World-Changing Kids - Lindsey
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got started.
I have a business degree and went to work for the Federal Government as a Program Officer right out of university. After having our first child, I knew that I did not want to go back to a full time, 9 to 5 job. I knew that I wanted to stay home with our kids. I also knew the type of community that I wanted to raise our kids in and the type of experiences that I wanted them to have. A community where everyone knows each other, where everyone helps and supports each other, where kids are traded back and forth between houses, where kids are out playing until the streetlights come on. I wanted to make sure that they had loads of experiences that helped them build their confidence and their leadership skills and become they best version of themselves they could be. Things like art, music, being outdoors and active, and learning about civic engagement and activism. I wanted to give them as much of the best parts of my childhood as I could.
I quickly realized that if I wanted them to have that type of community and those types of experiences – then I had to take responsibility for building it for them.
What made you want to start an organization instead of simply getting involved in one that was already in existence?
This is a really good question! I have always been an organizer and a doer. I have always enjoyed being involved in building something from the ground up and getting other people on board. I have always enjoyed including everyone in whatever I was working on. I felt like I had a skill set and an idea and a passion for something that I didn’t see as already available out there. I wanted something that families could do together, that was aimed at kids as young as 2, and that helped build community. I wanted to bring together all the great things that are going on in our communities and share it with families, because you never know what is going to spark the imagination of a child and where this could lead them in the future.
As a short answer, I just wanted to be a part of everything good – so joining an organization that was already in existence felt too narrow. I wanted to work with our elders, the Food Banks, the Humane Society, refugees, the homeless, the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, peace activists, environmental activists, feminists, educational disruptors, musicians, artists … the list goes on and on.
Tell us about your three pillars. How do they work together?
The Three Pillars of WCK are:
1. Character Education – to teach children all the important qualities needed to become engaged citizens.
2. Leadership Development – to help build children’s confidence and teach them that they have the power to make the world a better place now and in the future.
3. Community Building – to work together to build communities that will help each child become the best world-changing kid they can be.
Really, I would say these three ideas only work if they are all working together. I don’t think you can teach any one of these in isolation. In order for our children to be confident, engaged, compassionate leaders, we need to raise them in a safe, supportive, loving community where they get to practice whatever their passions and potential calling might be. Kids need to have loads of different positive experiences to live up to their fullest potential. It really does take a village to raise a child, and we have lost that idea of a village … we really need to build it back up.
Tell us about the Year of Kindness programs for schools. Why are schools and teachers important to this initiative?
The Year of Kindness for Schools Program is a student-led program for schools that provides children with a framework for how to be kind, compassionate, engaged citizens. The program consists of three assemblies, 100 Daily Acts of Kindness for students and 25 Weekly Acts of Kindness for families. We provide the school with a Kindness Toolkit that gives them everything they need to run the program, plus supporting materials like worksheets, bi-weekly inspirational emails, and email and phone support as needed.
Schools and teachers have a huge role to play in teaching our children kindness, empathy, compassion, leadership, inclusion and civic engagement. I would estimate that children spend more time interacting with their teachers and classmates than they do their families. So for any initiative like this to work, the child has to be getting the same message about the importance of kindness from the home, the school and the larger community.
I would also say that schools have a responsibility to teach all this to children. I think the current focus on standardized test results, instructional hours, and worksheets, with a reduction in outdoor play, music and art, is so detrimental to our children. We need to be better at teaching the soft things too.
What are your goals for World-Changing Kids? What do you hope to achieve through the programs and activities?
My goals for World-Changing Kids (WCK) … there are so many! I want to inspire children to know that they are capable of greatness and that they can make the world a better place now and in the future. I want to create communities where children feel safe, supported and loved. I want to bring families together to build that village that we are all desperately missing. I want to help children find where their passion lies, what they want to do to help make the world a better place, and help them dive into that fully. I want every child to believe that they are good, that they matter, that they can do great things and I want to create a community of support around them that will help them get there.
Why is Ottawa the right place for World-Changing Kids to grow?
Ottawa is the right place for World-Changing Kids to grow because I have the most amazing support network here. Soon after having our first child, I started to build that network. I first called what I was doing the “Alta Vista Kids Club”. I organized park parties, and skating parties, and art shows where the kids’ paintings would be displayed in the children’s programming room of our local library and we would have a “vernissage” for all the families. I rented the gym at our school for Saturday mornings in the winters when my son was really small – because you can’t put a 2 year old in a snow suit and go outside, they can’t walk! At one point, before I was a Facebook user, I had an Excel spreadsheet with an email distribution list for the neighbourhood of 180 families!
I first launched by book, “Plant a Garden of Kindness, A Child’s Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness” – which by the way so many moms in the neighbourhood helped me build – at our school’s Holiday Bazaar in December 2014. I had nearly 150 pre-orders of the book from friends in the community, to be picked up at the Holiday Bazaar!
The amount of love and support I continue to feel on a daily basis is instrumental to the growth of World-Changing Kids. Being a solopreneur is hard. Making something up from nothing is hard. Not listening to the critical, negative voices in your own head asking you over and over again if you can really achieve your dream is hard. I wouldn’t be where I am today without this awesome support network in my community. I am truly grateful for it.
It not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to raise an entrepreneur and help her achieve her dream!
What’s something you’ve learned about business since starting this organization?
I have learned so much. Because I am a solopreneur – with awesome friends helping out here and there … oh, and I have to give a shout out to my super awesome friend Sarah West, who does all my graphic design and website work – but aside from that, being a solopreneur means that I have had to learn a lot about everything. I have learned about social media, Mail Chimp, making videos (I have a lot more to learn on that front), networking, event planning, public speaking, media appearances, sales, accounting, grant writing … the list goes on and on.
Do you ever miss your government job?
No. Definitely a big no to that. I do miss the steady, guaranteed paycheques and the security. But I know that I have made the right decision to leave and follow my dream.
It is interesting that even though I know in my heart that I made the right decision, I actually am having a lot of trouble answering this question. I jumped right into all the questions before this one … but I am finding myself leaving this question and checking Facebook, or just getting easily distracted. And I am feeling a bit anxious. I think that is because I do have some guilt about leaving. I have guilt that I was able to quit and others aren’t. And part of the reason that I was able to quit is because my husband does have a steady, government job with all the benefits. So I feel guilty that other families don’t have that. I feel guilty about putting all the financial pressure on my husband though. So there’s that! I feel selfish about following my dream when others can’t. I have the thought of “who am I to deserve this opportunity?”
My reaction to this question leads me to add something to your above question about something I have learned since starting WCK – and that is that there is so much mental work to do to fully step into your role as a founder or entrepreneur … or at least there has been for me. There are all these beliefs that are holding me back, or that I have to work through. I didn’t know that that part of it would be so hard!
One more quick story on this question … I went through 10 years of unpaid leave from the Federal Government before making the decision to officially resign. November 30, 2017 was the deadline for making the decision to resign or find a job to go back to, when I had really exhausted every amount of unpaid leave available, when I had to make the decision to give up the safety net of a potential great paying job to go back to and jump fully into WCK. A few months before that date I threw my back out. I have never had back pain before. This was terrible. I have so much empathy for people who suffer from back pain now. It was debilitating. I was lying down every possible chance I could get. Nothing I was doing was helping it get any better.
Then, on a Saturday morning, I broke down. I cried and cried and told my husband that while I had been giving a half-hearted effort towards finding a job to go back to, because that is what I thought was the safest and most responsible decision and everyone who is in the Federal Government and had all the security told me I was crazy for thinking of giving that up, I couldn’t do it anymore – I couldn’t put my efforts towards going back to the government. I couldn’t go back. I couldn’t give up on my dream for WCK. I knew that this was my passion, this was my calling. And I made the decision not to go back. Six hours after putting that decision out there, after owning it as my truth, my back stopped hurting. I was completely back to normal. I really found it fascinating how much my mind, or body, or heart was trying to tell me what the right decision was!
If there was one message you could give to kids, what would it be?
That you have the power within you already to make the world a better place and that the world needs you to find what you are passionate about and take action in that area. That you are important, you are needed, you are loved.
Your kids obviously played a role in inspiring you to develop this organization. How much of an influence do they have on the day-to-day work that you do?
My kids have a huge influence on the day-to-day work that I do - my kids and all the awesome kids in my community that I get to hang out with. I like to say that I have done 11 years of field research on the kids in my neighbourhood with respect to all this kindness work, leadership development and community building. Parents have let me try out so many different activities on kids of all different ages to find out what really works, what the kids really connect with, what really inspires them. I have gone into classrooms and schools and have been able to discover what kids want to know about, what they want to work on, what they are capable of understanding – which is more than I think society normally gives them credit for. These kids are awesome and they are going to change the world for the better – our job is to help guide them, support them and then get out of their way!
When you’re not busy with World-Changing Kids, what are some of the things you like to do in your free time?
I love to be out in nature – walking, hiking, biking, swimming, and skiing. I love watching kids just be kids outside, with lots of space … it is something that they don’t get enough of in our modern society. I love to see live music. If I had to pick one thing that I love the most it would be concerts. I love books and reading. I love having a full house of friends and family. I love learning new things and meeting new people. I want to be a part of everything in my free time, just like I do with World-Changing Kids!