The Journey of a Young Advocate: Abby Jane and the Rainbow Shoelace Project

As the host of the Courage to Lead Interview Series, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with many inspiring individuals. But few have left as profound an impact on me as Abby Jane, the 14-year-old founder of the Rainbow Shoelace Project. In this blog post, I want to share the insights and lessons from my conversation with Abby Jane, a young advocate for the LGBTIQ+ community whose story is a testament to the power of leadership, empathy, and resilience.

A Leader in the Making: Abby Jane’s Early Steps

Abby Jane’s journey into leadership began at the tender age of eight when she volunteered and fundraised for cancer research. Her initiative to donate her hair and raise $3500 showcased her early commitment to making a difference. Her involvement in Scouts further honed her skills in team-building and friendship, laying the foundation for her future endeavours.

The Birth of the Rainbow Shoelace Project

At 12, Abby Jane started the Rainbow Shoelace Project, a beacon of support for the LGBTIQ+ community. The project stemmed from her personal struggle with isolation and fear upon entering high school as a young queer person. Initially, rainbow-coloured beads on her shoelaces were a personal symbol of her identity, but fear of being targeted led her to remove them. This act of self-censorship sparked the idea for the project, aiming to remind individuals that they are loved and supported. The Rainbow Shoelace Project transcends the simple act of threading beads onto shoelaces; it’s a metaphor for inclusivity and support. Abby Jane’s message is clear: no one should feel alone or isolated because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Family: A Pillar of Support

Abby Jane’s personal story of coming out as bisexual to her mother, Sophie, highlights the importance of a supportive family. She credits her mother and grandfather as instrumental in her advocacy work, providing a nurturing environment that allowed her to thrive and pursue her passion for helping others.

From a Local Noticeboard to Global Impact

The project’s humble beginnings with six packets of beads on a Woolies noticeboard in Broken Hill have since reached international heights, including places like South Korea. With over 250,000 packs of rainbow beads distributed since March 2022, Abby Jane’s initiative demonstrates how small actions can lead to significant change.The beads, given away for free, ensure accessibility for all, particularly young people without supportive parents or financial means. Funded by her single mother and reliant on donations, the project is a labor of love, with each pack of beads carefully assembled with the help of volunteers.

Overcoming Adversity: Abby Jane’s Resilience

Abby Jane’s move from Broken Hill to Port Macquarie was a result of the bullying and homophobia she faced. Her experiences at World Pride in Sydney and participation in Mardi Gras were not only opportunities for advocacy but also moments of personal growth and healing.

The Power of Community and Acceptance

The impact of the Rainbow Shoelace Project is evident in the stories shared by those it has touched. From a 50-year-old man coming out to his doctor, sparked by a conversation about the beads, to individuals feeling safe to express their identity, the project’s reach is profound.

Abby Jane’s Advice to Aspiring Change makers

For those looking to make a difference, Abby Jane’s advice is invaluable: stay true to yourself, embrace your authenticity, and maintain your passion. Challenges will arise, but with heart and determination, amazing things can be accomplished.

A Beacon of Hope

Abby Jane’s wisdom, bravery, and courage are a beacon of hope for those in need of support. Her work with the Rainbow Shoelace Project is a powerful reminder that even the smallest gestures can have a monumental impact on people’s lives.

In closing, I want to express my deepest admiration for Abby Jane and her mother, Sophie. Their dedication to creating a more inclusive and accepting world is truly inspiring. As we continue to share stories like Abby Jane’s, we contribute to a culture of empathy, understanding, and support for all.