Family Life

Project Butterfly: Turning NOLA’s Caterpillars into Butterflies

Michele Seymour, Associate Director of Project Butterfly NOLA, got her start with the nonprofit by meeting the founder, Dr. Rashida Govan, in college. The two met through College Track New Orleans, an after-school program to offer support to students. The project itself began as a student life workshop providing life skills and a space for young black girls to discuss issues important to them, and it evolved into something much bigger.

“What brought me specifically to this work was my own journey as a black woman growing up in New Orleans. I’ve always had a really strong family support system and really strong black women in my life,” says Seymour. “I know how impactful it is as a young person to have those types of connections, to have someone who has your best interests at heart and who is looking out for you. I wanted to give that back to young people.”

After putting on programs and events for the community, the duo decided to register as an official nonprofit organization in 2018. Now official, they could begin growing to better facilitate their project’s mission: to support young people, specifically girls of African descent, on a pathway from adolescence to adulthood. They provide this through leadership development, mentoring, cultural and community connections, and through their work engaging intergenerationally. 

Since the onset of COVID-19, they have successfully been able to pivot virtually, allowing them to offer mentoring to over 50 students. In 2021, they launched Camp Fafanto (fafanto being a word from the Akan people of Ghana meaning “butterfly,” a symbol of care and gentleness), a summer camp where young people are given the space to heal and restore themselves before school begins. That year they served 10 youth during their four-week program and raised 20-thousand dollars during Give NOLA Day to help fund the program.

This year, they plan to serve 15 young people and were able to provide them a beach retreat in August, at no charge to their members or their families. On top of this wild success, the project set up a direct aid fund for both their current butterflies-in-training but also their alumni. This fund is meant to aid in recovery efforts from the devastating effects of Hurricane Ida.

Now that the world is opening back up, Project Butterfly has big plans for the future and their expansion. This begins with restarting in-person events that were paused during the pandemic. One of the resurfacing community events is Mama Monologues, where volunteer mentors (called Mamas and Aunties) can give performances offering advice based on their own experiences growing up. Using the experiences of others, Project Butterfly has made a huge difference in the lives of the children they mentor. 

“Since its inception, Project Butterfly has been able to serve over 350 young people, which is a feat in itself, especially considering we are a small organization with two staff members and a wonderful network of volunteers but also in the interactions with our young people. When we start their programming in the school year, they are usually one of the most requested workshops each year,” notes Seymour.

A testament to how helpful their programs have been is through their students, who tend to stick around after emerging from their metaphorical cocoons. Most of their butterflies remain with the program throughout their academic careers and join the program as volunteers after graduation.

Seymour sees them as future leaders, doctors, educators, mentors, and parents who will pass on the knowledge and experience they gained from this program. She believes that seeing that wonderful, tangible joy in the air from those they serve to be the most motivating factor of their work.

To help Project Butterfly continue to succeed, Seymour implores you to volunteer, donate, and participate in events. By volunteering with this nonprofit, you are investing your time, energy, and talents. The effort you put forth is what makes a difference for the children in your community. This is something Seymour believes will bring positive change in our community through a domino effect of love and care.

“As we think about our own journeys as adults, it’s important to think about what was necessary in order for us to transform and that we need to allow and give young people the same grace and love that we want and expect for ourselves,” Seymour shares. “They are not just our future; they’re our present as well, and the way we show up for them is reflected in the way they show up for others in the future.”

If you are interested in participating in future events or donating, visit their website,

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