The Elfenworks Foundation's Breathing Butterfly project uses a simple butterfly metaphor to provide those of all ages with simple and straightforward tools to help deal with stress in a healthy manner known as MBSR (mindfulness based stress reduction). MBSR has been shown to build resilience and improve outcomes. Our Breathing Butterfly prompts one to take a deep breath, when the butterfly opens its wings, and to breathe out when the butterfly closes them again. The coping skills we teach, while they cannot address the underlying situation, at least allow those some protection against the psychological and physical effects of acute and chronic stress. So, in a sense, we are attempting to "inoculate" against some of the more harmful effects that stress can produce. We learn that, while they may not be able to control the environment, they do have some power over their response to it.
Our strategy is to empower the field practitioner to work with others in their mother tongue. We do this by creating these useful tools in as many languages as we are able. Field practitioners can feel comfortable with our tools, because English versions exist for each.
We have developed an entire suite of tools based on the Butterfly metaphor, to help with various aspects of psychological issues including: mindfulness based stress reduction; addressing diversity and being special; addressing change; control and mastery; and creativity and care. We post our tools on the web for practitioners to use. On request, we can create a burned CD of the tools as well.
We originally envisioned our Butterfly Project partnering with homeless shelters, but a friend of ours who had cancer led us to discover that children experience stress in a wide variety of settings. Children in cancer wards, and in burn wards, could definitely benefit from these exercises. Then we came to the profound 'aha!' moment... ALL kids experience stress! Of course! Every last one of them! Why didn't we think of that, earlier?
Partnership is a key pillar in the methodology we follow, as social entrepreneurs. We welcome caring adults as partners from all areas of the helping professions, including teachers, health care providers, social services, and anyone else who'd be interested in helping children cope more effectively with stress.
We have taken the Breathing Butterfly into schools, and shared it on cancer walks with parents and healing professionals. We've taken it to the East Coast, and taught Lasallian Volunteers how to share it with the youths they mentor. We're always open to new ways of getting the word out. If you are interested in partnering with us, we would love to hear from you. We are especially interested in studying the effects of the Butterfly project and garnering feedback to make it more effective.