University of Victoria students Alyssa Weninger

Class project spurs wave of kindness

How comfortable would you be hugging 10 complete strangers, or giving one of them a piggyback ride?

How comfortable would you be hugging 10 complete strangers, or giving one of them a piggyback ride? Would the kindness you dole out come from a genuine place in your heart?

This weekend’s Victoria Kindness Challenge, an event organized by a trio of University of Victoria students, aims to spread sincere kindheartedness through good deeds done for strangers.

“We all like the idea of trying to make Victoria a more compassionate and kinder place,” said Joe Thomas, 21, a third-year recreation and health education student.

He and fellow students Lauren Bernardi, 20, and Alyssa Weninger, 26, are taking John Meldrum’s management in recreation and health course this semester.

“In September (Meldrum) encouraged us to take initiatives on some of the ideas we want to do,” Thomas said. “He gives each of the groups $20 and we use that to fund our initial effort. He wants to see how far we can take (our ideas).”

This is the fifth year Meldrum has given student groups $20 as start-up capital for the class’s major project.

“It used to be a class that we had them do a business plan … but it was kind of artificial. So I thought, ‘Why don’t I give them some meaning, take some money out of my wallet and show them there’s a sense of commitment?” Meldrum said. “We teach the major principles of the course through the project. The $20 idea is the second purpose, to see how they can make change without a ton of resources.”

In the first four years of the project, Meldrum says his students have raised nearly $12,000 through a variety of initiatives.

“We’ve had students raise money to send kids through KidSport, we’ve had people do a seminar for young girls on body awareness, we’ve had people raise money to send bikes to Africa, we’ve had people teach kids how to make healthy food on a limited budget,” the instructor says. “It’s been kind of all over the place, but the goal is to make your community a healthier place. And through the class we have them define community, and have them define health.”

Thomas says he and his group-mates hope to spark a wave of kindness through their public challenge on Sunday.

Teams of all ages are invited to meet at the legislature fountain at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 25 for registration. The three-hour Kindness Challenge begins at 11 a.m., and teams of two to five people will be given a list of 100 kind tasks, ranging in point values. Tasks could be offering hugs, kind words, helping people cross the street or giving someone a self-made piece of art.

“There’s also some really silly (tasks), worth 100 points that hopefully people won’t be able to do. But if they can …,” Thomas said, without revealing details of what those tasks could be.

Teams will be required to document their good deeds – scavenger hunt-style – using a smartphone or camera, and the top point-earning teams win prizes. Teams that donate three or more canned goods at registration begin the challenge win five bonus points.

Meldrum said he’s blown away by the innovative ideas he’s seen his students come up with, especially given how much good they’ve done in the community.

“I thought at best somebody would raise a hundred bucks, which would be great, but they continue to astound me,” he said. “They’re seeing that they can take this entrepreneurial approach, even with limited resources, and make this world a better place.”

For more info on the Victoria Kindness Challenge, visit victoriakindnesschallenge.com.

kslavin@saanichnews.com

 

 

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