Inspired by firsthand experience seeing what it was like to live with mental illnesses Annie Olsen started spreading tokens of aroha around Rotorua last year. She tells Shauni James what has happened since then and what's next.
Annie Olsen started to spread tokens of aroha around Rotorua in July of 2019, in the hopes others who felt alone would find them and know there were people who cared.
The tokens are small, homemade patchwork hearts with messages attached, which she started placing in public areas around town.
She also started a Facebook page - Sharing the Aroha Rotorua NZ - to spread her message and allow people to share their discoveries of the patchwork hearts.
Her son suffers from depression and anxiety and she works from home to ensure she can take care of him.
It was this insight that inspired her to spread the tokens in the hopes others who felt alone would find them and know there were people who cared.
Olsen said the spreading of tokens and aroha was going well, with touching messages coming in and exciting news of hearts being taken overseas.
The hearts are left in public areas where they will be found. They are not left in the likes of retail shops.
Olsen makes the hearts in her spare time and said the hearts only took a few minutes to cut out and sew together.
She said she had been hoping it would go down well and that she could do something for people, and it was great people were sharing the Facebook page.
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Olsen said she had been excited to see some patchwork hearts making it overseas.
One lady had said her heart was going back to Canada with her, another said to Vancouver and one to Minnesota.
"So they are getting out there which is really nice."
Olsen said there had been touching messages sent through about how the hearts had come to people at the right time.
"One lady had some bad news, had just come out of the toilet at the library and saw the heart and said it came at the right time."
She said a heart at QE Health was found by a woman who was having a bad day with pain.
"It really uplifted her positivity. It's nice to get those sorts of messages back.
"It just makes me feel awesome that it's working - it's hard to explain how this makes you feel.
"It makes me feel good making someone else feel good."
Olsen said she made 10 at a time and tried to get out once a week to distribute them, depending on the weather.
Places she had left hearts before included the mall, QE Health, Kuirau Park and the Lakefront.
She said she would be going out more to spread them during summer and she had made some Christmas and Halloween ones.
Olsen said she wanted to be able to keep it going and she had put the pattern on Facebook so anyone who wanted to join could.
She was going to Whangamata just after her interview with the Rotorua Daily Post and planned to spread some tokens there, as well as when she went camping down the coast.
"I'm just trying to spread it further afield."
She said a volunteer group for the Hamilton Polytech took a heap of tokens over there as well to put some out for her.