Project Valentine’s Day seeks to curb depression
By Mercedes Deutscher, News Editor
What started as a personal project for Jacquoline Martin two years ago has expanded to something larger, and now includes the DSU Focus Club.
Project Valentine’s Day, nameless prior to this year, was started in 2014 by Martin, who bought 50 roses to hand out to lonely individuals on Valentine’s Day. The goals of the project are to dispel loneliness and inspire others.
“I’ve been lonely in the past on Valentine’s Day and I wanted to change that for other people; I didn’t want anyone else to be lonely,” said Martin.
Martin also explained that #loneliness is one of the most frequently used hashtags in Metro Vancouver.
The project caught the attention of Martin’s current coordinator, Raymond Norton, who volunteered to help expand the project for this year.
“After I jumped on, I got my girlfriend involved to help design a website for us,” explained Norton. “She got someone else involved—a web programmer—to help build the site and a crowdfunding platform for us.”
The Focus Club has offered their assistance in fundraising and distribution. One of the project’s fundraisers involves a bottomless pancake breakfast on February 3. In addition, the DSU will be matching the proceeds raised at the breakfast.
Martin explained that as she mentioned the project to students around Douglas, the interest in volunteering has increased.
As well, a large portion of the project’s engagement is coming from social media. On top of their own website, the project now has accounts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. The project has two hashtags: #youareloved and #PVD2016.
The project is not only picking up momentum throughout the Lower Mainland, but also the world. Groups in Thailand and other parts of Asia are looking to pick up the movement in the future.
However, the project has faced some challenges, particularly with securing three separate locations and avoiding conflict with other events occurring on Valentine’s Day. For the moment, speculative locations include New Westminster and downtown Vancouver. Martin and Norton have been communicating with local MPs, MLAs, and city councilors to help reach a final location.
Martin and Norton hope to spread love outside of Valentine’s Day as well, by getting out into the community and helping people feel less lonely. One of the ways they wish to do this is by handing out Anti-Depression Kits. These kits contain symbolic items: a Hershey’s kiss, to symbolize love; a star, to tell the recipient that they are one; and an elastic band, should the stranger need one.
Another way is by emulating something similar to Humans of New York and the Stranger Project—talking with those in public and sharing those people’s thoughts and stories with others online.
Martin expressed gratitude to all those helping with the project thus far, and is optimistic in regards to the project’s success.
“We want to let people know that they’re not alone. That they’re loved. That someone is looking out for them,” Martin said.