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Lifting Spirits with Butterflies

Updated: Jul 5, 2021

Mental Health 2021 with Ashley Whittington

What is ´The Butterfly Effect´?

'The Butterfly Effect' began for me in early 2017. I was spending my day walking through a town in Mudgee. I came across a man and after engaging in the niceties of casual conversation he revealed to me that he was experiencing a challenging time in his life. We spoke for a while and then went our separate ways. I wished that there was more I could do for him. I walked to the park, picked a flower and folded an origami butterfly from a stack of sticky notes in my bag.

Then I went back to where I had met the man and I gave them to him, wishing him better days to come. Observing the positive shift in his demeanour felt like an important moment for me. For me, it is the subtle details that hold the most meaning. It was then that I decided to try to replicate that moment throughout the Mudgee community. That was how 'The Butterfly Effect' was born.

- Ashley Whittington, Young Volunteer of the Year 2020

'The Butterfly Effect' is a project aimed at promoting mindfulness for positive mental health and was created by Ashley, through her own experience of mental health. With every loving fold, a simple piece of paper is transformed into a beautiful butterfly, while at the same time, positive conversations about mental health, resilience building, strength and connection gently unfold.

Why is folding butterflies important?

Every butterfly a person makes and gives away is a way to create an opportunity for connection. The value is in the heart and thought put into every fold and tuck. The butterfly project brings individuals together to connect with each other. It also represents the local mental health organisations which these people may be able to access. The hope is to bring people out of the dark, if only for a moment. 'The Butterfly Effect' is built on the ripple effect simple acts can bring to our community. It takes very little to spark a smile in another. More than a project or an event, the goal is for kindness to spread its butterfly wings.

Why did you choose butterflies for this project?

The origami butterfly was chosen for this project because of its simplicity. Though some folds can be a challenge and it can take a few tries to master, the butterfly is a quick and effective origami piece. That means many people can be involved. The butterfly also represents hope, change, and transformation which we all deserve to experience in our lives. For every butterfly folded and every kind word shared, there is a little more hope and transformation in our community.

The Butterfly Effect, Butterflies for Mental Health 2021 with Ashley Whittington, Feature story by Brilliant-Online
The butterfly also represents hope, change, and transformation, which we all deserve to experience in our lives.

'The Butterfly Effect' in 2021

Last year, Ashley Whittington was named Young Volunteer of the Year for her Butterflies for Mental Health Campaign. And she has not stopped flitting through the community to bring hope and transformation.

2020 saw the world go through challenging times and it has brought to the forefront the importance of mental health.

This year, Ashley is back with 'The Butterfly Effect', bringing together services from the Port Macquarie region to fold 10,000 origami butterflies for mental health.

The butterflies will be collated by 8 local artists to form part of a rainbow artwork for Artwalk 2021.

Over 1000 butterflies were folded in 2020 by mental health services and the public at a series of folding events at Port Central, Port Macquarie. The butterflies were formed into artworks and displayed at a special gallery night at Charles Sturt University.

The project is being supported by Lifeline Mid Coast, Endeavour Clubhouse, Mid North Coast Local Health District, Headspace, Werin, Neami, New Horizons, Liberty and CSU who meet each month to plan for 'The Butterfly Effect'.

The project occurs during September, which is Mental Health Month and is in its third year now and has been kindly supported by The Westport Club for this year. Over the last few years, Ashley has proven that being creative can be an effective conversation-starter for people wanting to share their own personal stories.

“When people are enjoying doing something creative, they are more likely to talk and to listen," Ashley said. "I wanted to provide an opportunity for people to come together and engage in a mindful activity in a social setting.”

"The activity gets people talking about mental health. We bring into the conversation that origami is a mindful activity, which means that while doing it, people focus on the moment. That is a really good way to start talking about the positive impacts of mindfulness on mental health."

This year, each service that is involved will be folding 1000 butterflies. Each service will be creating an “Instagram Wall” that can be visited by members of the public, bringing awareness to mental health services in the area. “The Endeavour Wellness Walk” will feature a map that will be made available to the public, so community members can ‘trail’ through the services, ticking off one photo at a time.

A large artwork will be constructed by local artists and form part of Artwalk 2021 and provide a talking point about mental health. Members of the public will have the opportunity to do some origami and talk about mental health during the month of September. This will take place at several locations around Port Macquarie, which are to be announced in the coming month.

Butterflies represent transformation, endurance, change, hope and life. Some people associate their recovery with butterflies - emerging from cocoons after a period of rest and finally changing into the glorious creature that everyone is and can be.

Everyone in the community is a part of this ripple effect of kindness. We can generate it and we can also receive it. Passing it on is how we move forward together as a community, and nobody gets left behind.

If you feel inspired to experience what is like to create a tiny butterfly in your hands, why not sit down for a little conversation with others who are also gently transforming a piece of paper into their own butterflies? You may be surprised what a little butterfly and a simple conversation with someone next to you could lead to.

About Ashley Whittington

Ashley Whittington is an inspirational and creative Young Volunteer of The Year and a Charles Sturt Bachelor of Social Science student.

She is also the founder of the Butterflies for Mental Health Month Project inspiring conversations and the creation of thousands of miniature origami butterflies to create awareness around Mental Health.

For more, follow the Butterflies for Mental Health Port Macquarie Facebook page.

Raising Mental Health Awareness


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