"As we work to create light for others, we naturally light our own way." - Mary Ann Radmacher
Today I Will Choose Kindness
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
Two years ago, my family moved from the Boston area to Orlando. One could argue that the two cities my kids have now called home couldn’t be more dissimilar. In some respects, that may be true. In other ways, they are the same, as we all ultimately are regardless of where we come from. One of the most unfortunate realities of having lived in both places in recent years is that my family has now had to live at arm’s length through two senseless terrorist acts – the Boston Marathon bombings and now the night club shooting of Orlando, the single largest terrorist attack on US soil other than 9/11, another tragedy I sadly remember all too well. As a parent trying fervently to teach my children how important it is to see the humanity in the other people they encounter every day and to respond to human need when they come across it, trying to reconcile for them how hatred can be so seemingly “commonplace” at the same time is exceedingly frustrating, ostensibly contradictory at times.
Yesterday, as news of this latest tragedy emerged, PGK’s fantastic communications & outreach coordinator, Rachel, posted an article about kindness. In it, a teacher by the name of Marlem Diaz-Brown states: “I have learned that when you teach kindness and compassion to students and they really understand the concept, everything else falls into place. This should be the first lesson of every teacher.” The article further goes on to quote Dacher Keltner, director of the Berkeley Social Interaction Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, who states the physiological realities of kindness. Apparently being kind activates the vagus nerve, which communicates nerve impulses throughout the body which he said, “Tells us when I’m benefiting other people’s welfare, I get healthier and happier.” And then there’s also the release of oxytocin which calms the stress response. “If I practice kindness, I live longer, and now we understand neurologically why...what are the powerful pathways to happiness? The best we have is kindness.” (Article accessible at: http://bit.ly/25IIynS)
Whether the teacher be a parent, an after-school mentor, a grandparent or an actual teacher, I couldn’t help but think that our children today, perhaps more so than any generation that has come before it, need to be reminded of the power of kindness. They are bombarded with images and news stories and realities that remind them all too often of the other side of human nature. And yet, not only is kindness something that makes us thrive, individually and collectively, it is something that lies within all of us.
I want my children to live in a world where they don’t walk the streets in fear of what senseless tragedy may come next. I want them to walk the streets knowing that the power of kindness is stronger than the fear that drives these senseless acts. And the sooner we turn them on to their own power to create ripples of kindness, the better off we all will be. After all, kindness is a choice like any other. Today, and every day, I want them to choose to be kind.
PGK Spotlight - TACSC & GHS
Five large boxes of socks. Check. One box containing approximately 1,200 homemade cards of encouragement. Check. 1300 middle school students having a chance to realize their small acts of kindness can have big ripples. Check.
Last fall, Project Giving Kids made a special introduction between a student leadership organization known as TACSC (The Associataion of Catholic Student Councils) and one of our favorite nonprofits, Gotta Have Sole, founded by now 18-year-old Nicholas Lowinger. This spring, 1300 students participated in 10 Student Leadership Days run by TACSC, held largely in LA County, and had the chance to learn of Nicholas's work and message. They also had the opportunity to create cards for kids in homeless shelters to accompany the new shoes Nicholas's organization will provide to these children. In an act of awareness and solidarity, they were encouraged to come to their day with mismatched socks and to bring a sock donation to give to Gotta Have Sole too.
As Gene Detre, TACSC's Program Director in charge of the leadership days, noted: "This was the perfect organization to use as part of our service module. The students were able to easily identify with another student who started a nonprofit at their age, as Nicholas got his 501(c)(3) status for Gotta Have sole when he was in 7th grade."
For us at Project Giving Kids, it was all about making the connection: the connection between a great organization working to develop the potential of student leaders and a nonprofit touching lives every day with a simple, yet profound, gift of an often overlooked need; the connection between each act of kindness and the impact it can have both on the beneficiary and on the giver; the connection that ultimately lies between and among all of us.
Kids and Communities Are the Difference
By Molly Yuska, PGK Founder
As the founder of a nonprofit, I'm often asked "Why Project Giving Kids?" As someone who has been through enough management classes and a couple of start-ups to know well enough the inherent challenges, I have even asked myself that question. But the answer so far as been simple: because it's different and it's important - too important that not doing it hasn't felt like an option.
Project Giving Kids occupies a unique space. We see ourselves as a technology solution to a frustrating lack of good information about ways to get kids involved in service at the earliest of stages. But we are also, by necessity, a grassroots organization, as our "technology solution" is only as good as the nonprofit base used to populate our site and the kids, families, schools, after-school groups, and others that use our resources.
When thinking about starting a nonprofit, one of the most prudent questions one can ask is, do I need to create yet another nonprofit organization or can I achieve my "mission" by aligning myself with an existing group? When I started PGK, the former seemed the most feasible option, largely because what we wanted to do was different than anything else we saw out there. And we believe we still are. Why?
1) Project Giving Kids is designed for kids and teens, only. Our platform is uniquely crafted for easy consumption by kids and we are developing solutions that meet kids where they are. While the introduction may need to be facilitated by adults, we want kids to go to our site (and soon our mobile app), self-identify with causes they care about and begin their own service journey. Our content reflects this fact because we believe that when kids are empowered, great things can happen.
2) We partner with local nonprofits that make our communities better places to live with the goal of helping advance their volunteer agendas and identify new ways to engage the powerful kid/teen/parent demographic.
3) We aim to be no more than three clicks away from an actionable idea/project that is vetted and verifiably kid-friendly, one that a kid can take and run with without having to look any further for more information.
4) We aim to transform giving back into a more consistent part of kids’ and teens’ everyday realities. We want to use data to drive engagement, incentives to prompt action, and centralized storage for easy retrieval of volunteer hours.
5) We want to be a source of inspiration as well as information. Stories of kids making the world a better place move us all. We want to share those stories. We want kids to inspire other kids to take action...and if it inspires an adult or two along the way, even better.
At PGK, we believe every child can be a changemaker...and we want to see it happen.