How far can random acts of kindness go in the world? One organization looking to explore that question is Kids for Peace (KFP), a nonprofit that touches millions of lives through various domestic and global initiatives with the mission of “uplifting our world through love and action.”
KFP’s story is as grassroots as it gets: co-founders Jill McManigal and Danielle Gram met at a party in Carlsbad, Calif., bonding over their mutual admiration for Gandhi, and soon organized a small gathering of young people in McManigal’s backyard to explore questions such as: “What can you do to create the world you wish to see?”
From there, ambition grew and soon the Great Kindness Challenge was conceived, with materials distributed across the globe to schools and families — participants are encouraged to complete a checklist of actions such as “sit with a new group of friends at lunch,” “bring a board game to a senior center” and “plant a tree.”
The results have been impressive. This year, the Challenge was estimated to reach 10 million kids in 122 countries, and (according to a survey conducted by KFP) 98 percent of schools distributing the Challenge see a positive improvement in overall climate. With a new $25,000 grant earned from the Starbucks Upstanders Challenge, the materials will be translated into more languages and the program will expand even further. Although the official 2018 campaign ended on Jan. 26, you can download the family version of the Challenge for free.
That’s not to mention the Kind Coins initiative, which raises money to help those in need both domestically and overseas (KFP has built schools for low-income children in Pakistan and Kenya, with one planned soon for Liberia). We caught up with McManigal as she was organizing the construction of a playground in the Houston area thanks to the money Kind Coins raised for hurricane recovery. Here’s what she had to say about working with kids, the importance of peace, and her hopes for the future.
Q: What has been the revelation from working with young people?
A: It’s really more of a delight. I’m really not surprised by how capable and wise they are. We have four year olds plan an entire service project or put together campaign flyers. Our kids really can do so much when they’re given a little bit of guidance. We kind of get out of their way and let them be.
Q: How does the Challenge impact kids who may be going through a hard time at school?
A: The beautiful thing is that it gives both the kids who are already prone to kindness and the kids who have maybe had more aggressive behavior toward others permission to actually to go out and leave ego out of it. We’ve received so many stories of kids that had been chronically in trouble in school, but when they’ve been given this simple tool of doing acts of kindness, it’s shifted their outcomes to be more positive.
Q: What are your plans for this year?
A: Do It For Peace [in September] will be a huge campaign that everybody can be part of. It’s going to be a social media campaign and a global experiment, where 1,000 people (called igniters) will do an act of peace, then invite five friends to do it the next day. With that multiplying effect, within 10 days, we’ll have over 1.2 billion people doing acts of peace. We’re going to be shifting global consciousness.
Q: What would you say to donors who want to get involved in a proactive way?
A: I want donors to know how powerful kids are and when we support them in creating the world that they know is possible, it’s a win-win for everybody.
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