Collective goodwill is powerful! Over the course of the last six weeks, I have benefited from a ton of it – along with talent, enthusiasm, and a desire to make a difference.
Last year, Meng Zhen visited Sip of Hope Cafe in Chicago. Through a series of connections and planning you can read about here or here, we met in Malaysia to determine ways to partner on mental health outreach initiatives.
Six weeks ago, we worked together to provide mental health workshops for his college students and community members. Plus, I was able to participate in a community listening project.
At the end of the workshop, Carolyn Choo, Head of the Faculty of Education said, “We should make a mural here.” In just a few hours, she contacted Da-Men which sits next to the Segi College Subang Jaya campus, and we had a meeting scheduled for the next day.
At this meeting, we informally brainstormed a plan, agreed to work together, and selected a date for my return to Malaysia. Little did I know that the next six weeks would be a flurry of What’s App communication between a growing team that ended with over 20 people who were interested in the project as a means of community building and mental health outreach.
You hear the phrase, “If I could bottle this team, I could…” and there is no truer statement for this group of professionals. Within our group, we had experts in marketing, graphic design, psychology, education, engineering, social media, photography, etc. But, even beyond the expertise, we had strong energy and an attitude that ANYTHING could be accomplished. In fact, one person would suggest an idea, and hours later, the idea for fully implemented beyond what was imagined. Positive energy built momentum and motivated others to take risks for sharing ideas.
It was clear from our communication that everyone understood that this project was about more than creating a mural. There is great power in collaborative artwork. Art not only has a powerful positive mental health impact as a form of self expression, but working together on a common project encourages an essential sense of purpose and belonging for participants. Our conversations always came back to making sure our “WHY” was clear and that our purpose was driven by building a sense of belonging within our community.
Graphic designers from Segi Collage created an amazing Hope Mural Project logo and the Da-Men graphic design team created mental health outreach information to place on a pillar near the mural. We even got our own T-shirts!
As time for our mural event neared, our excitement grew. We changed our original plan to a larger wall which required support from additional team members. On the day before the event, taping the preparation for the mural was more complex than usual because of the huge space. Using a project, and a team of five, we were able to successfully create an outline.
On the day of painting event…we had built so much energy that both planners and volunteers arrived earlier than expected. We did final prep on the mural, created a Kindness Rocks painting center, organized supplies, and did a training for our volunteers on how to make this an engaging and meaningful experience for everyone.
For hours that day, the mall was filled with positivity in the form of painting hands, smiling faces, and meaningful moments. There was a moment when I just stopped to look around the area and thought…”YES, this is what we are going for.” Student volunteers from Segi took their roles as ambassadors seriously as they engaged with participants in bold and meaningful ways. We worked like a well-oiled machine – but with a big heart!
At our closing presentation, the message from Michelle Ng State Assemblywoman of Subang Jaya, and Dr. Lisa Tan Saw Poh, CEO Segi Group of Colleges, and me focused on raising visibility about mental health and reducing the stigma that people feel when addressing this subject.
Follow up has been great. The project continues at Da-Men and Segi College will continue to seek opportunities to create sustainable mental health outreach. The mural is complete, but the work continues.
I am so grateful for the members of this team. They raised the bar for Hope Mural planning, but also set the stage for future projects. Through their work and actions, I could see the value of longterm planning and team collaboration where everyone brings unique elements to the process.
If you visit Malaysia, be sure to stop in and take a collage photo of yourself! We can’t wait to see how HOPE messages spread!