Sara Szelagowski is the founder of Cleveland-based non-profit, Project White Butterfly. After the tragic death of her brother-in-law, Szelagowski decided to make a change in the lives of those struggling with addiction. PWB began in August of 2019 as a way to reach out and connect with substance use disorder in an approachable and supportive way. Sara, along with her passionate, part-time PWB partner — Jasmine Kochheiser — find themselves in the community almost daily to meet individuals struggling with substance use disorder where they are.
In recovery themselves, these two women know exactly the toll that substances take on the lives of those abusing them,. The strength it has taken for the both of them to get to where they are in their recovery journeys should be celebrated, and they look to help others find a similar path to health and healing.
They do this through their outreach efforts and through heartfelt postcards. They place cards of encouragement and recovery supplies like Narcan in various places around town in areas of large populations of those who abuse drugs. In addition to the years of community outreach, they recently out on an incredibly creative, visual experience event on the Westside of Cleveland.
Sara and Jasmine put on an inspiring and educational event at a local Recovery Community Organization (RCO) called Everything Recovery, in Rocky River, on June 24th. The two of them put in weeks of work in order to help the community better understand how addiction presents itself and can be a behavior that develops from many sources. Whether hereditary, environmental factors, learned habits, peer pressure, etc. these are all various sources that could lead down the path of substance use disorder.
This former-church-turned-RCO was filled with visual demonstrations and examples of how substance use disorder affects the lives of those suffering from it and their families. These visual representations were inspired by the current alarming statistics of addiction and substance use disorder. Each of them made by hand by Sara and Jasmine.
The creative twist brushed over the otherwise hard to swallow information of this disease was perfectly executed. Folks from the community were welcome to explore the exhibit at their own pace, all while collecting cups from each table that contained excerpts of a an story. At the end of the experience, the excerpts from this story are able to be pieced together–telling a potential substance use disorder journey from beginning to end.
The event was a wonderful display, easy to understand, and a great representation of the disease that so many suffer from. Sara and Jasmine plan to take the artwork and show it to other communities in order to spread their mission of helping as many people to understand the depth of this disease, and offer support to those in need.