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Interview with Jamie Tworkowski, Founder of TWLOHA
To Write Love On Her Arms, or TWLOHA, is a growing ministry helping young people fight depression, suicide, and other relevant issues facing youth today in modern culture. This is an interview I held with Jamie Tworkowski, who kindly agreed to share some information about this spreading passion to reach out to those in need.
1. Before we begin, would you mind telling me a little about your personal background and how you came to be involved with TWLOHA?
I grew up in Melbourne Beach, Florida, fell in love with surfing, ended up working in the surf industry as a sales rep (first for Quiksilver and then Hurley) from age 18-26. TWLOHA began as a simple attempt to help a friend and tell a story. I wrote a story called "To Write Love on Her Arms," which was about five days that I spent with a friend who had been denied entry into a drug treatment center. Then I had the idea to start selling "To Write Love on Her Arms" t-shirts to help pay for our friend's treatment. i also made a MySpace page to give the story a home and that's how everything got started. Things really took off when friends in Switchfoot and Anberlin (bands) started wearing the shirts.
2. Could you describe TWLOHA as if you were describing it to someone who has never heard of the program? What is the mission and statement of this program? What are you trying to accomplish?
TWLOHA began as an attempt to help a friend and tell a story. Today, it is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to give directly to treatment and recovery.
3. Why has this program seen so many advances? What, in your opinion, is the driving force behind it?
The driving force is hope. Millions of people all over the world feel alone in their struggles and their questions. These things, the issues that we talk about, tend to stay silent. We are trying to let people know that it's okay to talk about their pain, that they deserve a support system, they deserve people who know them and they deserve professional help if they need it. We're trying to bring hope to people and we're trying to do that in a way that is creatively, tasteful, honest and brave.
4. Has TWLOHA reached people in realistic, helpful ways? What sorts of victories has the program seen?
Since 2006, we've responded to over 150,000 messages from people in more than 100 countries. We've also given $850,000 to treatment and recovery. In terms of victories, perhaps the best answer is that we hear from people who say they're still alive because of TWLOHA.
5. Why do you think there is a need for TWLOHA at all?
Because most people who struggle with problems of pain don't ever take the first step toward getting help. Millions of people feel alone in the things they struggle with. Stigma has a lot to do with that, people feeling like depression and self-injury are things they can't talk about.
6. How can someone reach TWLOHA for help, and what sort of help can they expect to receive?
The best way is to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can expect to be validated and encouraged, and they can also expect that if they need help, we will encourage them to pursue honest relationships and to seek help in their local community.
7. Is TWLOHA still growing? What are the future plans for this program?
We've certainly grown a ton since this began in 2006. Our staff has grown to 12, plus six full-time interns. We're involved in events and speaking at universities across the U.S. We've been able to do some things beyond America as well, such as Soundwave Festival in Australia, which is coming up next month. Future plans are to continue to creatively bring our message of hope, help and community to the internet, to universities, to the music community. We're excited about student-led TWLOHA chapters on college campuses and we're excited about bringing MOVE Community Conferences to cities across the country. And something i'm personally super excited about is working to bring our message to the surfing community, which is something new for us in 2011.
8. Do you have any encouragement for someone coping with the issues TWLOHA hopes to tackle?
Talk to someone. Talk to a friend or a family member. You deserve to be known, to be loved. You deserve people who will help carry the weight, people who will walk alongside you. And sometimes we need help beyond what the friends around us can provide, sometimes we need professional help. That's something we believe in very much.
9. For someone hoping to get involved with TWLOHA, how can they get in on the action and make a difference with this program?
Check out the MOVE section of twloha.com - that section exists to answer the question "How can i get involved?" Everything from buying a t-shirt to joining our street team to moving to Florida to intern with us.
To Write Love On Her Arms