The Rebellious and Redemptive Journey of the 12×12 project
Story by Brooklyn Lindsey & Michelle Jackson • Photography by Philip Pietri
The inked words spell out spell out all is grace. Permanently imprinted, it’s an external symbol of an internal transformation.
This year, a few friends did something remarkable together. They lived on the brink of impossible things. For Ida Mundell, a homeschooling mother of three, this year has been her own
personal rebellion against living a life without purposeful intention. “I was a good girl,” Mundell says. “I never did anything bad. But there was a lot that I could be doing that needed my attention.”
The story began in August of 2012, when Ida and her friend Kim Hanshaw, also a mother of three, started a journey that would destroy the normal order of their lives. This journey led them to not buy new dresses for Easter, to not cook a perfect Thanksgiving dinner or buy Christmas presents. Instead, it led them to spend Valentine’s Day at an adult-entertainment venue.
It was an idea that began percolating while reading Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7. The author chose seven areas of excess in her life and made changes to fight back against consumerism and greed. Mundell and Hanshaw took that idea and turned it into a twelve-month journey involving hundreds of Lakelanders. Countless people locally and around the world have benefited from the ideas borne in the imagination and hearts of two Lakeland moms.
Mundell decided she wanted to emulate the ideas outlined by Hatmaker in her own life. She vowed to fast from making unnecessary purchases for an entire year so she could better help those in need. Her ideas began to take the form of the 12×12 Project: twelve focuses for twelve months. During the year of her shop fast, she dedicated each month to a different cause about which she felt strongly or wanted to learn more.
Mundell and Hanshaw began talking about the causes they felt passionate about and looking for ways to help out. Using a Pinterest board, Hanshaw started sharing fair trade items and products that supported a cause. Originally, the two women began the project as a way to keep each other accountable. However, once people saw the Pinterest board, they started to ask questions and look for ways to get involved.
The purpose of the project was to educate themselves about injustice in the world and in the community. They wanted to redirect their spending away from themselves and use their influence to share the information with others.
“The heart of it,” Mundell says, “is that we want to give people the information and then equip those around us by showing them handson ways that even a stay-at-home mom with three kids can help; that you really can affect the world.”
Here’s a look at how the year came to life, month by month.
October 2012: Mundell and Hanshaw planned their first 12×12 Project meeting Since several of their friends were in the process of adopting children from Uganda, they decided to focus on that country and its impoverished families and children. In response, people sponsored children through Compassion International and World Vision and gave money for two families adopting children from Uganda.
November 2012: The project focused on hunger. They collected hundreds of donations for kidsPACK, which feeds homeless children in Central Florida on the weekends.
“Hunger month was probably my favorite because it was like the best Thanksgiving ever,” Hanshaw says. Instead of volunteering on the day before or the day after Thanksgiving, 12×12
Project members and their families and friends decided to postpone the traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner. Instead, they went to the Hope Center, a day station for the homeless, to serve others less fortunate than themselves. Each month continued to bring a new challenge.
December 2012: The world needs clean water. It was time to raise money to build a well in India — a big goal. They weren’t sure how many would help during the holidays. But they pressed on.
“We challenged the community to not shop for Christmas,” Mundell says. “Not because consuming is evil, but because we don’t need anything. Does my child seriously need another
doll or a bike?” Instead, the 12×12 Project had a do-it-yourself Christmas. At their monthly gathering, they had stations for people to make gifts. Mundell says she loved seeing people using their talents for something greater. “That was my prayer — that people would find a purpose greater than themselves and serving their needs, and they would give themselves to it.”
Member Cathy Hayes raised $400 for the well by making homemade soap. The tattoos Mundell and Hanshaw got in December were also a gift to the cause. Local tattoo artist, Aaron at American Irons in Lakeland, donated tattoos, with those receiving them donating the money they would have spent on the tattoos to the well. It’s a permanent statement of commitment.
Since the start of the December focus, the 12×12 Project has raised almost $10,000 for Living Water International, enough to build two wells.
January, February, and March 2013: 12×12 collected schoolbooks and raised money for local non-profit CPI Haiti, which helps the village of Chauffard, Haiti. They raised awareness for human trafficking; gave money to the A21 Campaign, an organization that exists to abolish human slavery; and purchased Bibles for Christians in India.
Mundell was challenged to go beyond supporting a cause to loving people marginalized by society. It led her to do things she never imagined. On Valentine’s Day, she and a couple of her friends found themselves in the parking lot of an adult-entertainment venue. They took chocolates to the girls working there, began to build friendships, and invited them to coffee and
to church. They would have never imagined that this is where they would spend Valentine’s Day.
“It was tied into the heart of the whole year,” Mundell says. “We say that we care about people in the margins that nobody notices. We’re making things, and we buy the jewelry, and we’re against sex trafficking, but are we willing to go be with the people we’re helping?”
April and May 2013: The focus was on preserving life. “We shouldn’t just stand on a corner with a sign and say we care about life,” Mundell says. “It’s doing things and being things
that say we care. The 12×12 Project expanded that idea by raising money for A Woman’s Choice center, and collected diapers and supplies for mothers in the community.
June 2013: The focus shifted to joining a worldwide effort to abolish human trafficking. A representative with Go MAD Ministries in the Dominican Republican spoke about her
experiences working on the frontlines with at-risk women.
July and August 2013: The project supported school-age children in a community in Bartow. The Carver Village of Hope (a ministry based in Carver Village) expressed a need for school supplies and shoes. 12×12 saw the list and rallied everyone they could find in our community to join efforts and support the children.
September 2013 to today: The final 12×12 push has been named Feed the School Catch the Rain. The project will be partnering with CPI Haiti to address two major issues affecting the people of Chauffard, Haiti: lack of food and water. Chauffard is a rural farming village twenty-five miles south of Port Au Prince. In less than three years, CPI has seen their free school in Chauffard grow from forty students and one teacher, to three hundred students and eight teachers.
The Feed the School Catch the Rain project addresses the hunger issue by feeding every student in CPI’s school for the entire school year. To do this, they need Lakelanders to help them provide one hundred twenty barrels. These 55-gallon rain barrels will be filled with rice, beans, cooking spices and oils, and PVC materials. Once empty, the barrels can then be attached to the homes of families in Chauffard. With the PVC piping that was also in the barrel, the Haitian families will be able to create a water catchment system so that water will be available
right outside their door instead of the hour-and- a- half walk to the water source.
Want to get involved? 12×12 is asking Lakelanders to gather together to sponsor a barrel. The cost of one barrel is $250 and can be sponsored online at www.cpihaiti.org, or by check made out to CPI Haiti, 530 Bonnie Drive, Lakeland, FL 33803 (CPI Haiti is a 501C3 non-profit organization).
As the project comes to a close, 12×12 will host a final gathering where people from all walks of life can share their stories. The commitment to caring about people in need will continue.
“That’s the beautiful thing about the project,” Mundell says. “Just because the month ends doesn’t mean you have to stop caring.”
“Our hope is that our children won’t have to struggle in their thirties to get over themselves and go through an awakening like we needed to,” Hanshaw says. “They can grow up knowing that less is more, and that God leads us to love everyone and seek the good for our neighbors.”
For more information about the 12×12 Project, visit: www.the12x12project.com or their Facebook page,12×12 Project.