An Interview With Tess And Locket Of Blossom Friendship
Tasha interviewed Tess and Locket of Blossom Friendship who met while studying law at Murdoch University. Tess currently works at the Department of Finance as a graduate, while Locket works at Landgate as a legal research officer graduate.
TB: Tell me about Blossom Friendship and how it started.
TESS: Locket and I both went to Murdoch Uni and we decided that we wanted to get involved with a number of different competitions. So, the first one we entered was the Young Gemstar Entrepreneurial Competition. This competition was looking at workshopping different kinds of social initiatives.
So we really thought, what can we do to improve the world? We focused in on how people at university really struggled to form friendships and make connections with other people and especially we found that this was to do with people that have disabilities. Originally our idea was really focused on this particular group of people, but then we did focus in more on other people that also go to Uni and also, because different to school, you’re not sitting here in a class together with the same people every single day. So it’s a lot harder to make friendships.
LOCKET: We were also inspired by people in our lives. Tess was inspired by her sister who has ADHD and I was inspired by one of my best friends who also has ADHD. Both just really wanted and were lacking genuine friendships. That’s something that we wanted to help them with.
The competition was really good in how there was workshops that provided support and mentorship and really helped us to shape our idea. We came in the top three, which was really awesome. So even though we didn’t win number one that’s okay, because we have more knowledge. We were still, like, super passionate about Blossom Friendship, so we took that on to our next competition.
TESS: We entered Think Big. It’s run by the Big Idea magazine. We continued on with the same sort of idea. We got a lot more mentorship along the way. A number of people at Murdoch Uni really helped with that. We finished semifinalists.
Then last year, our last year of Uni, we decided to put in an application for this program that Murdoch runs, it’s called Students as Change Agents in Learning and Teaching… SCALT for short. We entered this and got a spot. So again, the Uni actually provides a bit of funding and they want to be able to make your ideas, I guess, become a bit of a reality.
Our last year of Uni, we focused in on how can we actually make Blossom Friendship a reality. With the competitions, it was always just a bit of an idea, but it had never actually come about. Last year we held a couple of different events at Uni and really focused on getting a lot of different people to come along, the real key focus being around friendships and connections. We really wanted to get a diverse group of people to attend.
LOCKET: We’re really thankful for Murdoch University in providing the support and the funding. The events that we hosted were super successful, the first event that we hosted had about 100 students, which was an awesome turnout.
The second event, unfortunately, the theme was Spring, but on the day just, oh, the weather was shocking! It was raining so it was last minute running around, getting a marquee which luckily all worked out, but it definitely threw a wrench into the works. But the activities that we had at those events were super fun. We had painting on pot plants and they got to bring home their painted pot plant with a cute little succulent inside, which was very nice. And then other activities such as board games, online games which were from Jackbox games, and just lots of bits and bobs for free for people to really connect and form those friendships.
TESS: Our activities, we wanted to make sure people would sit together and they weren’t just doing it on their own so they would start those conversations. That was the key focus. It’s been really good and then since leaving Uni, as Locket says, Blossom Friendship came with us.
So alongside the SCALT program last year, we also applied for grant money through the City of Melville through this project called Project Robin Hood and it was fantastic. We put in an application and we got selected by the community within the City of Melville who vote on a number of different ideas, initiatives in the community. So, we’ve been able to continue on with Blossom because we still have a bit of funding from that as well.
TB: If I take you back to when you started with that first competition where the idea germinated. I’m just wondering, what is it about each of you and your experience that led you to even germinating the idea of Blossom in the first place?
TESS: My sister has grown up with autism and ADHD. I’ve seen the struggles that she’s had in terms of creating and forming meaningful friendships, relationships, connections with other people, but also going through uni. I’d describe myself as being quite a bubbly person, but even for me being at Uni, because you’re not always just in a class all the time with the same people, you’re always moving around, I would find it really difficult to start up conversation, maintain that friendship throughout uni.
I think it was really important for me to be able to help others who are in the same situation. I think more than that as well is studying psychology definitely had a bit to do with that. A bit of influence. I didn’t just want to do my degree, I wanted to do something that would really make an impact and have a difference to the Uni itself.
LOCKET: After graduating high school, I started uni at Murdoch, but none of the people from high school went to Murdoch and did the same degree as me. It was pretty much like a fresh start. I made friends quite easily but I saw that other people struggled. I was like, ‘Oh, that’s, that’s not good I want change that’, and I do admit, I love helping others, I’m very passionate about contributing to the community. I do volunteering stuff on Beyond Blue and Camp Quality and other bits and bobs and I saw this competition as a great way to, similar to Tess, contribute and be proactive at university.
TB: Whether it’s people like your sister and your friend who have some possible additional barriers there, or like you said, just even within yourself. Why is it so important to have positive social connections?
TESS: If you don’t have those social connections, it has just so many consequences. Without social connection, you are very lonely. It can lead to a lot of mental health problems and that then it leads to its own consequences. Just like you, you look after your physical health, you really need to look after your mental health as well. Friendship has so much to do with that. Having that support around you and just someone that you could talk to.
TB: In terms of the programs that you do with Blossom Friendship, what does it look like now?
LOCKET: At university we really targeted university students, but now that we both graduated and we’re out in the real world we recognise that the target audience is a bit more diverse. The age group is a bit higher, so we want to cater to meet those needs. It’s just a bit more mature, I guess, and just really going with what the community is interested in.
TESS: We recently had a catch up at a bar. We had about 40-ish people show up. We got a lot of positive feedback. It was good that there is a meetup thing like this, where people can just come along, they don’t have to know anyone, and they know that everyone in a way is kind of just looking and seeking those friendships. There’s no pressure to come, no pressure to have to stick around if you’re not enjoying yourself, but it provides that opportunity.
LOCKET: I think with our ages as well, and coming from Blossom Friendship, we’re not an organisation that’s trying to make a profit or whatever. I think that is a lot more welcoming to people that want to come.
TB: You’ve got a Facebook page. Is that where primarily you advertise events or is there some other way for people to connect with you?
LOCKET: The Facebook page is definitely our main area where we advertise.
TESS: And then also the Reddit forum as well.
TB: If I was interested in coming along to an event, but if I felt a bit nervous and I thought, ‘Oh, you know, I really want to build my social connections’, that’d be really good. But actually the idea of coming somewhere to a quiz night or somewhere where I don’t know anyone, I might feel really overwhelmed by that. Is there anything that you would suggest somebody do to try to work through those barriers?
LOCKET: You’re more than welcome to have a chat with one of us. I believe we’re both quite approachable people. So you’re more than welcome to send us a message through the Blossom Friendship Facebook page. Just be like, ‘Hey, I’m feeling a bit, I’d love to come, but I have some reservations’, and we’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, no worries. We’re happy to have a chat and hang out with you or you’re more than welcome to bring someone that you want to bring or anything that really makes you comfortable, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision. We can’t force you to do anything that you don’t want to do, but we’ll love you to be there.
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Photos: Blossom Friendship Facebook page