Sunday, July 18, 2010

Project HEAL Q & A- Part One

A few posts ago, I wrote about the EDC- the Eating Disorder Coalition. The EDC is focused on "research, policy and action"-- working to promote systemic change and allocating funds in order that people suffering from eating disorders will have access to the care that they need! One of the many reasons that this is important is that currently, treatment for eating disorders is not very affordable for the average US resident. Residential treatment can cost more than $1000 per day; as most treatment centers admit patients for a minimum of 30-45 days, treatment can end up costing someone more than double the cost of a college education. Money can be a very limiting factor for people who need and want to be treated! For this reason, in addition to many others, I was very impressed by Project HEAL when I learned what this non-profit organization was doing.

Project HEAL made a very strong impression on me when I first heard about the work that they were doing to help people suffering from eating disorders. I saw a story on ABC News a few months ago about a young girl who was suffering from an eating disorder and could not afford treatment. Project HEAL came alongside her family and paid for her treatment. I was interested in finding out more about Project HEAL, so I used one of my favorite resources- google:).

Project HEAL (Help to Eat, Accept and Live) is made up of three young women- Liana Rosenman, Kristina Saffran, and Becky Allen- who are working to raise awareness about eating disorders, as well as raise funds to provide scholarships to individuals who need treatment. I wanted to find out a little bit more about the girls behind the group, what they are doing to raise awareness about eating disorders, and how we can support them in their efforts. As it turns out, they are three amazing young women who are striving to use their personal experiences with eating disorders to help others in their struggles. Here is the first part of my conversation with them.

Me: So, how did you all meet and what inspired you to come together and create Project HEAL?

PJ: It's actually a funny story. Liana was in Long Island Jewish Eating Disorder Treatment Center when Becky was there. When Becky was discharged she was there with Kristina. She kept in touch with both of them after her treatment there as they were a huge support system! About a year later she and Becky decided to have an "LIJ Halloween Reunion". We invited the people we were in treatment with, roughly about 20 girls, but it ended up just being the three of us. Since then our bond has only grown.

Becky originated the idea for Project HEAL. She was at a healthy weight and far along the road to recovery. Mentally, she was pretty strong, but once in a while would still look in the mirror and question whether she truly looked good. The idea was a very "spur of the moment" type thing. One night she was thinking, "Life shouldn't be like this. People shouldn't be so overly focused on their physical appearances." That, combined with witnessing people being turned away from treatment because their insurance would not cover them and their parents could not afford to pay out of pocket, led her to develop the idea for Project HEAL. After outlining its goals -- to raise money for eating disorder sufferers who otherwise would not be able to afford treatment and to educate the public on the dangers of eating disorders -- she called Liana and Kristina to see if they would be interested in jump starting this organization with her.

Me: I noticed on your website that you all have been able to give out four scholarships for treatment- that is really remarkable!!! What are some of your hopes and dreams for Project HEAL? What are some things that you all want to see happen as a result of your dedication and hard work? I saw Liana's interview on CBS and thought the benefit concert was a great idea!!

PH: Project HEAL's long term dream is to open a treatment center! We have so many ideas, from how [each] day [in treatment] is planned, what food will be served, and even the design of it! We are hoping to spread our message even further. We want to help as many people as we can! Project HEAL sends approximately two applicants to treatment a year. We hope we can raise this amount. We are looking to begin planning a benefit concert in the near future! We have been in touch with Jessica Simpson, and are hoping this will work out!

Our most immediate goal is to open chapters of Project HEAL at high schools and colleges. The idea would be for the students in these chapters to fundraise for Project HEAL and to educate their peers on the dangers of eating disorders.

To read the rest of the interview and hear about how you can get involved, check back soon!

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