By Youth Advisory Board Member, Aleesha Sheikh
It all started with one simple goal. How can I do something to give back to my community, while enjoying what I do? I then proceeded to brainstorm several ideas, and formulated “The Power of a Sandwich.” I planned on buying the ingredients from a local grocery store, assembling sandwiches with my friends, and then donating them to food banks and homeless shelters. I had everything planned out including the social media page, logo, packaging, and budget. I had even spoken to my friends and family about what I thought was an incredible idea.
However, the excitement diminished quickly when I spoke to an owner of a food bank only to realize that no facilities would be comfortable with accepting homemade sandwiches. I felt defeated, because I had grown attached to the concept and felt that I would finally be able to give back to my community. So how is a failed sandwich story related to my art organization? The answer is, the aspect of failure.
I had failed with an idea that I thought would be wonderful. I was now back at square one because it seemed that all my ideas were running into roadblocks. But then it came to me. What if I could find a way to apply my pre-existing hobbies to society in a beneficial way? I knew I loved art, and I also knew that I loved volunteering with non profit organizations in my community. I have also always been passionate about advocacy and activism for important social causes. I simply connected all my passions together and I was finally able to create my new goal.
I utilised my passion for art to start an organization called, HEARTWORK. The pursuit of HEARTWORK is to bring awareness to non-profit organizations that are making a difference in my community. I had previously volunteered with these organizations when I began to notice the barriers that they were facing in expanding their community programs, and delivering their core mission. Thus, I decided to create and donate meaningful pieces of art that portray their impact, while publicizing the organization on social media.
Now to clarify, I am far from a professional artist. I had basically started an entire art charity, when I truly was only an amateur. I found my head filling up with doubts again. My art was not good enough, and I felt displeased and frustrated with all of my work. I often had to restart pieces several times. But the passion was there, because regardless of my organization, I knew I loved to paint, and that is the beauty of a hobby. Whether you are good or bad, you love doing it, so why not turn it into something bigger?
Since then HEARTWORK has donated art to Wellspring’s Cancer Rehabilitation Centre, Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada, Oakville’s Women Shelter, and several more non profits. HEARTWORK has recently donated cards to Aiza’s Teddybear Foundation, and to the Ronald McDonald House in Hamilton. I have also done my very first piece for an out of province organization named BOLT Safety Society that provides a support network for individuals who are victims of domestic violence.
I never anticipated that I was capable of making a difference in my community by simply expanding on my favourite past time. Turning a hobby that you truly enjoy into something bigger can be one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of your life. Anything that is successful- whether it be a business or a charitable organization, requires skill and devotion, and your hobby provides this for you.
I invite you to turn your hobby into something bigger using the following steps:
- Embrace failure; it leads to the best ideas
- Think about your hobbies/passions and how they can be applied to society
- Develop a goal
- Take advantage of social media to create your platform
- Use your passion as motivation to keep going