person who loves herself enough to let go? I came to choose the latter.

DV is a lack of respect, consideration and empathy for another, and for anyone who is experiencing domestic violence, I hope that they will realize, of all the purposes you were designed to serve, a punching bag is not one of them. ∎ AALIA LANIUS

Novelist, Speaker, Podcast Host & Social Entrepreneur AALIA LANIUS is the Founder and President of Unsugarcoated Media, a 501(c)(3) media organization. Dedicated to helping survivors of trauma lead mentally healthier lives, Lanius' focus is creating media and events that empower, educate, heal, and inspire another the way it has for her. Lanius is also a multiple awardwinning American novelist, social entrepreneur, and advocate with over 20 years of sharing her personal experiences with audiences of all age groups and diverse backgrounds. Executive Producer and host of the award-nominated seasonal podcast show, “Unsugarcoated with Aalia”, a visual and audio experience that features conversations intended to bring value and amplify voices that create more empathy and understanding of one another.



I’ve always said that confidence is not something you find, but something that you create. ADAM MORSE




ADVICE FOR HAPPINESS AND SUCCESS “I think a big part of living with blindness and dealing with mobility struggles is confidence. I’ve always said that confidence is not something you find, but something that you create. This was the overriding message in my movie LUCID. I know from experience that it takes practice to get totally comfortable in your own skin and navigating a space with partial or no sight is extremely difficult but not impossible. I’ve spoken before a lot about the power of instinct and trusting a sense of awareness is key to moving confidently. As much as I don’t like asking other people for help, I’ve never been one to shy away from approaching a stranger for a helping hand and of course sometimes this is what is needed.

My advice to everyone (sighted or not) has always been to own who you are, open your heart, be vulnerable, but have the confidence and desire to connect with the people around you. Communication is what inspires me, meeting new people and hearing their stories. This gives me an escape from my own daily situations and allows me to appreciate a different perspective. I really feel that we all thrive when we come together. Talking about what is on our mind and in our heart is healthy and how we can live our best lives. If you have a dream then share it with somebody else and continue to do this until you find a tribe that feels your vibe. Unity is the secret to happiness and success.”

Adam Morse

Actor, Producer & Film Director

Follow Adam and his work on Instagram: @themorseforce


The only way to make your dreams come true is to… wake up. CHARLOTTE ALEXANDRA




A COLLECTIVE CALLING TO WAKE When we close our eyes, we can envision a world where anything is possible and we have the possibilities to manifest our dreams into our reality. However, the only way to make your dreams come true is to… wake up.

I was about 10-years-old, and I remember waking up to 11:11 on the clock.

It felt like the numbers were piercing into my core, and I had an overwhelming feeling something significant was going to happen. Little did I know that this number, this time and these signs would continue to appear and guide me on a mission to create a new vision through the world of media.

According to various spiritual leaders, 1111 is a call to action, symbolizing the synchronicity needed to accomplish this mission: opening our senses and souls to realize the truth, and acting to make the world a better place, both materially and spiritually. 1111 is the exact tipping point between faith and physics, ignorance and enlightenment, mortal and immortal, darkness and light.

In 2018, I founded Eleven11 media to create a platform for likeminded Influencers to collaborate on spreading positive messaging through media, uniting and combining talents to make to world a better place.

We are proud to announce that in collaboration with artist Trek Thunder Kelly (@trekthunderkelly), we are currently developing our new series 11Eleven. Over the course of 11 episodes each season, our two hosts, each with different perspectives on life and spirituality, will explore powerful stories to inspire the audience, to ignite us into contemplating ourselves and our environment, and to initiate involvement and action. Each episode will be structured to include a renowned expert, celebrity, or influencer who will introduce us to the cause they care most about, and the charitable organization associated with it.

Stay tuned. ∎


Founder & CEO of Culturosity CHARLOTTE ALEXANDRA, founder & CEO of Culturosity is a business mentor, empowerment coach & serial entrepreneur with a passion for Media. She is on a mission to help You unlock your fullest potential! Helping people around the globe expand, grow, connect and to build a business they are proud of, a life they love and a mindset that will take them places. After kickstarting her career in Marketing + Advertising following a journalism & communications degree, she decided to launch Eleven11 Media Networks. Creating a platform for likeminded creatives to collaborate on spreading a positive message through media. Her work as both an entrepreneur and a media coach has provided her with an international network of inspirational and influential associates ranging from entrepreneurs, business leaders, public speakers & celebrities - uniting and combining their talents to make to world a better place.


If this way of walking through the world has taught me anything, it’s that taking appropriate risks is important. JOEL CARTNER




A WA L K I N T H E D A R K W I T H D I S A B I L I T I E S So, you all haven’t heard from me in two months. Why? Well, life has beaten me up over the last couple of months. As it turns out, I’m not very good at writing from an emotional place when I’m both in a lot of pain and life gets particularly hectic. Also, despite the difficulties I’ve been having, I’ve felt very drawn to writing about the specifics of living with chronic pain and its impact on my mental state (see, a future article) and about navigating the world with a significant visual impairment both of which are things I find challenging to get my head around in the best of circumstances. They’re also both incredibly difficult things to capture descriptively without losing all sense of nuance, but here goes…

I am legally blind. I don’t have any peripheral vision, vertically or horizontally. All in all, my visual field comprises 18 degrees with my eye as the vertex. This is really hard to explain to most people without being in a room with them. But, remember what yearbook headshots look like? Dominated by a face with some shoulder and upper torso thrown in? When I look at a person that’s all I can see at any one time. The rest isn’t blurry or blacked out; it just doesn’t exist. With the basics down, come take a walk with me.

It’s 8:00 at night, and I’m walking from the Metro to my apartment. It’s a walk I’ve made hundreds of times, so there shouldn’t be any surprises. I know where the ground slopes along my route. I know there’s that one place where the tree root sticks up out of the sidewalk. I should be able to make it home without thinking about it too much. I hear the slap of pavement under my feet. Those sounds and feelings tell me how smooth the ground is because I can’t hear or feel any debris or cracks in the pavement. The ground is pretty flat because I can hear my whole foot making contact with the sidewalk, and my ankle isn’t flexing much. My instincts aren’t screaming at me to brace myself, so I know there’s plenty of room between me and any edges. These and many more data points filter through my subconscious, but they can’t tell me about the paving stone that’s slightly raised that my toe clips. I feel and hear, rather than see, my toe hit the slightly raised section of the sidewalk. I feel myself fall. My hands, arms, and head assume the position, and I crash to the ground I can’t really see.

It’s usually 50/50 odds whether I’ve taken a fall because of my bad balance thanks to CP or the reduced visual field of Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP). Frankly, it’s almost always a combination of the two. This situation doesn’t just apply to falls. Did I miss your handshake or hive five? Yeah, I didn’t see it. Did I just horribly cut you off walking down the street? I actively avoid any chance of running into people; odds are you’ll knock me over if I run into you. I promise I didn’t see you. Have you spent the last five minutes trying to get my attention from across the room without saying anything? Say it with me now, “I didn’t see you.” To look at me, you’d probably never guess that I navigate the world this way. Performing blindness to make it evident to the world around you is massively complicated. I highly recommend this podcast on the subject1, but here’s my first point about navigating the world blind: it doesn’t always look like I’m flying blind, but I am. The long and the short of it is, if something like the above happens to you, do me a favor and take a second before you react. Not everyone who has a visual impairment navigates the world in a way that makes that impairment obvious. 93 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

“…there is no right way to do it.”

If this way of walking through the world has taught me anything, it’s that taking appropriate risks is important. Generally speaking, my physical reality causes me to be overly cautious. I’m always processing information, and I have a tendency to plan several moves ahead. Paradoxically, however, if I walked everywhere scared I would run into someone, it would take me even longer to get anywhere. If I insisted on Ubering everywhere I went after dark, I wouldn’t have any money to do anything. That somewhat reckless part of my life has engendered a ‘let the chips fall where they may’ instinct in me. Take, for example, my initial move to D.C.

Toward the end of my time in Connecticut, I briefly entertained the possibility of staying in the State rather than finally making the permanent move to D.C. I did end up moving, but the brief hesitation caused me to lose any momentum in terms of networking in D.C. I also made the decision to move while in the middle of surgical rehab, further complicating matters. Yet I did it anyway. I stayed with a family friend for a few weeks while I got my bearings and the remainder of my belongings from Connecticut, then I got a job doing document review and a low rent room in a house, and away we go. Here I am two years later, still chasing the dream.

This brings me to my second point about “flying blind,” there is no right way to do it. If you see me walking down the street with a friend, you’ll probably see me either with my hand on their shoulder, or with my arm across their shoulders and their arm around my waist or shoulders. It’s useful for both visual guidance and physical support. The thing is, technically, that’s not the way you’re “supposed” to support someone with a visual impairment. They call my way “the awkward elephant.” People are often taught to grip the person they’re supporting just above the elbow. That method doesn’t work for me though. It doesn’t provide me with any support in balancing, and visually I usually end up feeling like I’m floating in space, none the wiser to what’s happening around me. With my hand on someone’s shoulder, I’m physically supported, and their body is providing an axis around which I can orient my visual field to know where I am. Who cares if it’s not the textbook way, do what works for you.

Similarly, when I first moved to D.C. I was dead set on working on the Hill. However, as I got roundly rejected and learned how difficult my job search would be, I had to find my “awkward elephant.” My net for applications is much wider; I’ve had my resume and cover letters reviewed hundreds of times. I’m finding what works for me to get into the field where I want to work.

It’s not always going to look the way it’s ‘supposed to’, but find what works for you to go do what you want.

Fly blind. ∎


Lawyer, Awareness Ties Official Advisor & Columnist JOEL CARTNER is a lawyer and public policy professional with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia and Retinopathy of Prematurity. Cartner has a background in public health, disability, and education law and policy. He received his J.D. from Quinnipiac University School of Law and his B.A. in Political Science from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. Cartner currently lives in Washington D.C. where he works as a Document Review Attorney while seeking legislative employment.


…there are still two ways to see a missed bus - an obstacle or an opportunity. COCO DE BRUYCKER






If you took me out on a date, the third thing (previous things I mentioned in the stories before) you should probably know is: I make my vision a reality -- really fast.

When I was fourteen, I decided I wanna live in Los Angeles one day because I believe in angels. A city named ‘The Angels’ was just my place to be. I surprised myself when I found myself exactly there: just 8 years later. “You got lucky,” people told me with a bitter undertone.

And I wondered. Why the bitterness? Why the jealousy? What’s accessible to me is also accessible to you. I mean, I dream for a living. I mean, are you kidding, LA?! That’s what I first thought when checking out the bus schedules. Busses run every 40 to 70 minutes. It’s less than the town I grew up in: Mainz. A 210K-soul city. Half the size of Brooklyn. And we manage to run things (busses, trains & trams) more frequently there than in a world famous city like Los Angeles.

It’s disappointing, one might think… I remind myself of how lucky I am. It’s the best: Every time I miss my bus and wait for 20+ minutes I think that to myself. It’s the best. Because there are still 2 ways to see a missed bus — an obstacle or an opportunity.

I practice seeing opportunity. It’s an opportunity to think. To meditate. To visualize.

Before I left Mainz, I saw myself sitting at Piccadilly Circus. Every day. Three times a day. For three minutes or so. Just visualizing, feeling the cold British wind on my skin, smelling the smoggy air, the cute British accent in my ears. Three months later I made it to London with my approval to New York. So, again, I took trains and bus stops as an opportunity. I saw myself at Times Square. I even got to a point that I started speaking my plans out loud as I was doing everyday chores like folding laundry. “In September, I’m a student in New York.” 2017. Present tense. Positive. That’s important.

A year later I imagined the Dolby Theater and the Stars on the Walk of Fame. That’s where I bumped into the dancer Ronnie Futuristic. “You have to have a clear vision,” he reminded me. He had pictured himself dancing with Michael Jackson and actually joined him on stage for the Dangerous Tour in 1992.

You get my point, right? The mind is immensely powerful. I might as well have envisioned this very moment with you. We’re both lucky, see? One world, same tools. If I had one wish for this world, it’d be that everyone could wake up every day to see their power. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out what you truly want and going after it. Same goes for relationships, by the way, you see? ∎


Actress, Voiceover Artist & Awareness Ties Ambassador for Disability COCO DE BRUYCKER is a German-born, US-trained actress and voiceover artist with the desire to express what we all feel but no one dares to say. As a thespian at heart, took on stage at just seven years old, where she discovered her “eagerness to play” (German: spiel wut) as director Philip Barth put it.


Success comes with adversity… life demands it. DESMOND CLARK




FINDING SUCCESS WITH ADVERSITY Personally, I have screwed up more times than I like to admit.

Some known and some unknown. Some screw-ups are worse than others. Some were detrimental to people around me and some only affected me personally.

I’ve told the story of being scammed out of $750,000 (I blame that on ignorance and greed). I’ve started numerous small businesses that failed. I’ve played a starring role in a divorce drama. I can continue, on and on, until my word count runs over for this AwareNow article.

I also had times when I didn't contribute to my misfortunes. They just arrived.

Your misfortunes may be different from mine. It doesn’t matter.

We all have them and the degree of detriment is all relative.

It’s life. And, this thing called life is constant with change, fortune, misfortune, adversity, and triumph throughout.

I was asked recently, “what has been the key to your success?” I came up with some on the surface answers that didn’t satisfy my coach. He asked if he could offer an answer. He then stated, “your best quality and what has allowed you to gain the level of success you’ve had thus far is your focused nature on persevering through adversity.”

I believe you and I are more similar than different in this way. We can look at adversity for what it is, a challenge. A challenge that stands in our way, that’s impeding our pursuit. It’s just life's way of asking if we’re strong enough and do we really want what we say we want. Well, are we? Do we?

Here’s what I’ve learned over the years.

Success comes with adversity.

To be successful, one character trait you must possess is a willingness to persevere through adversity.

Life demands it.

Will you demand it from yourself? ∎


Speaker, Author & Former NFL Player Empowering sales professionals and leaders with ‘Principles of Winning’ to create a standard of excellence, DESMOND CLARK is a former star NFL Tight End, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Author, Speaker, and Inspirational Business Coach. During his 12 year tenure in the NFL, he played with the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, and 8 years with the Chicago Bears, retiring as the second leading Tight End in Bears history for catches, yards, and touchdowns behind only Hall of Famer Mike Ditka. Before entering into the NFL, Desmond set Wake Forest University receiving records and finished his college career as all-time leading receiver in Atlantic Coast Conference history and a degree in communications. For more information about the ‘Principles of Winning’ group coaching course call 863.581.5161 or email


…too many sparks from all those before me. MARY DAVID




WHEN BLOOD DOESN’T JUST RUN RED There are voices crying out to you that you don’t often hear.

Domestic violence awareness month of all times, we should take note that…

More than 4 out of 5 Native women and men experience violence in their life.1
 Approximately 1 in 3 men surveyed experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence,

and/or stalking by an intimate partner.2
 Black women are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered by men than white women.3
 Compassion does not have a gender, a race or an age… And there is enough of it for all of us.

I bleed
 my blood doesn’t just run red

it runs FIRE

FIRE spills out of my veins

a flame that can’t be put out

too many sparks from

all those before me

and around me

burning, burning

you hold a firehose

over a hot stove

from inside your house

that is surrounded by flames

you look out the window

as you spend every ounce

of care and relief






The flowers are dying

but all you see is your house

you’ve never stepped outside

to realize

you’re living in a graveyard

that once looked like Eden

until you taste the ash

or choke from the smoke

you only worry about

the darlings inside

a home

is not just a building

it is also the land that supports it

the sky whose rainclouds nourish it

the gardens that,

were you to embrace them,

have a kind beauty

you’ve never seen


does it take ruin to touch you

for you to raise an army

when one soldier, well equipped,

could have saved us all?


Actress, Spoken Word Artist, Activist & Lawyer Mary is a storyteller and advocate for survivors of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual trauma. Drawing from experiences of overcomers of trauma and her own journey from victim to survivor, Mary creates powerful narratives and highlights pivotal realities through television and film, legal advocacy, and beyond. As a United Nations Advisor on Women and Children’s Issues, Mary defended the rights of domestic violence victims and disenfranchised populations before the United Nations General Assembly. She also handled nearly 2,000 criminal cases as a prosecutor in Baltimore City, including numerous cases of assault and sex crimes. When not creating art, Mary promotes the advancement of women and ending gender-based violence as Communications Director of UN Women’s Los Angeles chapter.


Homelessness in California is not just a lack of affordable housing. LUKE GIALANELLA




THE UNTREATED PROBLEM AND THE VISUAL SYMPTOM Homelessness is an issue that has adversely affected our country for far too long. Politicians have raised the minimum wage and created more affordable housing, and yet the homeless crisis continues. Why is this?

Homelessness in California is not just a lack of affordable housing. Important as housing is, it cannot solve all the problems of the homeless who are mentally ill, and many will not even be able to remain in the housing provided for them unless they also receive psychiatric treatment and other wrap-around services. Often too overwhelmed with multiple issues to seek help for themselves, they confront a poorly coordinated system in which mental health, general health, housing, substance abuse treatment, and legal services are all provided by siloed understaffed, underfunded agencies with unclear responsibilities, high staff turnover, and complex and sometimes mutually contradictory rules. Solutions such as affordable housing are better for the newly homeless that walk the line due to high rents and loss of jobs. In order to truly solve the problem, I feel we need to understand what these fellow human beings are truly experiencing and identify their real long-term needs.

“If I were asked to make a plan…”

If I were asked to make a plan, it would be large in scope and will be a long-term investment in solving the problem of homelessness through caring for the mental health of the chronically homeless. This plan would develop an education-for-service program, specifically a master’s program at public state universities that incorporates psychology, public administration, public health, or social work with a specialization in working with the chronically homeless. The first cohort of students, which would be a test run for potential future cohorts, would be granted this master’s degree following two years of education at no cost. The payback is that these graduates will have a four-year commitment to combating homelessness on the ground where it’s happening. A council that manages this plan will help to determine students’ jobs after graduate school on an individual basis. Students will develop relationships, understand the patterns and behavior of the chronically homeless, identify the associated issues including substance abuse, PTSD, trauma, deinstitutionalization, abuse, neglect, and unmedicated and undiagnosed serious mental disorders such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

With the support of the professors and faculty from the master’s program, as well as members of the council, these new graduates will begin to link the homeless with services that they actually need: providing, managing, and monitoring medication and assisting in all the psychological and physical health needs that they have. The success of this first cohort will lead to interest by new students, professionals, and others in the community to begin to truly combat the problem. Identifying these root causes can help solve the mistakes of our past. In 1967, then Governor Ronald Reagan passed a program called deinstitutionalization, which closed most of California’s psychiatric hospitals and institutions, forcing hundreds of thousands of mentally ill patients on the streets or into incarceration. This has been a major force in contributing to the homeless population today. This plan would be a first step in reinstitutionalizing our psychiatric facilities and caring for our patients in a way we never have. 103 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

“…we need to treat the homeless population with the care they desperately need in order to truly solve this problem.”

Perhaps if we paid more attention to the psychological and mental state of our homeless population rather than just the economic aspect, we could truly address the problem. For example, let’s say a chronically mentally ill homeless individual is placed in affordable or free housing. What are the chances someone like this can get and maintain a job, or pay for their healthcare, or even know what care they need to receive? It is very likely someone like this would end up back on the streets or in the prison system. Additionally, according to Harvard Health, about a quarter to a third of the homeless have a serious mental illness — usually schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or severe depression — and the proportion is growing.

A Harvard study published in 2004 showed a 20-year rise in the rate of psychiatric illness among the homeless in St. Louis. In the year 2000, 30% had a combination of mental health and drug or alcohol problems (dual diagnosis) and another 15% had mental health problems alone. Other success stories of education for service programs include the Peace Corps, the GI Bill, and the Teacher Loan Forgiveness program, all incredibly successful.

In conclusion, we need to treat the homeless population with the care they desperately need in order to truly solve this problem, and creating a program such as this plan adding newly trained professionals into the workforce could be one large step in the right direction. ∎


Founder & President of GOVLEARN LUKE GIALANELLA Founder & President of GOVLEARN Luke Gialanella founded GOVLEARN when he was 11 years old, in the summer after the 2016 presidential election. Finding that there was a lack of substantive civics education for elementary and middle schoolers, he went on a mission to correct that. Creating a website and YouTube channel, Luke is obviously extremely passionate about government and politics and has participated in many mock governments, Model UN, and debate programs outside of school.


Vision is the ancestor

to awareness… PAUL S. ROGERS





Genie Fact: The genie appeared in all the Star Wars films as the force.

Vision is the ancestor to awareness, as a thought is the ancestor to an action.

I had never considered before that vision and awareness are so closely related, and that you cannot have one without the other. There is no clear dividing line between where one stops and the other starts; they merge into one.

The words Sight and Vision are used interchangeably, but actually carry quite different meanings.

Sight refers to one of the five physical senses, using the biological organs of the eyes. It is the means by which we see our surrounding environment. Sight is limited by physical circumstances such as time and distance.

Vision refers to the process of filtering and processing images from the eyes, by the brain and the heart. Vision is limited only by mental circumstances and imagination.

How are images processed by the heart? By using our emotions. Depending on a person's emotion at the time of seeing an object, it can take on a very different meaning. A physical image is automatically added to our personal image bank and coloured by our emotions. Here’s an example from my own world. The sight of tall, thin, dark, densely packed green trees found in Northern Quebec. My brain has connected this type of vegetation with my terrible traffic accident and they now act as a debilitating PTSD trigger which screams danger. To everyone else, they are just trees!

Imagination (or image in action) is where the true vision lies.

This is our mind’s eye. It sees what is constructed by our Imagination. Imagination: Image…. in… action.

Everything that we have and know in this world is the direct result of someone’s imagination. A product/service is imaged twice. First, in the mind’s eye and then once again when it is brought into tangible form. We are given the route map to bring our vision into form by plans and goals, provided by our imagination, creativity and vision.

Whatever Your Mind Can Conceive and Believe, It Can Achieve - Napoleon Hill.

It is true that our outside world is a reflection of our internal one.

When people receive flashes of inspiration or intuition, it is talked about in terms of receiving a vision. It has been said that if praying is a person talking to God, then inspiration is God talking to a person.

The use of vision boards are increasingly popular as they are used to give our visions physical substance, for our eyes to see. The vision board then becomes an aid to hold that vision, by means of self-suggestion of what imagination has already conceived.

“I will believe it when I see it” means that a person will only be persuaded or believe it if they can physically see it with their own eyes. Our problems come from the believing and doubting of what we have already conceived.

“The picture never lies!!!”…. But, it is well known that the pictures are capable of lying. With CGI (computer generated images) manipulation, retouching and photoshop we are bombarded on social media with pictures showing the visions of success and perfection which we cannot measure up to using our physical senses. It really is no wonder that society has so many hang ups and insecurities. Marketing gurus use this as “Selling the vision.” There are countless examples of this. For example, if you use a certain type of deodorant then you become immediately irresistible to women. This uses and sells the vision of being popular, successful and desirable.


AwareNow Podcast: ‘Release The Genie’


Written and Narrated by Paul S. Rogers

“I will see it when I believe it.”

As a big Dr Wayne Dyer fan, I prefer the alternative suggestion he puts forward.

To me, this is the supremacy of vision over our limited and sometimes untrustworthy senses. Not such a difficult concept. An easy example would be electricity. You cannot see it, but you still use it. Using the first suggestion, you would not believe it existed. If this is the case, why does everyone pay their electric bills?

I have had extensive brain surgery. I am one of the lucky ones who has actually seen pictures of their brain! I am pretty sure that if I asked my physician if, during the operation whilst he was elbows deep into my head, if he saw a thought or an idea, he would certainly say he wouldn't have done. They are invisible, but I can confirm that they certainly exist.

When we are asleep and we dream, there is a total absence of light and we cannot see. However, even with our eyes closed we can form amazing bright lights, pictures and images with perfect technicolor clarity. These images appear on the canvas of your mind as - Images in action - forming a constant moving film.

Everyday, we are asked to believe in things which we cannot see and yet we believe in entirely. These require no physical sight. For example faith, fear, love and other states of emotion. It would be foolish to only believe what is within our very narrow spectrum of colours and sight. With vision and awareness of things outside our narrow scope of sight, we can travel anywhere in space and time, create beautiful solutions to problems, and imagine a perfect world of infinite potential. This we can all conceive with no problem. The difficulty starts with the belief part, and doubting the vision.

Now, ask yourself: if you were given the choice, would you trust your senses? Or would you rather trust your vision, imagination and awareness? It is, and will always be, your choice. You can choose what you want to see. Change what you want to see and what you will see will change. ∎ 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.







Change and uncertainty walk hand and hand

with darkness. PROVIDENCE BOWMAN





Going blind can still happen to people who still have their vision. Although I have two eyes that work with a magnitude of depth, I feel as though I am blind.

One of the scariest feelings that I can imagine is utter darkness. I have felt utter darkness before, but it was a feeling that I could hide. There was always a small light bulb that would always stay on. There was always the excuse of what was happening in college, the stress of an internship, a boyfriend that couldn't understand, and a job that I was working at for too many hours. I feel like all the lights inside of me have gone out. The power has been cut. A utility bill that I have been able to pay on time for 22 years is suddenly being deferred.

Change and uncertainty walk hand and hand with darkness.

I feel as though I am walking through a fire. I can feel every step that I am taking and I can feel the flames closing in, but I have no idea where I am going.

A fierce flame of process and becoming. I have walked through flames before and felt the heat on my cheeks; my feet calloused with what I hope is wisdom and my heart calloused in a new sense of security.

I do not have to be able to see to know that this season feels uncomfortable and unknown. I want more than anything to have things make sense. I do not want my story to be defined without punctuation. I want to tear those pages out and create, define and articulate. I want my words, mind and beginnings to tread in the deep and not linger in the shallows. My narrative has become mundane and predictable.

One of the scariest questions that has been paying rent in my mind is, “What if this is it?”. What if our twenties are defined by putting in the hard hours, reading books, growing, and learning to be happy on our own? Our lives do not have to be stricken to live in the deep or drowning in the shallows. Right in the middle, my life is happening. I am just too blind to see it now. If I continue to be blind, I will miss it. I am in charge of turning the lights back on and giving shape to the life and the beautiful flames that I have before me.

I have learned some hard lessons these past few months. I have slipped away and learned how much energy it takes to turn the lights back on, and that sometimes lights will flicker. Your lights have one power source: YOU. ∎ PROVIDENCE BOWMAN

Awareness Ties Columnist Who am I? Well that's a good question. I am 22, without a clue. I am in a phase of life where I am planting seeds, seeing what roots fit right. I am currently working in Regulatory Affairs for Acrisure. I am currently settled in Grand Rapids MI, trying on as many pairs of shoes as I can, seeing what fits best. I have found a great deal of joy in conversation, mindfulness and meditation. I am learning and healing everyday, that is who I will continue to be; that shoe fits the best.


He needs constant motivation in continuously varied forms, he needs to be in control of his situation and he loves football. CRAIG GRAHAM





vision: (noun) the ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom

Vision gives us our purpose in life, our why and our reason for enduring the things in the moment that are hard or uncomfortable. We put in the extra hours at work to achieve that promotion, we brush our teeth for good oral hygiene and we exercise to keep our mind and body healthy. Each time bargaining with ourselves that this hardship will lead to a long term reward. This is known as extrinsic motivation, behaviour that is driven by an external reward. The rewards that we promise ourselves vary wildly, especially when it comes to exercise. However, for some people who are neurodiverse, the negotiation taking place, convincing themselves to do something for a reward that comes later, isn't always straightforward. That’s where, as a personal trainer, I become a premier league football coach.

One of my clients has a form of Autism. He needs constant motivation in continuously varied forms, he needs to be in control of his situation and he loves football. To him, having a healthy body and living a longer life is not worth squatting and cycling and sweating for an hour twice a week. Offering this as his external reward results in an unmotivated and often agitated individual. However, to him, being a pro footballer is definitely worth squatting and cycling and sweating for an hour twice a week. By altering his ‘vision’ or reward, our sessions are engaging and exciting. We work on speed and power so that the ball is sure to hit the back of the net and not the post. We develop our balance and agility so we can evade that next tackle and we train as coach and aspiring footballer so that he feels in control of his situation and motivated during our times together.

Extrinsic motivation is something that drives us all at times and we all have different visions and ‘rewards’ that keep us going. For those who are neurodiverse this is no different. So twice a week, I don my cap, or waistcoat if I’m channelling my inner Gareth Southgate (England head coach), as a pro football coach extrinsically motivated by the help and enjoyment I can give my clients. ∎


Personal Trainer & Founder of Alt Movement CRAIG GRAHAM is a Personal Trainer based in the UK, as well as the founder and creator of Alt Movement, which aims to provide individuals with disabilities alternative and adaptive ways of exercising.


I really wanted to make endangered animals a focus of my artwork. TANITH HARDING




A YOUNG ARTIST ACTIVIST PAINTING WITH PURPOSE Issy MacDonald is a 14-year-old environmentalist, artist, gymnast and actor. Since the age of eight she has been exhibiting her endangered animal paintings with Art for Youth London and donates a percentage of all sales to charities that help to support various causes. In 2019, she won a Global Youth Award for her efforts and became a Global Youth Ambassador for RoundTable Global.

Tanith: Issy you have been exhibiting your artwork raising awareness for endangered species and money for charity since you were eight years old. What motivated you to do that at such a young age?

Issy: I love painting, especially painting animals. The first ones I painted were a Penguin and then a Sloth, which is my favourite animal! I then found out that my beloved Sloth was actually endangered so I really wanted to make endangered animals a focus of my artwork. I was talent spotted in 2016 by the Creative Director of Art for Youth London, Caitlin Mavroleon to exhibit and raise money for the charity UK Youth.

Tanith: In 2019 you won a Global Youth Award for your work and became a Global Change Ambassador for RoundTable Global, and went on to become one of the MC's for the 2020 awards. How did it feel to go from winner to presenter and become part of the tribe?

Issy: I couldn’t believe it when I won the award. I was speechless! And then to be asked to be one of the MC’s the following year – I was so happy and also very nervous! I feel so lucky to be part of this tribe of amazingly talented people! It has been such an honour to have been chosen and I really appreciated the opportunity to MC last year. I am surrounded by so many talented young people and it is really good to keep in touch with them. It has been so much fun and I have made some good friends through it from all over the world!




Tanith: Since then, you have continued to raise money through the Artist for the Painted Dog Charity and your prints have gone as far afield as Australia, Cayman Islands, Germany and Switzerland. Tell us more?

Issy: I know! I really can’t believe it! It is so exciting to know that I have international collectors! As I love painting wild animals, Caitlin Mavroleon asked Stephen Rew to be my mentor. He won Wildlife Artist of the year in 2019 and it was Stephen who introduced me to Artists for the Painted Dogs and I was so happy to be selected to exhibit. They raise money for Wildlife ACT and Painted Dog Conservation. So many wonderful opportunities and I am so grateful to paint the things that I like at the same time as raising both awareness and funds for various charities and non-profit organisations.

Tanith: In addition to your passion for painting and endangered animals you are an incredible gymnast and a budding actress. How do you find time to do so much?

Issy: Thank you Tanith! Gosh, yes I have had to make some difficult choices as my love of gymnastics took me into squad training from the age of 9 years old, training 12 hours a week, 48 weeks of the year! In all honesty, I have missed a lot of birthday parties and holidays and even a school trip because of my gymnastics! But I love it and I love my gym pals. I now attend a performing arts school full time in London so I get to act and dance in school time and perform in showcases which I enjoy. We recently performed a short piece from the play Pronoun by Evan Placey. I’m not sure how I find the time to do everything but my mum is very good at helping me be organised and getting me to where I need to be!

Tanith: With so many wonderful talents, you have an incredible future ahead of you. What are your ambitions and plans to pursue them?

Issy: Thank you so much. That’s really kind of you. Well, it’s my ambition to be a professional actor and my dream is to be in a Marvel movie and also to work alongside my favourite actors, Tom Cruise and Jodie Cromer, and also be in a film directed by Paul Feig. I love all his movies, especially SPY, so maybe SPY 2! I did audition for a lead in a Disney movie last year. I didn’t get that part but hopefully more chances will come up in the near future. So for now, I’m full time at my performing arts school and doing lots of acting classes both in and out of school, including some fight combat workshops. I have a brilliant agent, Mary Liz, so fingers crossed! Of course, I’m still painting and raising awareness for endangered animals and also for the charity, UK Youth, and in December I hope to be exhibiting with Art for Youth London again. And maybe in the future I could be the MC at another Global Youth Awards! ∎

Charity Links

Issy’s agent is Mary Liz White at Mary Liz Management


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 can be a catalyst for hope… THI NGUYEN





Vision. One of the simplest words by definition, yet I find it such a difficult topic to write about. Perhaps due to the pandemic causing a global standstill or my inability to roam freely with barriers at international destinations, I am at a loss for words… (for a moment).

In a world filled with imagination and creativity, one's vision is the key to reaching your goal. Yet through experiences and life events, the road which you once travelled can be shifted into a completely different direction you never dreamed of. Like the changing seasons, the direction we have for our future can morph, grow and transform into something beautiful, dark, magical, lively or even difficult to comprehend.

As summer turns into fall, I contemplate the changing seasons in one's life. There are moments where darkness shows no end and winter is everlasting, where leaves wither and life vanishes into thin air. The cave in which you find yourself sheds a glimmering light of hope that is too far to reach and too difficult to achieve. Nothing seems to go right; you feel lost, down, and out of luck. Perhaps your relationship is in turmoil, your job is at a dead end or everything in your life just seems to be going wrong. During these difficult times, remember that stars shine the brightest in the darkest of nights. You are that star!

Photo Credit: @worldversed 119 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Growing up we imagine grand adventures, living in our dream home, being with our perfect partner and having the best job. Through trial and error, experience, loss, grief, and unforeseen events, we lower our expectations, shift our imagination and focus on living. We forget our vision of the perfect life perhaps because it is too far fetched, too difficult, or we may have experienced too many heartaches. We live through the blossoming of spring, the changing of fall, the loneliness of winter and completely miss the warmth of summer. With each season we notice more of the emptiness it brings versus the life it will create. Photo Credit: @worldversed 120 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

What if we can shift our mindset, open up our imagination and instead of focusing on loss we look towards hope? Hope that winter is short and summer is around the corner. Hope that the challenges in our life are preparing us for something greater. And knowing that our experiences, no matter how difficult, are only temporary. If we can set our sights on the light ahead, then perhaps it will shift our perspective of what is not working right now to what will be in the near future.

Photo Credit: @worldversed 121 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

In a world with so much negativity and the explosion of bad media, I want to continue to spread light and perhaps give you a little bit of hope through your darkest day. With the GoGreenDress, my vision is to touch, inspire and sprinkle some color, joy, and curiosity in your life while encouraging you to create and continue to explore by stepping out of your comfort zone. But most importantly, I want to remind you it is okay to start over as long as you stay true to yourself. If you focus on loving and developing yourself, the love that you seek will find its way to you. Whether that is financial freedom, the perfect partner or your dream life, if you believe it, you can achieve it. Remember, after winter comes spring and the brightest light shines in the darkest of space. Be that light! Photo Credit: @worldversed 122 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

Follow the adventures of the @GoGreenDress on IG, and together let's continue to focus on spreading positive energy and messages to drown out the darkness. We can be a catalyst for hope, imagination and creativity by helping others see their potential and continue with the vision they have always imagined. May this message resonate with you and encourage you to continue your journey through the most difficult times until you can enjoy the fruits of your labor. ∎


Nonprofit Consultant, Entrepreneur & Philanthropist THI NGUYEN brings with her over 2 decades of non profit experience as a participant, advisor, board member, consultant, volunteer and research and development specialist. Her expertise combining technology to further advance the vision and mission for philanthropic causes has allowed her to serve as a trusted partner with many notable organizations large and small. Thi has experience working with organizations focusing on combating various global issues such as: human sex trafficking, homelessness, poverty, fair wages, global warming, malnutrition, gender equality, humanitarian assistance and human rights. She's currently developing an app to connect individuals and corporations to assist nonprofits in furthering their vision and mission.

Photo Credit: @worldversed 123 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

With something as important as her happiness (and mine) at stake, I resolved to tackle the jealousy head on. NED STRANGER




HOW MY FUTURE WIFE’S LOVER HELPED ME UNPACK MY JEALOUSY AND TURN IT INTO A SONG I don’t think anyone really thinks jealousy can ever be a force for good. At best, it’s an inconvenience, a distraction - something that nags at you, compelling you to do or think things you know you probably shouldn’t. At worst, it can totally eclipse your appreciation of the person you love.

I was forced to unpack my own jealousy and the feelings of insecurity that feed it, because of a YouTube video sent to my girlfriend (now wife) by her lover at the time I met her.

I should probably explain the whole “lover” situation first.

My wife and I met at a Crossmodalist event she was organising in London, centred around the theme of ‘Invisibility’ as part of the event she exhibited a series of portraits she’d painted of human trafficking survivors in Mexico, and did a workshop about invisibility in society. She was also taking photos during the rest of the day. I hate cliches, but sometimes you can’t deny the truth of them and I genuinely fell in love with her the moment I saw her edging around the room with a camera.




This is what I think jealousy really is: a fear of the unknown.

That said, I only managed to speak to her for about five seconds; just enough to swap names with hopes to continue the conversation another time. I then had a string of gigs in Europe and she went travelling; thus ensued a protracted courtship over Facebook Messenger that lasted over four weeks and involved us speaking every single day, sometimes for as long as three hours at a time. I think this detail is key to explain what happened next: we didn’t speak over video the whole time, and even our first voice call took over two weeks to happen. It was a courtship that, even as we learned more about each other, still left a lot of detail in the shadows.

By the time we met again properly for our first date in London, two things had happened. First, I had somehow fallen even more in love with her. Second, I had found out that she had a lover. I had unwittingly wandered into some kind of polyamorous chain, whereby my future wife had a lover who had a long term girlfriend in France, who herself had a lover, with his own girlfriend, etc, etc. The fact that all of these connections were totally consented to and out in the open didn’t make me feel any better about the situation. And I found out from a mutual friend who that lover was - he was a good friend of mine, coincidentally the person who’d introduced me to her at the event in the first place! Who says Fate doesn’t have a sense of humour.

So I did what comes naturally in this sort of situation: I sulked, I brooded and, most of all, I imagined… all the details, previously hiding in the shadows, came to life in my imagination. The lover, the ex-lovers, the better times she spent with them all, the true nature of her feelings for me, what I meant to her.

This is what I think jealousy really is: a fear of the unknown. Some people might describe it as a sort of possessiveness - your jealous behaviour is a defence mechanism that prevents the person you love from falling in love with someone else and jeopardising your own relationship. (Because that sounds super healthy…)

But for me it’s more a manifestation of my insecurities, and my competitive side imploding with doubts and beliefs that her time with him is better, she loves him more, they’re better suited, etc, etc. 
 So how did I end up unpacking my jealousy and ultimately clearing the way for myself to marry this love of my life? An ultimatum? Hypnosis? Hiring an assassin?

The answer came in the unlikeliest of sources - a YouTube video sent to her by her lover. And not just any YouTube video; an old, badly produced, three-hour video with an off-putting title that featured a gruff old man playing with hand puppets.

Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Nonviolent Communication’ philosophy has taken on a sort of cult following over the last decade, even resulting in the founding of various ‘schools’ around the world that teach his methods. (If, like me, you’re a book person he also wrote a great book that explains it all.)

In essence, his philosophy is this: every single negative thing we do and say, each threat, insult and criticism we cast on someone else, is an expression of an unfulfilled need. What we’re effectively saying is ‘please’. Please can you fulfil my need for X by doing Y?

There is more subtlety and detail to it than that - he walks through it all during the video (just a rough capture of live audience workshop he gave in San Francisco in 2000), and whilst watching for the first time, my girlfriend took meticulous notes and walked me through the whole thing, as a way to unpack our tensions around her having a lover (and wanting to keep him).


The ultimate realisation - the thing that meant I not only accepted but embraced her needs to continue her relationship with him - was as easy to state in theory as it was difficult to do in practice. “It makes me happy to be with him, so it should make you happy too.”

With something as important as her happiness (and mine) at stake, I resolved to tackle the jealousy head on. I met with him for a beer to talk about things, how it all worked, how he felt, how I felt, and so on. I stopped sulking and imagining all the worst things in my head, and instead took an interest in how their relationship worked, how it dovetailed with ours, how it could actually give me some space and enhance our own love for each other.

The universe also eventually rewarded me with this effort with a song - I wrote Known Unknowns during the first Covid Lockdown in 2020 as an acknowledgement of jealousy as something that is self-defeating, a delaying of happiness for irrational reasons, comparing it to that moment when you are about to jump into cold water but avoid the plunge because you know it’s going to be cold: nothing is gained by those extra minutes waiting.

As an afterword: by the time the song was released, her lover had moved to Mexico making the whole lover thing between us a “moot point”... or perhaps not, for while the reasons why we developed a better understanding of each others’ needs might have moved to a different continent, that better understanding remains and we have since celebrated our first wedding anniversary! ∎ NED STRANGER

Singer & Songwriter NED STRANGER is a singer, songwriter and recovering law student.He turned his back on a promising career in the city to focus on his true passions - music and writing - forming indie-folk act August and After with a close friend from university. Several years later, they'd built a loyal London fanbase and toured various European countries, securing millions of online streams across the world and features in The Independent, BBC Radio and numerous official Spotify playlists. Ned launched his solo project this year with a series of new singles, exploring the boundaries between indie-folk and electro-pop.


I used to sing to perform, now I perform to activate and create experiences for people. TANYA KHANI





Known as ‘The Soulful Publicist’, Tanya Khani challenges societal norms by creating a paradigm shift, using mainstream media as the catalyst, bringing stories in alignment with soul consciousness. Beyond media and messaging, Tanya has a voice like no other that can only be defined as ‘Soul Opera’.

Allié: While society tells us to pick a lane and stay in it, you advise otherwise. In your words, Tanya, “Your soul can call to many things.” Agreed. Curious to know, what are the many things that your soul calls to?

Tanya: We are multidimensional beings. There isn't this one defined purpose for all of us. As we evolve, so do our soul callings. I’ve learned over time that I get to be in ownership and accept the many things that pull me forward in life and bring me to life.

I'm a quantum being as is everyone. I’ve been called to share my many medicines through dance, singing with healing frequencies, expressive play, and creating awareness of nontraditional practices through publicity. Many things call to my soul… I love playing in the quantum world, I love to dance and perform, I love using healing frequencies to sing, and using soul opera as a transmission tool. I love to activate people with my singing.




I tune into the frequencies where I use my voice and body as a vessel to transmit these healing sounds.

Allié: Acknowledgement of the soul and our connection with spirit isn’t often accepted in the systems our society operates on. In your opinion, Tanya, how do we bridge the gap between traditional processes and nontraditional practices?

Tanya: I believe that conversation creates awareness. My work is greatly rooted in raising the conversation or increasing visibility. The more visible or present the practice is, the more people will start to become aware of it. Some people are so disconnected from anything outside of what’s considered the norm that when anything ancient or eastern comes through it’s automatically received with skepticism or questioning. My vision is for alternative methods to no longer be considered alternative and to be accepted as a traditional practice. You cannot explain miracles and unexplainable healings with science alone. The metaphysical world has to have a place in this society. We simply cannot rely on only science and only western medicine. We’ve evolved too far to only accept the traditional practices as the acceptable norm. In order for us to create space for these new forms of ancient healings or these metaphysical practices, we must start shifting the conversation… one way is through mass media.

TV is the one place where people tune in to receive information. If we can infiltrate that system then we can start bringing voice to alternative and ancient practices. It’s through broadcasting where people get cast to believe or not to believe something.

Allié: For you, singing is a spirit medicine. See sound as a medicinal and healing tool, you created ‘Soul Opera’. For those not familiar with the gift and the genre that is soul opera, please define it in your own words. How did you come into this?

Tanya: It’s been such a wild journey with my voice. I’ve been singing since I was a teenager. I loved expressing myself through voice - but it’s never been this attuned to energy before. I used to sing to perform, now I perform to activate and create experiences for people.

My voice has transformed to receive channeled transmissions and to share it using operatic voice. It’s highly connected to spirit and source. Through my opera singing, I also connect to many ancient tribal lineages, and through that light language comes through. I tune into the frequencies where I use my voice and body as a vessel to transmit these healing sounds.

My siren voice or mermaid sounds developed through my sessions with Shaman Durek. I started to release powerfully through my voice in my shamanic sessions with him. He told me that my siren voice is starting to emerge. He’s actually the one that helped me identify my singing as 'Soul Opera'. It’s been beautiful to witness the impact it has on people’s emotions and their energy. I get a lot of feedback from people that normally don’t open up or cry easily sharing how the angelic tones I use move them emotionally.


Allié: When I first heard you sing, I cried. With no words sung, it was the sound of your voice that stirred something inside. What is it that you hope to stir inside others with the gift of your voice?

Tanya: I think it’s less about what I hope to stir and more about what I aim to invoke. I aim to invoke peace, harmony, and power to release. I want people to understand that singing can be a medicinal tool and that channeling doesn’t have to just happen in a quiet room during readings. I want people to get that by sharing myself vulnerably through my energetic convulsions and body shakes that they have permission to be their fully quantum unexplainable selves. Sometimes I don’t have words for what comes through me or what is happening but I know by sharing makes it more real and alive for people. We don’t need to hide in the spiritual closet. I’m giving people permission to be themselves. I mean I’m shaking and speaking in native tongue while transmitting this beautiful sound of classical voice. It’s wild to think that you can combine the two. I know this type of vocal alchemy gets shared in ceremonies, but I envision the days where this can be openly shared at dinner parties or social events. And it doesn’t have to be this performance, it’s simply an activation and healing tool to be received. I’ve been dropping this Soul Opera here and there and bringing it through for people who are ready to receive it and also not. I’ve had people fully accept it and people who are still wondering if what just happened is real. I’m not here to convince people or receive validation. The validation is there as soon as I open my mouth and let the angels sing through me. I’m honored and blessed that my voice has transformed to become this vessel of healing and toning. I’m excited to see where it goes next because I’m getting visions to share it on a larger scale.

Allié: For those who have a voice they want to raise (either personally or professionally) but are too afraid of being seen and heard, what advice would you give?

“I know many people that aren’t publicly known but their voice matters.”

Tanya: My advice is to know that sharing that gift, talent, service, story or message is an act of service. People don’t realize the power sharing has on the courage of others. When we share that song, that poem, or that thought we give permission to others to step up into that courage and rise. We are creating permission slips everywhere. I remember when I did my “Cosmic Opera” rooms in Clubhouse people came in that never or rarely shared their voice. This one woman powerfully shared her singing voice with us and later acknowledged that she would’ve never had the courage to do that and that she’s terrified to express herself openly. If you create the space people will start to listen and open up. For those that don’t know where to start - start small. Maybe it truly doesn’t feel good to share yourself with 100 people. Start with your friends and small groups. Keep getting yourself in front of people so you can work out that courage muscle. You don’t need to be famous or have a big following for your voice to matter. I know many people that aren’t publicly known but their voice matters. So even if it’s one person or two people you impact - know that your voice matters and people are waiting for you to rise.

Be daring with your voice be daring with your heart because the world needs it and you, my friend, are an expression of the world. ∎

Follow Tanya on Instagram: @soulful_publicist


It is shameful that in 2021, people with disabilities are still being so blatantly discriminated against. MATTHEW WALZER





It is shameful that in 2021, people with disabilities are still being so blatantly discriminated against.

Recently, I was victim to one of the most profound instances of discrimination in my life. Please watch this video below for the full story.


Matthew Walzer


Public Speaker, Advocate for Universal Design & Ambassador for Disability Awareness Catalyst in helping Nike develop and design its FlyEase line of adaptive footwear. MATTHEW WALZER is a strong public speaker and advocate for universal design and the disability community. Having accepted numerous awards for from organizations such as The ARC and United Cerebral Palsy, Matthew has also spoken at the White House at an inclusive design event under The Obama Administration. Matthew currently serves as an Official Columnist for AwareNow Magazine and an Official Ambassador for Awareness Ties where he works to raise awareness.




We share the same values in terms of environmental and animal welfare, so our partnership is perfect. CAMILLA GAILLARDIN




SISTERS FOR SUSTAINABLE BEAUTY Camilla Gaillardin is one half of sister founders of milly&sissy, an elegant and beautiful zero waste beauty company that develops their refill range of personal care products based on their ethics and environmental consciousness. The current products that we use create millions of tons of plastic waste each year creating an unsustainable burden on our planet. milly&sissy plans to change this.

Tanith: Camilla you founded milly&sissy together with your sister in 2019. What inspired you both to come up with such a brilliant concept?

Camilla: Sissy and I both have had very different careers in the past. I worked in the health and beauty retail market for many years in the UK, Asia & Europe and Sissy spent 20 years of her working life with the NHS. We both share the same passion for animals and concern for the environment and had talked about starting a business together for a few years. The sticking point had always been knowing what to do together. In mid-2019, we discovered a French chemist who was in the early stages of developing what now is the milly&sissy refill range and that’s when milly&sissy was founded. We share the same values in terms of environmental and animal welfare, so our partnership is perfect. We now have a range of hand washes, shampoos, hair and body washes, and shower creams all certified by The Vegan Society and The Leaping Bunny cruelty free organisations as well as a range of bottles in glass and aluminium to complement the offer.





“Neither Sissy or I have eaten meat since being adults and neither of us want to be buying products with animal-derived ingredients, so being a vegan brand is important to us.”

Tanith: You share a great love for animals and have rescued many yourselves, but I know that there is one particular animal charity that you support called Animals Asia. What can you tell us about the charity?

Camilla: I first got to know about Animals Asia when I was living in Asia, where I lived for six years. At that time, keeping pets in the home was a rarity and respect for animals was generally poor. It was while living there that I learnt about the horrors endured by the moon bears who are captured and kept in cages where their bile is farmed for medicine. The moon bears are kept in cages with no room to move around, have a catheter going into their gallbladder to drain their bile which is then used in medicines. They can spend as long as 30 years in a cage! There are synthetic medicines available which are a much better option to be used nowadays however this horrific practice still goes on. Jill Robinson, the founder of Animals Asia, and her teams across China and Vietnam do an incredible job of locating these bear-bile farms and individual bears. They give them the necessary veterinary care and finally retire the bears to one of their award-winning sanctuaries. It is so heartwarming to read some of their stories and so wonderful to see the transformation in the lives of such amazing animals. It really makes you want to be a part of the work they do. Animals Asia is dedicated to ending the cruel practice of bear-bile farming that is still carried out in several countries across Asia.

Tanith: Not only are your products reusable and refillable, you have also done everything possible to ensure that they are vegan, SLS free and that the refill sachets are compostable. How have you managed to create such a sustainable and circular product?

Camilla: It might sound quite immodest, but our products really do make a big difference in so many aspects of sustainability. Not only are they vegan and cruelty free as you mentioned but they also don’t contain SLS or parabens. We use olive oil from Provence so they are also palm oil free. Our products come in powder form to be mixed with water at home so we’re not transporting all that water – regular products contain around 80% water which adds to volume and weight to be transported. This gives us huge savings on transport carbon emissions. So, everything we do with the brand is always done in the most sustainable way.

Neither Sissy or I have eaten meat since being adults and neither of us want to be buying products with animalderived ingredients, so being a vegan brand is important to us. Learning the facts about the detrimental impact plastic is having on the planet is a major motivator to keep the brand plastic free. Did you know that there’s about 350 million tons of plastic produced every single year? This is about the same weight as the entire human population. And, plastic never goes away. It hangs around for hundreds of years so we really don’t want to be a part of that. Of course, being cruelty free is for us a non-negotiable and removing all the harmful chemicals widely used in products is also core to what we do. It’s amazing what’s allowed to be included in our everyday products – ingredients known to be skin irritants or contributors to more sinister ailments – so avoiding these is key to our brand too. I think this question should be “why aren’t more brands doing more to be more sustainable and circular?”


Tanith: A lot of people resist moving over to ethical and sustainable products because they think they will be too costly or a less effective product. What would you say to those people that are hesitant to switch over?

Camilla: For me, it’s about choosing where you want to make a difference because I think it’s too difficult to do everything, for most of us anyway. Selecting the two hotspots in the home for plastic waste, as an example – the bathroom & kitchen – could be a great place to start to live a more sustainable way of life. I believe we need to be buying less (of everything) as a rule but buying smarter. If we use this premise, if more sustainable products are a little more expensive than the mass produced, chemical containing products packaged in plastic, then this cost will be balanced by buying fewer products.

Tanith: What ambitions do you have for milly&sissy and do you have any other projects or plans for the future?

Camilla: We tend not to look too far ahead. We’re hoping to make our products more accessible to the general population so when people do their regular shopping, they have the choice of a more sustainable option right in front of them. We have many new products in the pipeline so we’re really looking forward to launching them with the aim to make our bathrooms totally plastic free. We’re also looking to partner with some organisations to give back to environmental causes. ∎

Beyond Bamboo Collection:

Animals Asia:

Shop UK:

Shop US:


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.


…NOT on the sidelines anymore. We are in the game. LAUREN AND JENNA LANDMAN




WALKING THE WALK TO RAISE AWARENESS We're Lauren and Jenna Landman, sisters and best friends who have a passion to help those living with myositis. Six years ago, we lost our dad, Bob, to a rare illness called Dermatomyositis (DM). DM is one of a group of rare muscle diseases called inflammatory myopathies, which are characterized by chronic muscle inflammation accompanied by muscle weakness. It's so rare that patients are often misdiagnosed for years. In our dad's case, he was misdiagnosed multiple times which delayed potential treatments that could have prolonged his life. His sudden passing made our family feel lost and left us with so many unanswered questions. We wanted to know why this illness was rare and why doctors brushed off his symptoms for years. We also needed a way to grieve his passing and to better understand why he was taken from us too soon.

In our search for answers, we discovered a nonprofit organization called Myositis Support and Understanding (MSU). MSU was founded in 2015 by Jerry Williams, a patient living with DM, to help improve the lives of and empower those fighting myositis through education, support, awareness, advocacy, and access to research. MSU is entirely run by volunteers, who are also patients and living with a form of myositis. Talk about an inspiring group of individuals! We immediately connected with their mission and were compelled to take our dad's passing and our grief and turn it into something positive. From that day forward we made it our personal mission to work with MSU to help raise awareness of all forms of myositis and fight for our Myositis Warriors.

The support that MSU provides for so many is fueled by donations, which is one of the many reasons why our family decided to help them fundraise. Contributions make a real and immediate impact on the lives of myositis patients and care partners through MSU's education, financial assistance and support programs, and in support of patient-centered research. In 2020, MSU committed to award at least $60,000 in financial assistance to myositis patients who needed help paying for medical expenses and other bills during the global pandemic.

It's not uncommon for myositis patients to feel as if they are the only ones living with these illnesses because of its rarity. During our dad's short journey with Dermatomyositis, he felt very alone and was unable to connect with others living with his illness. His caregiver, our mom, also felt at a loss because she didn't have the resources or help to truly understand what was happening. This is why MSU is so important to our family. Their support groups for both patients and caregivers and access to resources and financial assistance, builds a much-needed community to help those suffering from such an isolating illness. If our involvement helps just one person connect with MSU so they don't feel alone, we've done our job.

In our efforts to help raise awareness and funds, our family created the Myositis Empower Walk, a community-building and fundraising event in memory of our dad, that directly benefits MSU. The first annual walk in 2019 was an inperson event held in Henderson, Nevada at a local park and brought in over $3,000. In 2020, due to the pandemic, the walk was both an in-person and virtual event which allowed more myositis patients to participate. This change would not only connect us with people from all over the world, but it helped us fundraise over $18,000. 141 AWARENOW / THE VISION EDITION

“We're excited to see that an idea that was inspired by our dad's journey with myositis has made a tremendous impact for the myositis community.”

Earlier this month, our family hosted the 3rd Annual Myositis Empower Walk with an elevated livestream experience and a fundraising goal of $25,000. We even had inspiring speakers who are making a difference in the myositis community like MSU's Medical Advisor Dr. Salman Bhai, MD and Olympian and fellow Myositis Warrior, Tri Bourne, and his wife Gabby. So far this year, we've brought in $23,000 and we couldn't be more grateful! If you or anyone you know is inspired to help us reach our $25,000 goal, please consider donating to MSU in the spirit of the Myositis Empower Walk. No matter the size of your donation, it will make a huge difference.

We're excited to see that an idea that was inspired by our dad's journey with myositis has made a tremendous impact for the myositis community. And we're just getting started! To quote Vice President and Director of Patient-Centered Research of MSU, Lynn Wilson, "MSU is NOT on the sidelines anymore. We are in the game!” ∎

Learn more online ( and connect on Instagram (@myositisempower).




R E A D , L I S T E N & WAT C H

T h e M a g a z i n e , T h e P o d c a s t & T h e Ta l k S h o w