Filmmaker and activist Elyse Fox first made waves with her documentary Conversations with Friends before founding Sad Girls Club, creating safe spaces for women and fostering a strong sense of community.
Elyse Fox founded Sad Girls Club in 2017, building an online community to bridge the gap between Instagram and real-life support for girls battling mental illness. Her documentary “Conversations with Friends” received an astounding response from women all over the world, prompting her to create an online community as well as real-life safe spaces for the women she’d reached through her film.
Building a sense of community is something that’s always been important at Timberland — it’s in our heritage. We give all our employees the opportunity to get involved with up to 40 hours of paid community service each year, to show how serious we are about giving back. Communities can help to heal individuals, but they can also bring people together to help others. We sat down with Elyse to discuss the importance of community.
The healing power of community
Loneliness and isolation are two of the main causes of poor mental health. That’s why communities are so important. Of course, they can’t exist without a network of dedicated volunteers to keep them running. The Sad Girls Club brought in volunteers to take their community offline and into the real world and they now host safe space meetups for followers, so they have a supportive place to chat.
At Timberland, we know that our people want to give something back, but it can be tough to fit in volunteer time around work. That’s why we developed a way to make it easy for our employees to give their valuable time to the causes that matter most to them.
We launched our ‘Path of Service’ project back in 1992 and since then, our employees have logged more than 1 million hours of volunteer work worldwide, with projects including health clinics, financial services, child care and clean drinking water for factory communities. But we’re still counting and with continued team dedication, we plan to hit 1.5 million hours of volunteer work by 2020.
Inclusivity and community go hand in hand. When volunteers come together with local communities, real healing and transformation can take place.
Once a year, Timberland teams from across the globe come together for Serv-a-Palooza, a one-day event that sees everyone volunteering their time to help underprivileged communities. Supporting and transforming local communities is a Timberland tradition that dates back decades and our team is determined to continue building a legacy of volunteer work and making a difference.
As well as acting as a support system and an environment for belonging, communities can also help to open a dialogue about important issues. Elyse says that, through the Sad Girls Club community, many women have found a voice to articulate poorly understood aspects of mental health. Listening to this community voice has been a valuable teaching tool and a healing form of self-expression.
How to get involved
Getting involved with a local or online community could go a long way to helping loved ones or strangers. Here are some simple things you can do to help:
- Encourage loved ones to go to real-life community meetups
- Offer your help to a local charity
- Organise an event to raise awareness for a charity close to your heart
- Research, share and promote relevant online communities
Communities — both online and off — are crucial in the way we engage with the world and they’re ideal for connecting people. As Elyse has shown, communities that have an open dialogue online can play an important and responsible role, building bridges and helping people. They’re a way to get people talking, to share experiences, to listen and be listened to, at a pace that feels comfortable and in an environment that feels safe.