What started out as a dream in the summer of 2017 for Kristen Traverse and Jessie Mann has evolved into a life-changing experience for the two as well as the many individuals and families they have worked with over the years. The dream was quite simple. Meet new people in the community who have gone through some tough times, share their stories, create conversations and reduce stigmas through these educational and inspiring stories.
The two first met and worked together at the 2017 Inspiring Women’s Conference and immediately clicked. It wasn’t until that summer they really reconnected at the Lloydminster Hospital when Mann was overcoming a broken pelvis and multiple broken vertebrae in her back following a barrel racing accident. Traverse, a registered nurse who in 2015 had a cryptogenic stroke that left her with aphasia and apraxia, was there to support Mann as a nurse and friend, which is when the My Why concept began to take shape.
“During the downtime, we started dreaming about meeting inspiring people in the community,” said Mann.
“We are constantly inspired by people in Lloydminster and surrounding area and we wanted to spend more time with them and give them a platform to tell their stories.”
“We immediately hit it off because we have the same passion for doing things that are out of our comfort zone and building others up,” added Traverse.
“Jessie is such an absolute force and inspirational woman you cannot help but love.”
The two knew they couldn’t do it all on their own, and brought on Kim Capiral of Narra Studios to bring the magic to life and started envisioning how they could turn these tough times and pain into something that could make a difference.
It wasn’t long before My Why Revolution was a registered organization and a member of the Chamber of Commerce.
“We felt if we really threw ourselves behind this passion, that together the three of us could really tell brave, inspiring and educational stories from some of the many truly remarkable people we live with here,” said Mann.
With a strong belief in Project Sunrise, the team approached Malcolm Radke, CEO of the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation, and with support and guidance from Radke, the group devised a three-part campaign to share the stories of people facing mental health struggles and addiction.
“A big part of breaking down the stigma involved in mental health and helping people realize what local support is available is storytelling and helping people see what a real challenge this is for everyone, so on the storytelling side, they’ve really done a great job finding individual stories of people right here in the region who deal with these things,” said Radke.
“It’s your neighbours, your coworkers, friends, family members, anyone you walk by on the street. They’ve done a great job of pulling out the emotion and making people feel the impacts of the various mental health challenges people face.”
To date, the series has included “Jordy’s Story” and “Tyler’s Story,” which can both be found on the My Why Facebook page, and “The Mother Series” is being released this month.
In honour of World Maternal Mental Health Day, the Meridian Source will be publishing stories, written by My Why Revolution, about four of the women in The Mother Series.
“Our event in May is the largest we have taken on so far. We will feature nine women on their motherhood journeys and share their stories through the Meridian Source, Prime Time Local News, social media, a trailer released May 1 and a full feature film to come at the end of the month. We launched the event on May 1 (Maternal Mental Health Day) at the event at Home Hardware with the Mother’s First group,” said Mann.
As a nurse and a mother of two, this project really hit home for Traverse, especially considering postpartum depression affects approximately 15 per cent of Canadian mothers in the first year after giving birth.
“This statistic is probably underestimated because it often goes unreported. There is still such a stigma and misunderstanding around it. It affects the family and affects the lifelong development of the child if the mother does not get appropriate help and support,” she said.
“As a mother myself, I knew that if I could give a platform to this, My Why needed to help and give a voice to mothers in our community. When we decided to do this, we asked if anyone was willing to share through social media. There was such an overwhelming response in our community and Jessie and I are so passionate about bringing this to light.”
For Traverse, her My Why is a combination of many experiences throughout her life, but a big aspect of it is advocating for others and being the best mom she can be.
“The stroke completely changed my outlook on life. I wanted to show my kids they can choose their life and can face any adversity with grace and dignity,” she said.
“I now know hard work and tenacity can take you far. I know how valuable and needed a voice is. I started saying yes more. I loved more.”
The two have spoken together at conferences across Alberta on their personal experiences with resiliency, including speaking at the Edmonton Women’s Show. The pair has also put together written lesson plans for Alberta Health Services.
Mann’s My Why comes through tough times, lost loved ones, as well as the ups and downs of a lifelong autoimmune disease, and explained: “through each low point I have tried to learn and grow.”
“The people we have had the pleasure of working with have done so much more for us and the community than we could ever do for them,” she said. “But, being a tiny part of sharing their incredible journey’s means more to me than I can honestly put into words.”
They both agree the most rewarding aspect of the experience to date has been the people they’ve had the pleasure of meeting and how they have entrusted them to tell their stories.
“Kristen is one of those people you can’t believe you get to spend time with,” said Mann.
“I am lucky to call her a friend, but truly honoured to share the mission of our organization with her.”
As for the future, Traverse simply said, “The sky is the limit. Jessie is a such a passionate and hardworking person, so between the two of us we are very motivated to make this movement grow.”
We are educational storytellers and multimedia journalists. Kristen is a Registered Nurse with a passion for advocation within the health care field. She serves on local, provincial and national committees and has keynoted conferences all over Canada. Jessie has Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and a background in Communications. She is a professional photographer and an international award winning educator. Together, Kristen and Jessie have combined forces to surround themselves with opportunities to tell inspirational, empowering and educational stories.