Artist Alys Jones has been a “Nerdfighter” for over a decade — a devoted fan and community member of “Nerdfighteria,” the compassionate corner of the Internet led by authors, educators, and activists John and Hank Green.
For casual Green brother fans who might not be privy to the world of Nerdfighteria, this is a space online where community members coalesce around shared values of kindness, generosity, and humanity.
Fans joyfully discuss the nuanced layers of the human experience, donate funds to worthwhile causes — and also just have fun (see: Hank’s many TikToks about not eating grass).
At the core of the community is a project that Hank and John have worked toward for years: helping to build a maternal health hospital in Sierra Leone.
In collaboration with global health nonprofit Partners In Health, the brothers Green (and their dedicated fanbase) have donated millions to fund powerful health initiatives in the country with the world’s worst rates of infant and maternal mortality.
The power of the Nerdfighters is not to be underestimated. The Maternal Center of Excellence broke ground in Sierra Leone in 2021.
These milestones are achieved through annual funding programs like Project For Awesome, a 48-hour live-streaming event, that brings in swaths of viewers (and donators), as well as businesses that donate 100% of their profits to Partners in Health: The Awesome Socks Club, The Awesome Coffee Club, and Sun Basin Soap.
But individual Nerdfighters like Jones enjoy leading their own fundraising projects, too.
Jones, who is an illustrator based in London, decided to create a digitally downloadable children’s book, all about Nerdfighteria, as a way to raise funds for Partners in Health.
The full-color, 12-page book is full of whimsical drawings and life lessons that stem from all kinds of illustrious Nerdfighteria lore. It’s named after the Green brothers’ slogan: DFTBA, or “Don’t forget to be awesome.”
“I was recently talking to some Nerdfighter friends and it struck me that a lot of us who have been around a while are getting to the age where we might have kids or might be thinking about having kids, and those kids are likely to be Nerdfighters, too,” Jones said in an email to Good Good Good.
“DFTBA! The Little Guide To Being Awesome” is filled with John and Hank Green’s words of wisdom, encouraging young ones to “imagine others complexly,” and “be silly and brave.”
Jones’s goal is to raise $1,000 before her birthday on June 12th of this year.
“It’s an ambitious goal,” she said, “but it would really mean a lot to me to be able to achieve this.”
“I find real joy in helping people, and I'm always looking for opportunities to do good in the world and help to ‘decrease world suck,’ so it seemed natural to combine this little passion project with a chance to help raise funds for PIH.”
Jones is over halfway to her goal, and she’s been uplifted by support from throughout the community — even from John himself.
“Alys, this is THE BEST THING,” he tweeted. “Incredible.”
The community’s love of John and Hank is one fun element of a shared experience, but Jones sees this work going beyond fandom; it also makes real, tangible change.
“As a group of Nerds, we do so many things as a collective community, but the mindset and values that are at the core of the community mean that there are so many kind, thoughtful, and generous people who walk among us, who imagine people complexly, act with kindness, and want to help make the world a better place,” she said.
Jones felt most connected to the Nerdfighter community when she moved to a new city and felt all alone. She connected to the London Nerdfighter scene and suddenly had over 50 like-minded friends who welcomed her “with open arms.”
This led to her moving in with three other Nerdfighters, and later, falling in love and building a home together with her Nerdfighter soulmate.
The beauty of these relationships is, yes, in their weird, cosmic connection to a couple of goofy brothers on the Internet — but also their ripple effect in the pursuit of making this world a better, more empathetic place.
“There's so many big things we can do as a collective, but there are also millions of tiny great things that individuals in our community do every single day that help make the world a less sucky place to be,” Jones said. “And that's an amazing thing to be a part of.”