Following the incredible response from the first interview with Lisa back in April, we caught up with her for an update and are happy to share today.
Lisa Hunter continues to make a difference to so many. People mention her incredible kindness, desire to help and caring self as only a few things that make her special. Her dedication to help and support those who are experiencing difficulties continues to make her a true friend to those who need one the most.
This updated article explores the progress that Lisa has made in starting Robert’s Wish and includes more testimonials from people she has supported.
Friends and family of Lisa’s have a read & share.
Passionate, kind and supportive are common words used to describe Lisa. She is a youth mentor and a strong advocate for equality. Lisa mentors youth through different challenges but mainly topics concerning LGBTQ, and bullying. Over the last 18 months, she has supported many youth navigate their way through confusion on sexual identify, deal with bullying at school and at home and generally deal with day to day challenges. We spoke to Lisa about the last 18 months, what motivates her and what the future holds for her.
A few examples of how Lisa has made a difference too many people struggling
- “My wife and I can’t thank Lisa enough for all the support she gave our daughter as she navigated her way through confusion about her sexuality. The power of Lisa is that she not only hears what people are struggling with, but she really listens. Our daughter came out to us with the support of Lisa. Lisa not only supported her but also helped my wife and I. Her kindness and compassion is incredible and we don’t dare to think where we would be today without her support”
- “Lisa’s positive reinforcement at a time that I needed it the most helped me in more ways than I can explain. Special lady”
- “I first found Lisa through my love of “The Foster’s” and “Venice The Series” as she was helping some other fans of both programs. What’s great about Lisa is that she is so approachable. People will send her clips from shows like “Venice The Series” or” Guiding Light” and she will watch and discuss them with you. There is constant commentary going on about “The Foster’s” and other shows and she interacts, answers questions and joins in with banter. She is there through the hard times and celebrates the good times with people. She has helped me through some very dark days but has also celebrated the good”
- “I would be dead today if it were not for having Lisa to talk to. She made me feel heard and like I mattered. Lisa never judged me instead kept telling me that I am worth love, I am beautiful and that I have a future. Being transgender, I faced being disowned by my parents and felt like I was alone and wrong for what I was feeling but Lisa made me believe. She saved my life.”
- “Lisa literally saved my son’s life. He was unhappy and struggling with his sexuality. He found Lisa through his love of the TV show “The Fosters” and she provided him with support, he stopped feeling alone and desperate. With her help, he came out to me and I could not be prouder of him. Since then, he is a different, more confident young man. Lisa is kind, caring and passionate about helping people. Besides helping youth, I have seen Lisa provide the homeless with blankets, warm food and drink during the freezing weather here in Chicago. She is incredible and people are lucky to have her in their corner”
- “Lisa was there for me when no one else was. My world was dark and lonely and my future looked bleak. Lisa was there for me without question, she listened to me, and she told me that she believed in me, that she saw me and that I would get through this period. For a recently out gay guy, these words were so impactful. Her kindness and endless support helped me start believing in myself. I am now working and will be going to University in September. Without Lisa, I would either be dead or drugged up and in the gutter”
- “When my stepfather discovered that I was gay, he beat me so badly that I could not open my eyes for a week. Social workers did not help and I found myself homeless and with no future. Through a community group that Lisa supported, I was introduced to her. She worked with me every day, letting me talk and express my feelings. Finally, with her help, I started to come through the darkness and recover. She found local resources that I could reach out to and I got an apartment, a job and I am working to get my life sorted. I still have sessions with Lisa once a month and lately, I have more positive things to tell her. Lisa has a huge heart, is so kind and never asks for anything in return. She is one of a kind”
Some history of how Lisa got into mentoring:
Lisa, thank you for taking the time to talk to us. Tell us how you got into the mentoring?
Lisa: It is my pleasure. It is great to talk to you. I started getting heavily involved in the mentoring last year. My friend Robert from South Africa committed suicide because of the tormenting, isolation and reaction following him coming out as gay. His friends and family turned their backs on him. He felt alone and desperate. There was no support, no one to listen to him so he felt that he had no choice. The only comfort that Robert had was through a US TV drama – “The Fosters”. This TV show gave him some hope with the relevant and powerful messages and exceptional cast. Teri Polo and Sherri Saum provided Robert with a light and a family. Even though he passed away, this show was very important to him. Following his passing, I received a letter that he left for me where he told me what he had gone through, about the show and asked me to complete his bucket list. This bucket list included writing a letter to the cast of “The Fosters”, going to LA and visiting the set. I completed this in September. During these months, I became a lot more active on Twitter and started to have people reach out to me.
Interviewer: We are sorry about Robert that must have been hard. What impact has his experience had on you?
Lisa: Thank you. Robert’s experience and passing has had a massive impact on my life and my way of seeing things. I have always been an advocate for equality, for LGBT rights and for challenges that face youth. Only difference was that I was not too vocal. I lived in Geneva Switzerland for 5 years where these topics are not widely discussed. Before that I was in the UK, where again, there was little dialogue or at least what I can recall. Coming to the US, LGBT topics are in the media a lot more. I wanted to try understand more about what Robert went through and listening to the people that I have mentored has been a massive wake up call, a shout to be vocal, to stand up for what I believe is right and to be there for those who are struggling. Following Robert’s passing, I immersed myself in trying to understanding what he went through, trying to see things from his point of view. It shocked me and I was devastated that as his friend I did not know the full extent of what he was going through. This is something I will live with for the rest of my life but it’s something I want to do what I can to make sure others don’t have to go through the same thing. To feel alone, like there is no other way and that there is something wrong with them. I remember watching “The Fosters” on Netflix to try and get an idea what Robert saw and how he found comfort. It was powerful. Through reading the reaction of people on Twitter and through other social media platforms I could see how impactful this show is. It’s true to life illustration of challenges and incredibly powerful and relevant messages about family, about love and about life. Through this experience I found Glaad, joined as a member and recently attended the Glaad media awards in LA. It was amazing, emotional, inspiring and very motivating to continue to so what I can to support LGBT youth to not feel alone and unheard but to feel proud of who they are, inspired and know that their future is bright. The work that Glaad do is incredible and I want to do what I can to support and spread the message.
Interviewer: How does the mentoring work?
Lisa: I mentored a few people in London before I moved to Geneva and this group grew and somehow found me on Twitter. They started to reach out to me to for support. At the same time, through different tweets and my comments about “The Fosters”, people started to reach out to me. This has grown significantly over the last 9 months. People will either tweet me or send a private message that they would like to ‘talk’. I am not a counselor. I simply ‘listen’ and let them express themselves. I give positive reinforcement and let them know that they are amazing just for being themselves. This has resulted in me being their go to person for general life challenges and someone that they reach out to whenever there is a struggle. I have mentored around 130 individuals on 9 months. Most I only mentor once or twice, but there are a significant number that I mentor on going. They tell me about both good events and I support them continually as they navigate their challenges.
Interviewer: What type of challenges do you support people through?
Lisa: I have supported people who identify as straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and asexual. Topics range from bullying at school, work and at home, difficulties with sexual identity, daily challenges with their sexuality and the emotions that come with the struggle to supporting some prepare and come out to their loved ones and the aftermath of that. Sadly a main topic that I support people through is feeling alone, unheard and feeling like they don’t matter. I have had some pretty intense sessions and have referred a few to The Trevor Project suicide hotline. They are incredible and as I am not trained to help people who are experiencing emotions and thoughts that intense, I refer them to the experts who can better help them.
Interviewer: Where are the people you mentor?
Lisa: One of the aspects that had made people more comfortable with me is that the mentoring is confidential. I don’t know too much about the individuals. I know the country they are in, gender and roughly their age but that’s all unless they want me to know. All of the individuals that I have mentored have wanted someone to just listen to them, to be there for them and to make them feel like they matter without all the questions and judgement. At the moment, most of the people that I have supported are from UK, USA and some from South Africa.
Interviewer: We saw that you actually met Teri Polo and Sherri Saum, what was that like?
Lisa and Jessica with “The Fosters” Teri Polo, Sherri Saum and Peter Paige
Lisa: OMG, yes I met them the first time in October last year. With having been a fan of both of them for years and knowing how important they were to Robert, it was very emotional. They are without a doubt the nicest, most down to earth people you could want to meet. They are passionate about LGBTQ rights, equality and they take being role models for some many seriously. It was a dream come true and a moment that I will never forget. I saw them both again at the Glaad media awards in LA and again they were so nice and welcoming. I also met Peter Paige – another unforgettable moment and he is just lovely! Bradley Bredeweg, Peter Paige and Joanna Johnson, Teri Polo, Sherri Saum, cast and crew of “The Fosters” make a difference to so many, they have made people come together and form a twitter family, a support group and they make people believe. Incredible messages, amazing talented and real – you can’t get much better than that.
Interviewer: So how have things been going over the last 6 months?
Lisa: Well it’s been crazy! The start of the year was difficult as I had an accident and sustained a brain injury and took some months to recover. In the last few months I have also been travelling a lot for work and I got married last month.
Interviewer: Wow Congratulations
Lisa: Thank you! James and I have been best friends since we were 3 years old and are very excited about our future together.
Interviewer: How is the mentoring going?
Lisa: The mentoring has been steadily increasing. We have been working on the website for Robert’s Wish which is coming along nicely. With work, travel and mentoring I have not been able to spend as much time as I would like on it but we are making progress and I am so excited about what we are doing.
Interviewer: Tell us about what Robert’s Wish vision is.
Lisa: Robert’s Wish is a safe, confidential platform that people can join where they can become part of a community that facilitates discussion between members about their different situations and get support from this community. The idea is to set up a few different community groups in a forum format where members can enter and read, discuss and interact with other members. A feature for one on one access to a volunteer mentor will also be built in allowing for members to get some more focused support. An addition idea in development is a forum for parents to discuss different ways to support and help their children’s situation with each other. We will also have a blog, a resource center and some features where we can engage with the community to talk to them about different subjects. We plan to have a feature call “Topic of the Week” where we will engage in discussions about relevant or interesting topics. We are so excited about this but want to make sure that it is fully ready for launch so there is still a lot of work to be done.
Interviewer: What has happened since we last spoke?
Lisa: Oh my so much. I have mentored so many more people. Through this I have been made aware of more impactful shows and people so I have spent a lot of time researching these and watching a lot of YouTube. Through a few people in the US, I was made aware of a web series call “Venice The Series” which is a LGBT themed story developed and written by Crystal Chappell. This series has a huge fan base and following and as I have been educated on its origin, past episodes and other productions with the same theme etc. I have had the pleasure of making some incredible friends. I remember watching Crystal as Dr. Carly Manning on Days of Lives as a young girl and now to see the amazing work she does and the lives she touches with her beautifully written storylines. This is another example of an amazing woman. Some of the mentoring sessions are about different episodes or storylines that are relevant and the excitement of these sessions is great. I have actually had a telephone conversation with Crystal who is simply lovely and mentioned Robert’s Wish to her. She has expressed interest in helping with launch and driving awareness, something I will definitely take her up on.
Interviewer: What shows have been the most influential
Lisa: You know there are great productions out there that communicate strong messages but there just are not enough. “The Foster’s” is still one that generates the most discussion. The writers, producers and cast are incredible and have my respect and loyalty. Crystal Chappell’s productions have generated a lot of discussion lately and her fan base are the most supportive people I have ever interacted with. Crystal herself is a lovely, down to earth role model who genuinely cares and believes. These are the two where most of the buzz has come from over the past 5 months. I have also just been introduced to “The L Word” by people I have mentored. They are always talking about this so its next on my list to research.
Interviewer: What is next?
Lisa: My focus over the next weeks is to write the content for the web page, write the launch plan, marketing materials, Y1 + vision and beta test the site for members so not too much. My husband (still feels strange saying that) is going to join me in getting this up and running.
Interviewer: What can people do?
Lisa: We are open to offers of help to get this off the ground, finalize the web page, drive awareness anything. We would be grateful for any help at all. Thank you.
Interviewer: Finally, any last words?
Lisa: Be kind. It costs nothing and can really make a difference to someone. I believe in equality. I believe in love.
Information on the shows mentioned in this article