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Many survivors of abuse suffer in silence. She used her Make-A-Wish to help change that.

She might be 10 years my junior, but I want to be like her when I grow up.

Many survivors of abuse suffer in silence. She used her Make-A-Wish to help change that.

Lena Strickling may seem like your average young adult, but she's so much more. She's a survivor.

At 18 years old, not only has she been battling a form of cancer called Hodgkin's lymphoma, but she is also an outspoken survivor of childhood sexual abuse and domestic violence. When I read her story, she became my new role model.


There is a whole lotta power in this small package. Image by Collectively.

Lena is determined to use her life to make the world a better place.

When Make-A-Wish, the organization whose mission is to help children with life-threatening illness fulfill their dreams, reached out, Lena knew exactly what she wanted to do. She didn't go for your typical fun, well-deserved wish like a trip to Disney World or meeting her favorite celebrity.

She wanted Make-A-Wish to help her publicly share her story of abuse.

Lena has gone through a lot in life, but she says battling cancer is nothing compared to the pain of the abuse she endured. She carried a lot of shame about being sexually abused — until she started speaking out. When she finally told her mother, the shift in her life was huge. It was a pivotal moment in her journey to recover from the trauma and get her abuser out of her life.

She wants to inspire others to speak out so they too may feel the wave of relief she felt when she finally shared her story — and so others can think differently about what a survivor looks like.

Make-A-Wish gave her the experience of a lifetime.

Lena asked to spend a weekend with two of her closest friends, who are also survivors of violence, so they could join her for a photo shoot. Before the shoot, all three women had their hair and makeup professionally done. After the photos, she got to share her story online in video and print, so it can be spread far and wide.

GIFs from Collectively.

Her wish shows the power of speaking out as a survivor.

The truth is, sharing one's story of abuse can be helpful for both the survivor and people who hear it. Studies have found that there are psychological benefits from helping others and that storytelling can be a healing force after trauma.

Coming forward can also help make our society better — it helps combat the stigma that pressures so many to stay silent. According to a 2013 study, more than 1 in 4 girls and 5% of boys report experiencing sexual abuse or assault by the age of 18. Compare these numbers to the estimated 12% of child sexual abuse incidents reported to the authorities. Many feel too ashamed to share their history because of misinformation and victim-blaming. But Lena wants to change all of that.

This in no way means that everyone should or must divulge their survivor status to others. I am a firm believer in survivors knowing what is best for themselves. Deciding whether to come forward is deeply personal, influenced by a lot of factors. And some people decide that coming forward is not the best option for them. But Lena made the decision that it was.

Thanks to her bravery, we are one step closer to getting rid of the stigma that survivors unrightfully face after being victimized.

From one survivor to another, I want to say thank you, Lena.

Watch this amazing young woman in action in Collectively's video here:

Courtesy of Creative Commons
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After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

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Terence Power / TikTok

A video of a busker in Dublin, Ireland singing "You've Got a Friend in Me" to a young boy with autism is going viral because it's just so darn adorable. The video was filmed over a year ago by Terence Power, the co-host of the popular "Talking Bollox Podcast."

It was filmed before face masks were required, so you can see the boy's beautiful reaction to the song.

Power uploaded it to TikTok because he had just joined the platform and had no idea the number of lives it would touch. "The support on it is unbelievable. I posted it on my Instagram a while back and on Facebook and the support then was amazing," he told Dublin Live.

"But I recently made TikTok and said I'd share it on that and I'm so glad I did now!" he continued.

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We're redefining what normal means in these uncertain times, and although this is different for all of us, love continues to transform us for the better.

Love is what united Marie-Claire and David Archbold, who met while taking a photography class. "We went into the darkroom to see what developed," they joke—and after a decade of marriage, they know firsthand the deep commitment and connection romantic love requires.

All photos courtesy of Marie-Claire and David Archbold

However, their relationship became even sweeter when they adopted James: a little boy with a huge heart.

In the United States alone, there are roughly 122,000 children awaiting adoption according to the latest report from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services. While the goal is always for a child to be parented by and stay with their biological family, that is not always a possibility. This is where adoption offers hope—not only does it create new families, it gives birth parents an avenue through which to see their child flourish when they are not able to parent. For the right families, it's a beautiful thing.

The Archbolds knew early on that adoption was an option for them. David has three daughters from a previous marriage, but knowing their family was not yet complete, the couple embarked on a two-year journey to find their match. When the adoption agency called and told them about James, they were elated. From the moment they met him, the Archbolds knew he was meant to be part of their family. David locked eyes with the brown-eyed baby and they stared at each other in quiet wonder for such a long time that the whole room fell silent. "He still looks at me like that," said David.

The connection was mutual and instantaneous—love at first sight. The Archbolds knew that James was meant to be a part of their family. However, they faced significant challenges requiring an even deeper level of commitment due to James' medical condition.

James was born with congenital hyperinsulinism, a rare condition that causes his body to overproduce insulin, and within 2 months of his birth, he had to have surgery to remove 90% of his pancreas. There was a steep learning curve for the Archbolds, but they were already in love, and knew they were committed to the ongoing care that'd be required of bringing James into their lives. After lots of research and encouragement from James' medical team, they finally brought their son home.

Today, three-year-old James is thriving, filled with infectious joy that bubbles over and touches every person who comes in contact with him. "Part of love is when people recognize that they need to be with each other," said his adoptive grandfather. And because the Archbolds opted for an open adoption, there are even more people to love and support James as he grows.

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A teacher's message has gone viral after he let his student sleep in class — for the kindest reason.

Teachers spend time preparing lesson plans and trying to engage students in learning. The least a kid can do is stay awake in class, right?

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via Ken Lund / Flickr

The dark mountains that overlook Provo, Utah were illuminated by a beautiful rainbow-colored "Y" on Thursday night just before 8 pm. The 380-foot-tall "Y" overlooks the campus of Brigham Young University, a private college owned by the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), commonly known as Mormons.

The display was planned by a group of around 40 LGBT students to mark the one-year anniversary of the university sending out a letter clarifying its stance on homosexual behavior.

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