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Stop and spread the roses

These Houston women are seeking to spread joy throughout their community—no more, no less. | Courtesy of Michelle Alvarez

Something as simple as a rose can change a life.

It may seem insignificant, but as Give a Rose campaign director Michelle Alvarez has learned, the little things often become the big things.

Alvarez’s impact started with a question: how can she uplift women in the Houston area? She was sitting at her work desk one day when the idea came to her.

She decided that the best way to accomplish this goal was to distribute light pink roses, symbols of appreciation and gratitude, to women around Houston, while also reminding them of their worth, beauty and importance in the community.

And so, the Give a Rose campaign was born. Alvarez acted quickly.

“If I was going to do this, I wanted to make the biggest impact possible. Go big or go home, right? This is why I entered the unfamiliar world of crowd funding, which really catapulted our campaign,” Alvarez said.

The campaign’s IndieGoGo page called for the funding of 400 roses, approximately $600 in value, which were to be passed out to randomly selected women across Houston.

To help kick start her campaign, Alvarez contacted some friends and set up a meeting to discuss her idea.

“I remember working at the mall, standing on my feet for hours, and a man came up to me and delivered a rose,” said Andrea Savala, who works in Volunteer Outreach for the campaign. “(The man) said, ‘This is from a person who has been noticing your hard work and wants to let you know you are appreciated.’ Just that little rose made my day. So when Michelle told me about the idea, it brought me back to that day and I just figured if one person’s day could be made better by doing this, then we will make a difference.”

Others fell in love with Alvarez’s vision as well — the campaign ended up being more than fully funded, and they raised $727, or 121 percent more than their original goal. The group was thrilled.

On May 24, 2014, Alvarez and other volunteers ventured out into Houston to “change the world one rose at a time.” They passed out 175 roses at each stop, traveling to Almeda Mall, Gulfgate Mall, Hermann Park and Rice Village.

Attached to each rose were different words of encouragement. A few of the selections are listed below:

“You are more powerful than you know; you are beautiful just as you are.” – Melissa Etheridge

“Never underestimate the power of a woman.” – Nellie McClung

“In your own life, it’s important to know how spectacular you are.”

“A woman is the full circle. Within her is the power to create, nurture, and transform.” – Diane Mariechild

Along with the roses and words of encouragement, volunteers made sure to verbally encourage the women to “pay it forward” as well by giving the rose to someone they felt was underappreciated.

“Paying it forward is such a simple and yet crucial part of development in our community. For the college students reading this, never forget where you came from and never forget who has helped you along the way. At every stage in your development, there is someone five steps behind you that needs your knowledge. By paying it forward, we can fill the gap in our communities and increase the success rate of our not-so-distant peers,” Alvarez said.

To everyone’s surprise, the reactions of rose recipients were mixed at first; they were quite hesitant to take a rose.

“Women were shocked, surprised, in disbelief, touched, confused… Almost all of them could not believe that we were just a random group of people that had come together to show appreciation for women. They kept asking us what organization we were with, if we were asking for donations, ‘what’s this for’, ‘is it free?’ It was really eye-opening. Have we really turned so into ourselves that it is so difficult to believe that a complete stranger would care enough about us to simply say so?” Alvarez said.

Many even were worried that they would have to pay for them or make a donation.

“It made me realize how gestures of kindness are so rare in our everyday lives,” Savala agreed.

As time went on, walls came down, and people even began to reach out to give volunteers hugs!

“The person that has stayed in my memory would have to be a mother. She received our rose and felt so moved that she asked our group to look for her daughter nearby because she felt that she could really use the words of encouragement. The mother had told us that her daughter had been battling an illness and had spent some days in the hospital while doctors were trying to find a diagnosis. She mentioned her daughter had been feeling down and thought it we could just give her the rose that it could make her day better,” said Irene Hernandez, Lead Volunteer Coordinator of the Give a Rose campaign.

A special moment for Alvarez occurred when she encountered a woman taking photos of her son on graduation day.

“In a moment when she was celebrating the accomplishments of her son, we celebrated her. It was beautiful,” Alvarez said.

Overall, the project was very successful. Alvarez and others involved were proud of their efforts.

“We should do more to empower our fellow women,” Hernandez said. “We should not be afraid to approach the women in our lives — or even strangers — and give them appreciation for everything they do, not just on a holiday or birthday. Too often people lose sight of the important things in life because they are too consumed. It’s amazing how a small gesture of kindness can change another person’s life. We should all go out there and do it.”

While all 700 roses were passed out and volunteers eventually went back to their homes, the campaign did not stop there.

“We accomplished what we set out to do and now it’s about sharing our message so that others might be inspired to do something similar in their communities,” Alvarez said.

You can get involved in the Give a Rose campaign in the following ways:

  • Share the Give a Rose video on social media.
  • Create your own versions of the Give a Rose campaign in your community (Alvarez is more than happy to give anyone guidance).
  • Get the word out on Twitter and use #Givearose to make some noise about the campaign.

“We are the leaders of our own lives,” Alvarez said. “Yes, some of us have tougher paths than others, but ultimately it is up to us to make the decision to better ourselves and help others do the same. I believe that we were made to do more than just survive and we have the tools at our disposal to thrive and be the change the world needs to see.”

“The best way to empower anyone is through positive reinforcement,” Alvarez said. “We are sometimes our biggest roadblock because we allow ourselves to believe the negative things that others say about us. How will we accomplish great things if we do not believe that we can do it? It’s time to put an end to that and reclaim our confidence.”

For more information on the Give a Rose campaign, check out their IndieGoGo page and watch their YouTube video, which you can find below.

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1 Comment

  • Wonderfully uplifting article! Blessings to the women involved in this project and to those paying it forward!

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