Rotorua woman Annie Olsen has seen firsthand what it's like to live with mental illnesses that make you feel isolated, lost and unloved.

Her son suffers from depression and anxiety and she works from home to ensure she can take care of him.

It's this insight that has inspired her to spread tokens of aroha around Rotorua in the hopes others who feel alone will find them and know there are people who care.

The tokens are small, homemade patchwork hearts with messages attached, which she started placing in public places around town last weekend.


Olsen has also started a Facebook page, Sharing the Aroha Rotorua NZ, to spread her message.

"I'm just going to leave them around different places for people to find, and hopefully brighten their day and make them a bit happy.

"Everybody has a bad day. Sometimes we just need to know there are people out there that care."

Olsen had already heard from someone who had picked up one of the hearts last weekend.

She received a photo of the heart and a message which said: "Found this little gem in a phone box, going back home to Auckland, may drop it off somewhere on the way."

Olsen makes the hearts in her spare time when she is not making warm clothing for the homeless, which she donates to Love Soup.

She said the hearts only took a few minutes to cut out and sew together - "it keeps me busy".

She said the hearts would be left in public areas where they would be found. They would not be left in the likes of retail shops.


"Hopefully every weekend I will start placing them, and it doesn't matter who finds them.

"Hopefully it will just spread the love throughout New Zealand and maybe even overseas."

She encouraged people to get in contact through the Facebook page if they found one of the hearts, but people did not have to.

It would be great if people wanted to make some themselves and put them out where they lived, she said.

"If I can make someone happy it makes me feel good.

"I'm looking forward to seeing how far it goes and it would be brilliant to see how far these will travel."