The founder of Gather, Olivia Jackson is one of those women.
I had the privilege of meeting with Olivia recently, and hearing more about what made her start Gather. An Auckland based seasonal event, Gather provides a chance for women from all walks of life to connect, be nourished, and encouraged.
We’re beyond excited to be supporting Olivia and her Gather family for the upcoming Autumn event (Wednesday 29th March, 7:30 pm – since you asked).
Olivia: I had been mulling over a question that had been gnawing at me for the past few years. That question being, “where do the women go to get nurture?” When I say nurture I’m meaning a sense of considered care, a place of belonging and engagement in who they are and where they find themselves in life.
I had been searching for a place to connect with other women. A safe space to share honestly with one another, a time in which women can critically think about and wrestle with issues that aren’t always easy to discuss.
Perhaps I wasn’t looking thoroughly enough but I struggled to find a space as I described above. Thus I began to imagine what it could be like to create and foster something of the like. As my ponderings quickly developed into an idea, I followed where the notion lead me. What emerged and began to take shape was the concept of Gather.
It has been a vulnerable but entirely worthwhile venture. I tell myself I’d rather keep going forward with Gather and fall flat on my face, then not attempt it at all, because if one woman comes along and feels welcome, nourished and encouraged then it’s all worth it for me.
Olivia: The feedback about the first Gather event blew me away! Amongst the heartwarming encouragement two threads emerged that really stood out to me. A big and really amazing one being – “I don’t feel alone” and secondly, in the sharing of honestly-lived experiences, it gave women permission to talk about things they may have kept hidden, buried or felt like they couldn’t say. Thus then to be able to speak and own their truth, to trust that their voice is valid and valuable, to hold space and support one another and to seek professional help where needed.
Olivia: I can only speak from my perspective based out of my own experiences and limited knowledge, but I think there are several reasons why it can be hard to talk about.
I think the vulnerability in sharing one’s struggles with depression and mental health issues, aside from being extremely exposing, can sadly be perceived as weakness, failure, burdensome and shameful.
Suffering from depression and mental health issues is not comfortable or pleasant. It’s not easy to wrestle with and endure, it’s not easy to confront, journey through and battle – and it’s not easy for some people to hear about, engage in or understand.
To engage with someone who confides his or her troubles requires more from us. It forces us to look at another’s pain and struggle and calls for a deeper response.
It;s hard to talk about pain, it’s hard to sit with grief, it’s hard to swim in sadness and it’s hard to navigate fear. Because although there are definitely things that can help, a lot of the time there’s no quick fix or suitable band-aid that will make it all better. More often than not, it’s a process that takes time.
I think a key thing is that people need to feel safe and received to talk about, work through, learn about, begin to understand and come to terms with things like depression and mental health.
Olivia: My vision and dream for Gather is that it would be an opportunity for women from all walks of life to come together and connect. A time to hear other women share honestly from their life stories and experiences through narrative, panel discussion, and creative expressions such as music, poetry and film. A time that holds truth, holds grit, holds hope and holds women together. In faith that what is offered in that space and time will truly nourish and encourage women. That they, in turn, will go out into their lives with something, even if a small something to consider, perhaps question, mull over or come to know, value, or love about themselves, each other and the world around them. All the while having a few treats and no doubt a laugh!
Olivia: My formal training is in Graphic Design, which has come in handy as I was able to design the Gather website and shape the visual identity. I really enjoy the creative side of the process. But I have no prior history in event planning or coordination aside from organising my wedding, which was seven years ago! I jumped in the deep end with Gather and have been learning a truckload as I go. I’ve been very fortunate to be able to glean wisdom and acquire help from some incredible women, which I’m very thankful for!
Olivia: If you’re keen to support, come along to the upcoming Autumn Gather event on March the 29th and find out in person what it’s all about. It’s going to be a wonderful evening and I’d love to have you there! Tickets are available at www.autumngather.eventbrite.co.nz (*we are charging purely to cover costs, not for profit.)
It would be great to reach more women and spread the word about Gather. We have a Facebook page that you can like and share. https://www.facebook.com/gathernz/
I’d also love to hear from women in regards to what topics they are interested in hearing about and engaging in. As well as what musicians, artists, creatives, poets, academics, or guest speakers they would like to see, hear from or listen too. Feel free to email me in regards to this at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you want to know more check out the Gather website www.gather.org.nz
If that’s not convincing enough, I feel privileged enough to be sharing the stage with her, and would love to see some familiar faces, especially because we’ll be getting real, honest and open about disappointment, heartbreak and hope (and I may need a cheeky Salted Caramel and Cashew afterwards, and that tub can NEVER be finished by just one person!)
Tickets available here: www.autumngather.eventbrite.co.nz