Hey! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Lindsey, Founder of World-Changing Kids and my pronouns are she/her. I started World-Changing Kids because I couldn’t not start it. I didn’t really know what I was doing, or what I wanted to do, but there was a pull in my heart that I could not ignore. I started by focusing on kindness and community building. I knew the type of community that I wanted to raise my kids in – one that was connected, inclusive and supportive. A community where we knew all of our neighbours and the kids went back and forth between houses and stayed outside playing until the streetlights came on. And I knew that I if I wanted this, I had to build it. So I wrote a book – “Plant a Garden of Kindness: A Child’s Guide to Filling a Year with Weekly Acts of Kindness” – to help us all build this type of friendly community and empower our kids to know that they can make a positive difference in the world.

Then, as my kids and all the awesome kids I love got older, I started to realize that kindness on its own is not enough. We need to really look at the injustices in our world and take action on them. Kindness plus action equals social justice. And I was discovering that the kids were hungry for conversations about social justice. They start out knowing that we are all equal, that we all deserve dignity and respect, and that we have to take better care of one another and our planet. So, with these awesome kids in the lead, I dove right into learning all about social justice with them. I created the Upstanders Academy: an online social justice experiential learning program for youth ages 7 – 13, where we talk about real world issues and come up with actions we can take to help make things better. We connect with, support and empower our youth through meaningful and impactful experiences, conversations and mentorship.

And you know what has been the most interesting thing that I have learned through all this? That everything is connected and interrelated. You can’t talk about one social justice issue without bringing up and tying in a whole bunch of others.

For example, in Upstanders Academy, we have now investigated the theme of homelessness in two separate sessions. For this, we have interviewed an amazing line up of guest experts including Taylor from Operation Come Home, Joanna from Sandy Hill Community Health Centre (who is in an amazing documentary called Blue Roses that you can watch on CBC Gem), Shawna from Shawna’s Outreach and Jean Cloutier, my City Councillor. Through this we have learned that you can’t talk about homelessness and how to help make it better without talking about our foster care system – as nearly three out of every five homeless youth were part of the child welfare system at some point in their lives. And you can’t talk about the foster care system without talking about residential schools, intergenerational trauma and reconciliation – as Indigenous youth account for nearly half of the children in care nationally. And you also have to talk about mental health, addiction, our criminal justice system, our veterans, violence against women, homophobia and education (financial literacy being high up on the list of educational priorities) if you want to talk about reducing homelessness. And you have to talk about food security – if you are homeless and hungry, you have to spend your whole day panhandling for enough money to feed yourself. If you are doing that, you have no time for doing anything else that might help you get yourself out of homelessness. And you also have to talk about community and compassion and just caring about each other. You need to have a holistic approach to homelessness that brings in all of these important pieces if we are actually going to make things better. But we need to start by letting our hearts break wide open and truly decide to not be OK with anyone in our communities living on the streets.

These are all things that we have talked about in Upstanders Academy – me and these awesome kids who are between the ages of 7 and 13. Imagine what they are going to be able to do when they are in charge with all of this knowledge in their heads and hearts. Imagine how they are going to be able to make decisions that are truly going to make things better. Imagine what they are going to be able achieve by learning how to lead with love at their young ages. I get so excited and energized thinking about all this. I am so honoured that these kids choose to do this learning with me.

* Photo credit to my daughter (when she was 10)