A South Florida-based nonprofit is in the midst of a new initiative designed to prevent bullying, suicide and violence.
The “Share the Care” campaign is driven by youth who are part of the National Voices for Equality, Education and Enlightenment (NVEEE) organization.
“We work with youth and young adults in many areas and one is providing education on bullying, maintaining good mental health, leadership, social justice and becoming up-standers instead of bystanders,” NVEEE founder Jowharah Sanders said. “And obviously LGBTQ+ support. A lot of the youth we work with are part of the gay community.”
“Share the Care” is an online guide directing people to resources related to the LGBT community, mental health, legal aid, homelessness, sexual assault, human trafficking, domestic violence, eating disorders, self-harm, substance abuse, COVID-19 and more. Youth leaders in its peace ambassador leadership program (PALP) and young adult advisory and leadership council (YALC) spearheaded the work.
Access to the guide is free and NVEEE’s youth leaders also created “Share the Care” stickers and window decals that are available for purchase on the website. Decal styles vary and feature a QR code that leads directly to the online resource catalog. The decals and stickers are meant to be used by anyone, including businesses, schools, sports teams and mental health providers. The initiative has attracted supporters like the Miami Dolphins through its Football Unites program.
Sanders established NVEEE in 2009 for very personal reasons. She said she was bullied in school — called an “Oreo” because she wasn’t “black enough.” Sanders was also bullied after questioning her sexual orientation at age 15. She said she’s also a survivor of a kidnapping and sexual assault.
“I was literally lost on the street trying to figure out what to do. I got to a safe place and ended up not going home — I was a runaway — afraid to talk to my parents because I felt like I did something wrong,” Sanders said.
She said she eventually attempted suicide and was placed in a hospital psychiatric ward for about a month.
“I met other kids who had the same sort of feeling, like you had nowhere to turn,” she said. “I didn’t think I was going to survive.”
The Mississippi-born Sanders grew up in Miami Gardens. She later attended the University of Miami where she would also seek counseling and receive therapy. Sanders now lives in the Oakland Park-Wilton Manors area as she has for many years.
She said a catalyst for “Share the Care” was the rise in mental health issues and emotional distress brought on by the pandemic. Sanders became aware that young people in particular were struggling. There was also youth who came out as transgender or gay and were being kicked out of their homes, she said.
“Some kids were in toxic households and their mental health was in a major decline,” Sanders said. “We connected them with virtual therapists and donated services throughout the pandemic. But our youth leaders said: ‘What about all the other kids who don’t know where to go?’”
The youth leaders spent about six months curating information and filling out spreadsheets with resources that fit into NVEEE’s mission.
“Being at home or just social distancing and all of the ways the pandemic impacted them — isolation, dealing with memories that came up that you didn’t have the time to deal with before, suicide ideation, relapse in self-harm or eating disorder — their mental health was declining at such a rapid rate,” Sanders said. “I want them to know that this is where you can go to find the help that you may be looking for and if it doesn’t help you, share it with someone else.”