Nonprofit Spotlight: The Peace Pals Project

This Week on Sage Aging

<img src="thepeacepalproject.png.jpg" alt="sage aging podcast season 2 episode 4 nonprofit spotlight peace pals">This week we’re taking a little lighter approach to the mental health conversation because we recognize that sometimes it’s just connecting with someone else who understands and relates to your personal challenges that can provide exactly what you need.

You’re all familiar with in-person and virtual support groups and the value that they bring. They’re such a great outlet for plugging into a community of people who have similar challenges to yours.  Recently, I discovered a new nonprofit that’s also filling that gap in a really creative way and as soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted to share it with you. Listen to this episode to learn more or keep scrolling for the transcript.

My Guest

<img src="kristydaubethepeacepalproject.png.jpg" alt="Kristy Daube founder of The Peace Pals Project Sage Aging podcast season 2 episode 4">Kristy Daube is my guest in this episode of Sage Aging and she’s the creator of Peace Pals. Peace Pals is a project that joins people from around the world on real, everyday matters. You know, all of those things that leave you feeling really vulnerable and alone and frustrated. If you’ve ever uttered the phrase, “you just don’t understand,” then this is a conversation you’ll want to hear. To learn more about Kristy and Peace Pals, check the links section below.

What We Covered

Most of the time when we think about community, we think about the people who live close to us in the place that we call home. But community is much larger than that and in the digital age we live in the world gets smaller every day, so community can mean all kinds of different things, and Kristy, through Peace Pals, is building a big community of strength made up of people from around the globe. Here is what we discussed:

  • What is Peace Pals and why did Kristy create it
  • How to get or be a Peace Pal
  • Some success stories
  • Kristy’s suggested reading (see links below)
Links & Resources
Thanks for Listening!

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Transcript

Nonprofit Spotlight: Peace Pals

June 2021

Liz Craven: [00:00:00] The Sage Aging podcast is brought to you by Polk ElderCare  Guide. Your guide to all things, senior care and resources. Find the 2021 guide in English and Spanish at polkeldercare.com.

Welcome to the Sage Aging podcast. I’m your host, liz Craven. Sage Aging will connect you to information and resources. You need to navigate the aging and caregiving journey. I’ll bring you education, inspiration, amazing industry guests and caregivers spotlights to shed some light on the topics of aging information and resources can be so hard to find if you don’t know where to look, but don’t worry,

we’ve got you covered. So grab a cup of coffee, sit back and relax as we chat. Are you ready? Hit subscribe now and let’s get started.

Hello, and welcome to the Sage Aging podcast. Today, we’re going to be taking a little lighter approach to the mental health conversation, because we recognize that sometimes it’s just connecting with someone else who understands and relates to your personal challenges that can provide exactly what you need.

Now you’re all familiar with in-person and virtual support groups and the value that they bring They’re such a fantastic way, a great outlet for plugging into a community of people who have similar challenges to yours.  Recently, I discovered a new nonprofit. That’s also filling that gap in a really creative way and as soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted to share it with you.

Kristy Daube is my guest today and she’s the creator of Peace Pals. Peace Pals is a project that joins people from around the world on real, everyday matters. You know, all of those things that can leave you feeling really vulnerable and alone and frustrated if you’ve ever uttered the phrase, “you just don’t understand” then this is a conversation you’ll want to stick around for. To learn more about Kristy and Peace Pals, obviously listened to this episode, but also you can check out the blog post for this episode at sageaging.com or you’ll find a link to her in the show notes, which you can find on your favorite podcast app. Welcome to the show, Kristy Thanks for joining me.

Kristy Daube: [00:02:33] Hey, Liz. Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to be here today.

Liz Craven: [00:02:37] Well, I’m excited to have you. This is a great conversation.   Most of the time when we think about community, we think about the people who live close to us, right? All the people that are surrounding. us In, in the place that we call home, but community is much larger than that and in the digital age we live in we’re especially witnessing that on social media. So community can mean all kinds of different things and I really thought this resonated with our conversation today because you, through Peace Pals, you’re building a big community of strength on your own, in a space that is very different than what we’re experiencing right now.

Kristy Daube: [00:03:18] I think so, too. It’s amazing what you can do in the digital space now. When I started this, I didn’t realize how quickly this initiative would go global and it’s been really great to see how interconnected we all are despite our backgrounds and where we live and our race and our age. So I’m really excited about how it’s taken off  in a much bigger scale  than I had initially expected.

Liz Craven: [00:03:43] Well, Hey, why don’t we take a step back and let’s go back to the beginning. First, tell us a little bit about you.

Kristy Daube: [00:03:51] Sure. So I am originally from a small town called New Bedford, Massachusetts, but I now live outside of Atlanta, Georgia. I’ve been here for almost 15 years. I’m a mom of two and a wife. And as you introduced, I’m most recently the founder of a project that I’m really proud of Peace Pals. I’ve always had this innate feeling of helping others, but I couldn’t figure out what my calling was exactly. And that was until very recently. And I’m sure we’ll get into that soon. You see, I’m a communications specialist. And I’m not in the field of mental health, nor have I ever been, and it’s funny because this last week I was speaking with someone about this project and she called me fearless for starting something completely out of my realm of expertise.

And the thing is I’m not fearless. Is anyone truly fearless? I call it passion. What I’ve started is a passion of mine, and I think that passion trumps fear. So here I am and I’m ready to tackle. Mental health across the globe.

Liz Craven: [00:04:54] I love that. “Passion trumps fear.” That’s the quote of the day, for sure. I love that, but you’re right I think a lot of us find ourselves in the middle of the mental health conversation, and surely, neither one of us has any training in that arena, but we do have the ability to help to create awareness about it. And I think that what you’re doing with Peace Pals elevates the mental health conversation in the sense that it becomes acceptable to say, Hey, I need help, or I need support. And isn’t that one of the biggest barriers to people seeking mental health treatment?  It has to be acceptable to say in the first place I’m struggling with something.

I think that’s a big part of getting rid of the stigma is making it a conversation piece. That it’s okay for people to talk about. And I love that. I see that happening all over the globe and all over the digital online communities that it’s okay to say I’m not whole at the moment. And I could use a little support. And so though we are not directly connected to mental health in a professional manner. I think every single citizen is connected to mental health in the sense that it’s acceptable to speak up.

Kristy Daube: [00:06:18] You’re right. And I find that it’s a lot easier to speak up digitally than it might be in person. The digital world can be scary. There’s a lot of cyberbullying.  And that’s not okay in any way, but I also feel that if it’s done well and right, that it can be a safe space for a lot of people who might still be a little scared to talk about what they’re going through. I think that talking about any mental health condition that you’re going through is very brave and I know that a lot of people struggle with it, but I think that being able to do so in the digital world provides a more comfortable place for a lot of people because they can do so on their own and not face to face with someone, but still get that personal interaction that they need as a first step kind of move forward in their journey.

Liz Craven: [00:07:12] I agree with that completely and if you are a consumer of Tik Tok you know, that is absolutely the truth. I think that applications like Tik Tok and also Clubhouse are great spaces for people to start finding their voices. And it has been fascinating to me to see what people are willing to reveal in those spaces.

And frankly, although you can always find the bully in the crowd who’s going to say something ugly. I see communities rising up to support those who are speaking out. And so what you’re doing, Peace Pals really seems to be filling the gap on a more personal one-to-one level. So tell me more about Peace Pals. What exactly is that?

Kristy Daube: [00:08:02] Sure. So you explained it well in the beginning, it’s an initiative that joins people from around the world on things that can leave them feeling vulnerable and alone.  And how was that done? Well, it’s simple. So people will share their personal stories of struggle. And I will then facilitate connections between individuals who share similar experiences so that they can serve as peace pals. They can serve as new friends who will support and encourage one another with whatever they’re going through.

Liz Craven: [00:08:35] That’s really incredible. So what brought you to create peace pals? Obviously, there’s a personal story there.

Kristy Daube: [00:08:43] Peace Pals is a passion project. It started from my own personal journey with anxiety. It’s something I’ve dealt with my entire life and not just anxiety and stressful situations for me.  It comes in waves. Sometimes there’s a cause for it other times that persistent, intense worry, it just decides to follow me around for the day and growing up and even into adulthood.

I’ve never really known anyone that struggled with it to the level that I did. And like so many mental health issues, not many people spoke of it. So I hid my feelings as best as I could. And when the day was over, I would let them consume me alone. in silence And that’s until I realized that ignoring the issue was only making it worse. So one day, not too long ago, I thought I can’t make the only one who feels this way. And how can I change that? And that’s when the idea behind Peace Pals was born.

Liz Craven: [00:09:39] What a great idea too. And I can tell you from personal experience with a family member that your struggle with anxiety is very real.  I think most of us experience anxiety more than we’d care to admit, but most of us have found ways to cope with it, but I think elevating that conversation and bringing that to the surface will allow for people to cope with it much sooner than before and not, like you did, hide with it on your own. And just think this is my issue. I’ve got to deal with it. I’ve got to figure it out and recognize that it’s okay to speak up about that.

Kristy Daube: [00:10:19] That’s right. And I think that no matter what it is, anxiety just happens to be my issue that I struggle with, but there are so many others. Really tough times that people are going through and I feel like a lot of them will suffer through those emotions in isolation.  I don’t think that it’s healthy and I just don’t want to see people going through that anymore because when you’re stuck in your own head, it can become a very dangerous place to be.

Liz Craven: [00:10:47] Yes. And it’s no secret that loneliness and isolation are a big, big problem, especially coming off of this pandemic. And as it relates to older adults and their caregivers, that isolation was taken to an extreme, we probably haven’t seen in our society in my lifetime. Anyway, it was horrific for some people. You had those who might have been living by themselves already and all of a sudden, the weekly bingo that they went to, or the senior center activities that they were enjoying were suddenly taken from them and they were by themselves. Or you find a caregiver who on a weekly basis may have been going to practice some self-care and maybe they’re going to the gym or maybe coffee with a friend and all of the things that they were using to cope with their own situation were all of a sudden taken away, and that really has created so many problems. And from some of the conversations I’ve had with some folks in the mental health field, that has been one of the largest issues that people have faced throughout the last year.

Kristy Daube: [00:12:00] That’s exactly the right. And we’re seeing it more and more every day. And we just need to find a way to, to combat that. And I think that Peace pals does a good job of alleviating those feelings. It was created to cultivate compassion and to combat loneliness. And it does that in two ways.

First by reading the stories on our feed they include narratives of depression, eating disorder, chronic illnesses, loss and so much more. And people from around the globe can read those and quickly realize that they aren’t alone in their journeys of struggle, whatever it might be, and I found that 99% of the stories that have been shared also end with something positive. So now. there’s hope.

The second way that Peace Pals can help alleviate the feelings of loneliness and isolation is through the connections that we make. So once two people are connected, they now become new friends who can provide solitude to one another in the times of the struggle and who can celebrateprogress and successes together. It’s such an important mission to me because if we can just help those people who like you described are not going to bingo anymore, are not going out for coffee are not doing, whatever it is that was helping them in whatever way it was either connecting with people or just getting the self-care. I think that that Peace Pals can, can kind of bring that back to them, but of course, you know, with COVID in a safer way.

Liz Craven: [00:13:29] Agreed. Now you mentioned a feed, you were talking about your Instagram feed, right?

Kristy Daube: [00:13:35] I was, yes, we are @peace_pals  on Instagram.

Liz Craven: [00:13:40] Awesome. And that will also be included in the blog post and show notes. And I’d encourage you to go visit her page because it’s really terrific and you will feel uplifted after you’ve gone through there to see some of what people are saying.  So what are some of the most common issues that you’re seeing for older adults who are contacting you and reaching out.

Kristy Daube: [00:14:02] When you mention older adults, I’m immediately taken to the stories that involve caregiving. And it’s no surprise that being a caregiver is especially trying and isolation is actually known to be one of the most challenging things about caring for a loved one. Followed by stress. The majority of the caregiver stories I’ve received so far surround dementia and as many of you know, that’s the condition that causes forgetfulness and limited social skills, and someone suffering from it typically requires around-the-clock care. And while each of the stories that I’ve received around caregiving differ, they each share commonalities at the core, and those are loneliness, grief, and devotion. And the loneliness stems from that selflessness that it takes to be a caregiver putting their needs aside to help their loved one. I would say that based on the stories I’ve received, grief follows, and that’s just from watching their loved ones decline. But despite the difficulties that have come from caring for loved ones, it’s been heartwarming to read how grateful each of our storytellers are because they all have been so, thankful for the opportunity to give back to a family member that once cared for them.

Liz Craven: [00:15:23] I can relate to that completely. My husband and I have provided care for several of our parents. It is tough and let me tell you, you do feel lonely and you do feel isolated and you feel overwhelmed. Completely overwhelmed. However, having said that, I have to say that some of the most beautiful moments that I’ve had in my life have been during that time of caregiving and some of the most pure and amazing conversations happened while caring for our parents.

And so, it is something that you can find the beauty in, but when you’re in the middle of it, it’s very difficult to see that just because you’re overwhelmed. So I am not at all surprised that those are the types of things that people are writing in about. And so have you been able to pair some people up? I’d love to hear some of the success stories surrounding that.

Kristy Daube: [00:16:21] I have. So, illness, dementia that causes confusion and isolation for both the suffer and the caregiver actually joined two strangers. I want to say about six weeks ago, who actually live a thousand miles away from each other. One woman witnessed her grandmother’s decline with dementia years ago, and now she works with adults and families who are also affected by the condition.

And the other woman is currently caring for her mother. Who experiences, memory loss and other thinking abilities as a result of dementia, she’s doing that full time. And now they actually can lean on each other during the days when Amy May feel down or distant from others. And I think this was a really great introduction because they will also benefit from the combination of their personal and professional experiences as they each navigate their respective responsibilities.

Liz Craven: [00:17:15] So how does this work? You match somebody up and how do they begin to communicate and do you then step back and let them take it from there? Or do you stay involved somehow?

Kristy Daube: [00:17:26] I do. So there’s a couple of way of being connected to a peace pal. Since I’m very close to each story. When I come across similar experiences, I will reach out to both individuals and I’ll ask them if they would be open to virtually meeting someone who has a story that’s similar to theirs. Once they confirm I make the introduction either via email or direct message on Instagram and then I step back and let them build that relationship.

I do check in from time to time because I do feel very connected to the people who share their stories. And I like to check in and see how they’re doing, how their family members are doing. But I don’t. Communicate with them as a group. I keep it individual. Another way is for someone to reach out to me and ask to be connected to someone.

Not long ago, I actually had a woman in Ireland reach out to me with part of her story. She said she wasn’t ready to share it yet, but she really liked the program and she wanted a peace pal. If the opportunity presented itself, and sure enough, about a month later I came across a story from someone who did share here in the United States, very similar, and I connected them together. So there’s that global connection, that I talked about earlier.

Liz Craven: [00:18:41] Yeah.  Do they tend to stay in fairly close touch? Like how often do they communicate or have any of them even met in person?

Kristy Daube: [00:18:51] I don’t think any of them have met in person. And I touch base with them from time to time just to see how the connections are going. And I’ve had all positive feedback. Some people will say. You know, we haven’t connected as much as we would’ve liked because of our schedules, but we still keep in touch and we follow each other and we check in from time to time.

So I think it really all depends on the situation and the people, but it’s been very successful.

Liz Craven: [00:19:21] I love the whole thing. I just think any way that we can connect with others is a positive thing because I think it also takes that digital connection to a different level because though most of this is virtual, there’s still a really personal element to it. And that makes a big difference, especially when you’re talking about something that is a personal issue for you.

Kristy Daube: [00:19:46] It is. And one of the last people that I connected, when I introduced them, they had kept me on the email chain for a little bit and they set up a zoom call for just a couple of days later, which I thought was great.  It’s so much better than just sending direct messages or text messages to each other. Now they get to see each other. So, you know, it’s, it’s what could be better than that.

Liz Craven: [00:20:08] Right. Oh, it’s a true connection. I saw a video recently about two women who had become pen pals like 60 years ago. Yes, it was incredible. And they have been writing to one another best friends via their pen pal activity but had never met in person before. And their granddaughters made arrangements to introduce them. And it was a big surprise. It was the most beautiful video. Yes. This reminds me of that. People connecting in a very personal way, sharing their lives with each other from afar. And I would love to see down the road how some of the follow-up on this works, because I bet there are going to be some incredible unions at some point.

Kristy Daube: [00:20:57] Oh, I hope so. I hope so.

Liz Craven: [00:20:59] Yeah. So how does one get a peace pal? They reach out to you or they share their story via your Instagram.

Kristy Daube: [00:21:09] Yes. To become a peace pal, they can either send me an email to mystory@peacepals.org or they can visit peacepals.org where they can share their story upload photos. Also we’re on Instagram, as I had mentioned before. #peace_pals and my DMS are always open for messages too. So that’s another way to reach me.

Liz Craven: [00:21:32] Okay. Great. And so that goes for someone who wants to either be, or have a peace pal.

Kristy Daube: [00:21:39] That’s right.

Liz Craven: [00:21:40] Okay. Terrific.  I hope that people will go and visit this. And I hope that if you’re somebody who has the ability to support somebody else in any way, whether it has to do with caregiving or parenting or any other issue, I hope that you’ll reach out and be a peace pal because it’s just another way that we can support one another and be part of that big, larger community.

Kristy Daube: [00:22:09] I would love that. I would love that we will take all the stories and all the peace that we can get from everyone.   When I first started this, I thought, what can I name this? And peace just came to mind and I thought, well, everybody needs to feel peace, right? When we’re going through something that’s all we want, we want to feel a little peace.

We want some hope, so bring your stories and let’s just build this community.

Liz Craven: [00:22:33] What are some of your favorite stories?

Kristy Daube: [00:22:36] Oh my goodness. Like I said before, a lot of the stories just end with something positive. So someone could be going through the toughest time and yet they still pull themselves up and. Do something good? There was one man who lost his very young son to cancer.  Those are the stories that are hardest I think for me is loss and children and he now he runs to remember, he started an organization called Run To Remember, and he’s in Belgium, but he’s been everywhere and he’s actually preparing to run a race in Africa soon. So he does that in memory of his son.

Liz Craven: [00:23:14] Oh, wow. I can’t imagine losing a child, even though my children are grown. I still can’t imagine doing life without either one of them.

Kristy Daube: [00:23:25] It’s inspiring. It is really inspiring to see how someone can pull themselves up through their darkest moments and shine a light, for the world, really. And for him to share his story was wonderful because we’ve also had at least three others who have shared about loss of children too.

So, I think it’s really important to connect people who might be struggling with something that, that hard, and it doesn’t diminish what other people are going through. But those are just personally for me are the toughest ones to read. So, when I can help those people, it really warms my heart.

Liz Craven: [00:24:01] Have you had any situations of unexpected matches?  You know, on the surface, two people might not be the best match for each other, you know, on paper, but you find a match that just truly worked.

Kristy Daube: [00:24:15] Just the other day I had posted a story about a woman who has chronic kidney disease. And I didn’t expect the amount of comments that I got on it. And someone that I had also just met days prior said, oh my goodness, I donated a kidney to someone and she connected us with that person.

So I didn’t even have a connection in mind. It kind of just happened organically. And all these people started coming in saying, well, my husband has chronic kidney disease and he’s had a transplant and it was just, I didn’t expect it. It was within minutes, people were commenting and now we have a potentially a connection between someone that wasn’t even on my platform that I didn’t know of that, was linked and brought into the conversation. So, I thought that was really cool.

Liz Craven: [00:25:05] The magic of social media. That’s incredible.

Yeah. Just throw it out there into the universe and somebody will respond. I love, love, love, love, love that. Well, as we wrap up our conversation, do you have any favorite resources and this might link back to your own situation truly that you can point listeners to, you know, like books or websites or videos, just resources that people can plug into as it relates to finding peace within themselves.

Kristy Daube: [00:25:39] I do. I actually have two books that I’m really loving. One is my favorite of all time.  It’s called “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. He was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon, and he was diagnosed with and died from pancreatic cancer in I believe it was 2008 and in his book, he writes short stories of his childhood and lessons that he wants his children to know and he stresses that one should have fun and all that they do, and to live life to the fullest.

It’s inspiring and it’s heartbreaking at the same time, but the life lessons that he shares about doing the right thing and focusing on fundamentals, finding the good in people being honest, working hard, all of those stories were just extremely inspirational to me, especially since it was written in his dying days.

It’s what he wanted to leave behind. So that’s a book that I encourage anyone. You know, like I said, it is heartbreaking, but it is so inspiring and it really is a feel-good book. And it makes you think about things in a different way. The last book that I read was titled “Alone In Plain Sight.” I just finished that one about two weeks ago, it’s by someone named Ben Higgins, and in it Ben shares how he found authentic connection with himself and with others, and also with God.

And he explores ways to understand ourselves so that we’re free to connect with others. He also discovers how essential these connections with other people really are. And as you can imagine, this really resonated with me, given my current mission to connect people in this effort to combat loneliness.

Liz Craven: [00:27:20] That was very interesting. The one thing that stuck out to me as you were talking about that book is the ability to be open to connecting and wow, isn’t that something that is powerful because if we’re not open to connecting, we will sit alone in silence.

Kristy Daube: [00:27:39] Right. And that’s not what we want. That’s not what I want for anyone.

Liz Craven: [00:27:44] Right. Wow. Well, you’ll find links to both of those books in the show notes and blog posts. So if you’re interested in those, do not worry about having to jot that down. Well, Kristy, thank you for taking the time to share with me today. This has been a really great conversation and I’m so proud of you for stepping up and taking a personal situation and turning it into something that would benefit so many other people.

Kristy Daube: [00:28:09] Thank you so much. It was such an honor, to be here and to just let your listeners know about peace pals. And I hope that it can bring them hope and that they can check out the page and feel inspired by all the stories.

Liz Craven: [00:28:25] I’m certain they will, you are shining a bright light. And I, I personally appreciate that.

Kristy Daube: [00:28:31] Thank you.

And thank all of you for listening. Liz Craven: [00:28:34] Talking about mental health is really important. And I think by bringing the conversation to the surface, we can start to chip away at the stigma that’s associated with mental health.

The truth is that we all need a little help and support at some point in our lives. And we should never have to hide from that. Instead, we should be able to openly embrace it and learn from it. Did you learn something today? Well, I sure hope so. And if you did, I’d like to challenge you to share the Sage aging podcast with someone else who might benefit from what we’re delivering.

If you’re enjoying Sage Aging, let’s get social look for our daily posts on Instagram and Facebook. And Hey, did you know that you can get the Sage aging podcasts sent straight to your inbox? Super easy to do. Just go to sageaging.com and scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page and you can put your email address in there to subscribe.

Thanks again for listening friends. We’ll talk real soon.

 

 

Liz Craven

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As I’ve been preparing to launch this podcast I’ve enjoyed revisiting stages of my own life and reflecting on how this topic became such a passion for me. While I’ve built my career on helping older adults and their families connect to needed education and resources, my connection to the aging and care process goes much deeper.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my own multi-generational family living together in one home. I was 4 or 5 when my grandmother moved into our home to help care for my sisters and I while our parents worked. Soon after, her father and grandfather moved in as well. We had 5 generations living under one roof! That was a beautifully chaotic adventure and knowing what I know now, I have so much respect for what my parents and grandmother did.

Fast forward to age 24. Newly married and pregnant with our first child, I spent several months with my in-laws to help care for my husband’s grandmother who had Alzheimer’s. Fast forward again to about 2009 – Wes and I have two teenagers about to head to college and his mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years later, my mother is diagnosed with cancer. Several years after that Wes’ stepdad is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and his father is suffering from severe dementia. You can see where this is going right? For the better part of the last 10 years we have been the caregivers. We see it as an honor and privilege to have been able to do that for our parents.

The key to navigating our later years is being proactive about gathering information before we get there and staying engaged once we do. To be sage is to be wise. There is wisdom in taking the time to ask questions, seek solutions and know your options before the need arises.

Each week we will discuss relevant topics of aging with experts who can help us to understand and be better prepared for aging. We’ll also introduce you to some Sage Agers who are totally owning their journeys through life. No topic will be off limits and we will deliver open and honest conversation meant to educate and empower our listeners. Each episode will also be available in video and blog formats.

Whether you are proactively seeking to broaden your own knowledge, a caregiver for a loved one or a professional working in the aging care industry, this podcast is for you. We hope you will join us as we explore and celebrate Sage Aging.