How a sisterly connection and passion for service led to the road trip of a lifetime.

Sisters Lindsey and Lee Ellen Fulmer were hundreds of miles apart when they came up with the same idea at the exact same time.

Back in 2014, Lindsey was about to begin her internship for a missions ministry in Oklahoma when she started thinking about traveling across the country and volunteering at different nonprofits.

"I didn't mention it to anyone, and I kind of just put it on the back burner," says Lindsey.


Lindsey (left) and Lee Ellen Fulmer. All images via Project Wave, used with permission.

At the same time, Lee Ellen was wrapping up her degree in elementary education in their hometown in South Carolina. She, too, was thinking about traveling the states.

But Lee Ellen didn't want to drive around aimlessly.

"I wanted to put a meaningful purpose behind it," she explains. "I thought it'd be really cool if I could volunteer everywhere I went. ... But I'm kind of a shy and reserved person, so I was like, 'I can't do this alone.'"

Guess who she called?

"[Lindsey] was like, 'This is something I've been thinking about for weeks now! This is the answer!'" Lee Ellen remembers with a laugh.

That's when the Fulmer sisters began to lay the foundation for Project Wave — a mission to volunteer in all 50 states, one week in each.

Helping feed the hungry in Hawaii with Aloha Harvest.

To get started, Lindsey planned out the route so it was both weather- and sightseeing-friendly. From there, they reached out to potential host families who might be willing to take them in for a week.

They also started saving their own money and were fortunate enough to set aside money for food and other necessities (with a bit of help from family and friends through a GoFundMe page).

Once that was all set, they searched for nonprofits within a one-hour radius of where they were staying.

Beyond that, they also had two main criteria: First, they wanted to help people directly. And second, they wanted to help out smaller nonprofits that don't get as much mainstream attention.

Skating with the ladies of Skate Like a Girl in Seattle.

"They don't get as much publicity as larger nonprofits, and they struggle because of that," explains Lee Ellen. "We also wanted to learn as much as possible on this trip. With the smaller nonprofits, you have the opportunity to talk with founders and directors and different department heads and work more closely with them."

Making masterpieces with the OFFCenter Community Arts Project in Albuquerque.

It took almost two years of planning, but eventually, in July 2016, Lindsey and Lee Ellen made their way to Tennessee — the first stop of their 50-week trip.

As of this writing, they're in Wyoming — the 41st state on their itinerary.

Raising awareness for mental health with Red Barn Farms in Utah.

"Voluntourism" can get a bad rap, so the sisters made sure to check their egos at the door and really listen to what each nonprofit needs. Whether it's helping clean facilities or working directly with people, Lindsey and Lee Ellen were sponges when it came to learning about other people's missions.

"When you're helping people of different backgrounds in different regions, you have to go in with an open mind," says Lindsey. "We're going to help you do what you need done."

"We're going to come in and learn about what you're doing or what people are struggling with without any judgment. ... Whatever you need, we make it happen."

Ultimately, the Fulmer sisters are hoping to spread their passion for service to as many people as possible.

Granted, not everyone will be able to take a volunteer trip to all 50 states. And when it comes to giving back, many people feel that donating money over donating time is the way to go. What the Fulmers emphasize is that it's important to understand what works best for you and how you can maximize your own giving potential. They wanted to travel, so they combined that with their dream of helping as many people as possible.

"There are people who are artists or who are good with computers or who just like to work with their hands," says Lee Ellen. "There are opportunities for those people out there. They just have to find them. And so we wanted to bring light to that to show that everyone has the ability to help someone."

All hands in!

She continues, "Our simplest mission is to inspire people of all different talents to get out and use their talents to help their community."

"One of the things we've seen throughout this trip is that organizations, people in need, families, everyone — people are genuinely good at the core of themselves," adds Lindsey. "They want to help people. They just need an opportunity to do that."

Keep spreading that positive message, ladies!

The most amazing thing about Project Wave isn't the miles they racked up — it's the message they've spread along the way: Look in your hearts, find what it is you love, and use that special something to make an impact and pay it forward in your own little way.

More
True
State Farm

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture