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The Kindness Campaign

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” 

Scott Adams

Say what you will about social media but sometimes it brings amazing people together. A while back I was commenting on a LinkedIn post about Kelli Kelly, you may remember her from Hand to Hold in Austin? A fellow Texan, named Andra Liemandt, also commented on the post and her company read The Kindness Campaign. I was naturally intrigued and of course, it was a nonprofit.

I am not a cyberstalker I promise but Andra’s LinkedIn intrigued me. She had a career in large corporate account management and is the founder and drummer of the Mrs, a pop-rock band that has been on Good Morning America and featured in a host of magazines and opened for Bon Jovi. Naturally, I needed to know more. So I reached out to her and we connected via phone this past week for an amazing conversation that I hope leaves you as inspired about kindness as I was. What better way to start a New Year and decade than with kindness?

Charity Matters: Tell us a little about what The Kindness Campaign does?

Andra Liemandt: We are on a mission to normalize emotional health. We all know that bullying, loneliness, and isolation exists but instead of allowing them to go unchecked we provide positive and acceptable tools that really promote emotional health. At the heart of what The Kindness Campaign (TKC) does it aims to create societal change by teaching emotional awareness, empathy, community and most importantly the development of building a healthy positive self-image. The place where we all tear ourselves down the most is with ourselves and that self-image is really where we try to build people up. Bullying has gone beyond the walls of our schools and now we need more help to access our teens and that is why we are building out tools to do that. That is exactly what TKC does.

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act and start  The Kindness Campaign?

Andra Liemandt: Suicide is the second leading cause of death among teens. Several years ago this touched my life in a very powerful and profound way when a dear friend of ours took her own life and she was just 12 years old and it was a direct result of bullying.  There was no path for me to start a nonprofit or any inkling that I would be sitting here five years later talking to you about this. That event changed my life forever and was the catalyst for an ongoing healing process with my daughters.

We just couldn’t get our heads around what had happened. As a mom of two girls, I was terrified that something could happen to them. I began worrying what if my daughters felt alienated and I didn’t know, what if there was a bully, so many fears popped into my head. So I started a feelings journal where the girls and I could discuss emotions like grief and anger. From there the project grew to a general feelings journal, which I copied and took into my daughter’s school. Before I knew it the principal asked for a copy of my homemade journal and then shared them with four other schools. In 2015, we launched The Kindness Campaign as a 501c3. It was really something I was being led by and I just keep putting one foot in front of the other as I feel called to do today as this journey keeps going.

Charity Matters: What are your biggest challenges?

Andra Liemandt: Besides the fact that I am working against the second largest cause of death in teens? That is the real challenge. Since the beginning when we started out as this simple little feelings journal, we then just scaled very quickly. By far I think one of our biggest challenges has been ensuring that we are scaling the right way being able to meet the demands for the tools that are being created. I think every entrepreneur has to approach growth differently and because of the nature of our work, it is extremely important that we are serving our end-users, schools, and educators in the most quality way possible.

We have been super laser-focused on proof of concept along with our programs and curriculum. Our biggest challenge is trying to meet the needs of those that we serve. We receive 150 requests nationwide and are currently serving 40,000 students in 82 schools.  This year our curriculum is available nationally through Erin Condren’s stores and the TKC website so we are excited about that. The reality is that the need is always going to be greater than anyone can meet. Partnerships like Erin Condren’s and so many other amazing corporate partners make this work possible in building emotional health a reality.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Andra Liemandt: When I got into this work my motivation was simply to save lives. I carry my friend’s daughter in my heart always. Being able to give families and teachers solutions to address emotional health and to have conversations is so powerful and fulfilling.  I was at the gym recently and a woman came up to me that I didn’t know and she thanked me for connecting her and her daughter. The woman said, “You don’t understand we did not speak the way we are speaking now because of the tools you gave us. I can not thank you enough.” We are creating tangible tools for emotional health and I believe that the work we are doing now will have an impact on suicide statistics in the future.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Andra Liemandt:  There are so many sweet stories, emails from parents and teachers. We have an event called the KIND5 and it is a four-hour program where I walk away feeling moved by the day and from the difference we have made in our student’s lives. I receive notes telling me about how impactful it was and I’ll never know the complete one hundred percent impact but I do feel that there is trajectory for these students who might not ever have this type of opportunity. We did one recently called I Am Enough and we had our signature activation, the Magic Mirror , which is one of our tools. When I am there with the kids it always reminds me that we are making a difference. It is not about me, it is about the tools and opportunities we create. I am simply a vessel that allows these opportunities to flow through me and happen.

Charity Matters: Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

Andra Liemandt:  I believe there is a touchpoint from the first time somebody ever felt kindness to when it actually gets played out years from now. What I do know is that from the very first day that I knew this (TKC) was going to be something more than me and my daughters in my apartment working on the feelings journal and was going to become a nonprofit because it was growing so fast.  I said then,”that our work needed to be measurable.” I knew then that we needed surveys to collect data and I do believe that there are direct outcomes from our work. In doing that we have had proof of concept tracking data from the beginning when we were one school and then five and now 82 schools. I do actually believe that there are indirect outcomes to measure emotional health. 

We serve over 40,000 students nationally with our online programming. We just had our second annual House of Kindness event, we don’t do benefits but house parties and we had a great success which will go along way in serving our students. We launched a national PSA before every AMC movie in the fall because we have been so blessed with incredible partnerships. We have a national reach because of our online programming, which we are incredibly proud of.  Success is measured in so many different ways.

Charity Matters: If you could dream any dream for your organization, what would that be?

Andra Liemandt:  I’m a big dreamer. Personally, my dream is for TKC’s reach to be so large, that schools and families can access us anywhere. We mean it when we say we want to raise a generation where emotional fitness is normal – as normal as physical fitness, and just as mainstream, too. We have life-changing tools for students, and we’re constantly innovating. So, my dream is to put these resources within reach for anyone, because children from all walks of life deserve access to this critical health metric.

Charity Matters: What life lessons have you learned from this experience?

Andra Liemandt: Life lessons evolve as you are on the journey. Where I am today on this journey and what we talk about at TKC is what if emotional wounds showed up on our bodies the way that physical wounds do?  We would all take this conversation a lot more seriously. I think about this on a daily basis.

When I look at my life today, my biggest life lesson is from the Magic Mirror (video above) and that the life lesson is that everyone wants to be seen and heard. The Magic Mirror has also taught me that attention is a really important healer. When we feel safe and secure we then have space for empathy. I have learned that through kindness organic outcomes from emotional health happen when we feel connected to one another, then we feel seen and heard.  Very often the impulse to bully just drops away. When we feel safe and secure we have emotional space for empathy which can be taught and that is huge. All of these lessons are the lessons that have added up in these past six years. 

Charity Matters: How has this journey changed you?

Andra Liemandt: This journey has allowed me to think in a deeper, calmer and more empathetic way for others. It has allowed me to give myself grace and forgiveness.

 

Charity Matters

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Reflections on Motherhood

“Having kids…the responsibility of rearing good, kind, ethical, responsible human beings-is the biggest job anyone can embark on.”

Maria Shriver

Lately, I have been thinking about being a mother. Motherhood isn’t something you typically think about, it is a verb, an action and rarely a mere thought. The reflection began last week, when I saw a young mother in the grocery store trying to contain her toddler. I smiled and told her to enjoy this moment because it goes by so fast. She looked at me as if I was insane and her expression said that this moment was already way too long and she hoped it would go by quicker.  I clearly remember being that young mother with three toddler boys in the grocery store.  Older women,(and I mean that in the nicest possible way) would share these  same words of wisdom with me and my reaction at the time was probably pretty similar. Last week,  I realized with horror, that I was now that older woman.

I am really not sure where that time went or how it slipped by so quickly, especially when those days felt like eternity.  The days when the boys drank food coloring and stained their faces, fingers and everything else in sight. The day we were painting the nursery for their new baby brother’s arrival when they knocked over a can of paint, ran through the spilled paint and all over the house leaving baby blue foot prints on the carpets, wood floors and most surfaces.  The upstairs sink they turned on without my knowledge that ran for hours, flooding the upstairs and my husbands treasured old convertible in the garage below. The memories of dirt, destruction and chaos are vast and yet, each crazy moment is now a treasured gift.

The goal in those days was mere survival. If you were showered and nothing was hugely destroyed, the day was a victory. Little by little those toddlers, ran faster and farther. They started using bikes, skate boards  and pushed every boundary mental and physical that they possibly could.  Those beautiful little faces could destroy you and wear you down, motherhood  was an endurance sport where only the strong survive.

Like a triathlon, you begin the race of motherhood full of energy and excitement for the journey ahead.  The swim is the first part of the course, as you dive in you realize the water is colder than you thought but you are just beginning, so  you visualize your finish line. You focus on that moment on the podium and your shiny metal at the end of the race with these amazing humans you have molded, supported, guided and loved. Quickly, very quickly into the race you realize you are sinking…fast and that the race is going to be longer and harder than expected.

Not to worry, if you can survive the swim, then you are ready for the ride. Once on the bike, those twists and turns on the road of motherhood where school, hurt feelings, sporting activities, homework and planning your daily course is harder than planning a military strategic operation. The ride seems as if it has to be better than the swim and yet the challenges are never ending. They just keep coming.

Still, you hold onto your vision, you dream of the finish line. A polite, kind, educated human, with a diploma and perhaps a job. You finish your ride and begin the run. You are now slower, much slower and yet you are determined to finish the race. You will get that prize and so you push through those last hurdles, roadblocks and obstacles. They are big ones, high school, getting into college and everything teenager that will test your mental strength like never before. You are a survivor. You are strong, you are a mother and you are so close to finishing. Then you see it, the finish line and the tears begin because you now realize you no longer want the race to end.

You see those beautiful children, kind, polite, and good and realize that it was the race, the journey and the challenges that were the joy. Each obstacle overcome is a victory and each failure a lesson in love, patience and endurance. You survived the frigid deep waters of babies and toddlers, the twist and turns along the ride to adolescence and the run through the teenage years and college. The tears stream down your face as you cross the line exuberant, proud, strong and tired. Your vision is real, your prize is waiting with open arms….those beautiful, kind, polite and amazing humans are there just as you imagined and dreamed. You are a mother and your race is almost over and now you just wish you could run part of it again.

Happy Mother’s Day!

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

Random Acts of Flowers

“where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

Lady Bird Johnson

As we enter the month of April, we think of flowers and springtime, both bring smiles to our faces and lift our spirits, which is why this seemed like the perfect way to kick us into spring. The story of Random Acts of Flowers and founder Larsen Jay is as uplifting as a spring bouquet.

You never know what is going to inspire someone to make a difference. In Larsen’s case, it was an almost fatal fall from a ladder in July of 2007. While he was in the hospital for his long recovery, he received so many beautiful flower arrangements that truly lifted his spirits. Once Larsen was well enough to leave his room he saw so many other patients who didn’t have any flowers, so decided to repurpose his and give them to others, which was just the beginning of a beautiful idea. The memories of that gesture inspired him to start  Random Acts of Flowers in 2008.

One year later, Larsen delivered his first bouquet from Random Acts of Flowers to the patient in his old hospital room, bringing the moment full circle and a renewed commitment to brighten the lives of others with this beautiful gesture and simple kindness. By 2011, the organization had delivered over 10,000 bouquets and by 2013 had begun to expand in other cities.

Photo by Jean Marc Giboux

Today, a decade later Random Acts of Flowers is located in four major metropolitan cities; Knoxville, Chicago, Tampa and Indianapolis and shows no sign of slowing down. They are delivering smiles to over 9,000 people in hospitals, senior living centers and organizations in need  every month. As of today, they have delivered over 310,801 bouquets and smiles. As Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.”

charity matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A little help goes along way

Yesterday, I was at a work event with someone who also raises money for a living. This counterpart said to me, “What is your strategy?”  I looked at him a little bewildered by the question. Strategy and making a difference in the life of students doesn’t always align in my mind.  My bewilderment wasn’t because  I didn’t have a fund-raising plan, but rather because my fundraising plan is more philosophy, than plan. I looked at my counterpart and said, “My “strategy” is simply to help everyone. My competitors, anyone who ask, simply everyone…because the more people who I genuinely help the more people help me.”  The gentleman looked at me as if I were insane. I shrugged and said, “We all have our own philosophies but this is mine and I think we are all here to work together to help one another, it’s pretty simple.”

Don’t get me wrong, I completely admire people with strategic minds, but I do not really have one. I run more on heart, instinct, intuition and what feels right in my gut. So far, helping people has never let me down, in fact is just the opposite. Last night at dinner, I was sharing the story of my day with my family, the evening news came on, as I shared about my day, this was the story that aired…

The story of 18 year old Evoni Williams from La Marque, Texas who was working as a waitress when an older gentleman asked her for help. It seemed that his hands were not working so well and he needed help to cut his meat. Without missing a beat, Evoni just helped. What makes this story unique is not that she helped but rather that someone snapped a picture of her helping that went viral.

The result of Evoni’s helping hand was not only a news piece, thousands of Facebook shares but even more was a college scholarship, simply for helping someone. Helping isn’t strategic and Evoni’s innate kindness is a perfect example. Helping is simply what we are here to do, to help one another. We all need it and we all are capable of giving it. It is just that simple.

charity Matters.

 

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Copyright © 2018 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

When Clouds Embrace

One of our dear friends lives in Athens, Greece and recently introduced me to a very special lady, Maria Kostaki. As most of you know the Syrian refugee crisis has had an enormous impact on Greece. While we all watch the news here in America with horror, many in Greece watch in person while children are orphaned and abandoned.

So many in Greece can barely take care of themselves with the financial crisis and feel helpless, but not Maria, she decided to act.

She did so in the most beautiful of ways, Maria wrote a children’s book, called When Clouds Embrace. Her mission to use her gifts, as an author, to help those in need. I had the opportunity to speak to Maria recently and here is our inspiring conversation, from this remarkable woman, who can no longer sit by and watch, but rather, who is using her talent to inspire, educate, and help these abandoned children.

 

Charity Matters: What was the moment you knew you needed to act?

Maria: The day that I woke up to the photograph that shocked the entire world. It was of the three-year-old Syrian boy washed ashore on a beach of Lesvos, an island that I visited many times for vacation. He was dead.

Charity Matters: What fuels you to keep doing this work?

Maria:The feeling that one day, I will make a difference, and maybe inspire others to do the same. I know that selling books won’t save the world, but I’m a writer, that is what I do, that is what I have to offer. I hope that people around me will realize that any help and kindness we can spare, on any level, can have an impact on the lives of others.

Charity Matters: When do you know you have made a difference?

Maria: I like to believe that I already have. I’ve raised awareness in my own circle, few people would have known that there are hundreds, maybe even thousands of kids, alone, without shelter, without access to food and clothes, without a grown up hand to hold, roaming a country, foreign to them. It’s terrifying, devastating, if you think about it.

Charity Matters:  Tell us what success you have had? What has your impact been?

A large part of the funds for the publication of “When Clouds Embrace” was actually crowdfunded. I had contributions from all over the world, from people I did not know, from friends who I know are in tight financial spot here in crisis-stricken Greece. It was a humbling experience. But it was just the beginning. Success will be success when I donate the all of the proceeds to Giving for Greece, an organization that is doing wonderful work for unaccompanied minors.

But the first sign of success was seeing the “temporarily out of stock” alert for “When Clouds Embrace” on Amazon. It was its publication day.

As Pablo Picasso said, ” The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Thank you Maria for reminding us that there are so many ways we can help, support and inspire one another.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2017 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

A little Christmas magic

a-little-christmas-magic

The other day, I wrote about being present to witness the joy and miracles that are all around us this holiday season. No sooner had I finished that post, when I received an email which had been forwarded to me. The email came from a woman named Jamie to her friend Steve.

Jamie wrote to Steve telling him that she would be going home to Philadelphia for the holidays and would be visiting an elderly nun, named Sr. Helen, who had been a wonderful influence on Jamie in high school. Sr. Helen was elderly and now had no family left and would be alone on Christmas.

Jamie remembered that Steve’s daughters attended a sister school in California, where Sr. Helen had worked years ago. Her request was simple, was there anyone at the school who might have remembered Sr. Helen and who would be willing to write a note or a Christmas card? The only Christmas gift that Jamie knew would touch Sr. Helen’s heart and remind her of all she had done for so many over the years.

I received the email and immediately forwarded it to the sister school, where I am an alumna. Within moments, a reply all came back from an angelic woman, named Angela.  Angela would be thrilled to spread the good word and pull together messages of love for Sr. Helen to be delivered on Christmas day.

One woman’s kindness, sparked another’s and another’s and the result will be pure Christmas magic for an elderly woman who will be reminded that she is not alone but rather the spark to a flame of goodness. Pure Christmas magic…..

 

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2016 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

Charity Matters Quotes:Kindness

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”

Samuel Johnson

the kind campaign

Since school is now back in full swing, it seems like the right time to talk about being kind. A simple choice that we all make and model for our children each and everyday.

We don’t have to like everyone we meet but if we just took a moment to be kind…imagine how beautiful our world could be?

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2014 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

The language of kindness is universal

 

photo via: Christianpost.com
photo via: Christianpost.com

Seeing random acts of kindness fills our hearts and brings us joy. This video simply doesn’t need words because it speaks the universal language of kindness.

 

There is no better way to begin a week than with a little smile and some kindness.

Charity Matters.

 

Copyright © 2014 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

CASA Poem

This is a bit of a follow up from Wednesday’s post about the incredible organization, CASA that has provided volunteers to stay with a children of abuse and neglect through the chaos of the court system and foster care.

A volunteer who worked with CASA wrote this about her time with one of these children and I thought it was so lovely it was worth sharing with you all.

The Advocate

This is not about
Rescue, so as to feel good
When the child lights up with a smile. This is not about
the comfort of compassion.
This is hard work,
Struggling with ripped families
And children in clouds of pain,
anger dancing round in their hearts in the turmoil of a world
made crazy. This is caring,
yes, but also what is just,
what should be demanded.
It takes love
And a certain measure of courage. And in the simple act
Of person helping person,
It becomes extraordinary.

Mercedes Lawry

Another reminder that kindness to one another is the greatest gift.

Charity Matters

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.

 

What matters?

“What many great minds and hearts have concluded after a lifetime of discovery is that a simple act of kindness can be one of the most profound acts a human being can perform.”

– John-Roger

Charity Matters.

Copyright © 2012 Charity Matters. This article may not be reproduced without explicit written permission; if you are not reading this in your newsreader, the site you are viewing is illegally infringing our copyright. We would be grateful if you contact us.