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Students encourage public to join

Compassion embraces all ages
Kyle Wells

Students from Brooks Secondary School’s Compassion Project are moving the goodwill and kindness that they have developed in the school out into the community and need everyone’s help.

On Thursday, May 26 the Brooks Compassion Project is inviting the community to take part in the Compassion Challenge. The challenge is a chance for the entire Powell River region and beyond to help out the cause and learn what compassion is all about and how it can be incorporated into everyday life.

On the day people are encouraged, in however big or small a way, to commit a random act of compassion for another person. The act may be as simple as smiling and saying hello to someone unknown or as committed as helping a neighbour out with yard work or doing some volunteer work. Those who carry out the acts of kindness are asked to document them and send them into the project to be added to its website. The students’ goal is to end the day having gathered 10,000 acts of kindness.

“I think it’s a really needed project to help bring everyone together and get closer and just make the world a better place,” said Shyanne Ashton, grade 10. “The day of action shouldn’t just be on that one should be a constant thing.”

Taking part in the initiative is as easy as three steps. Step one is to figure out the act of compassion that you want to commit. Step two is to carry out that act and document it, by video, photograph or just by writing about it. Step three is to go to the Compassion Project’s website at and email your documented act of kindness to the project to be added to all the others the students receive.

Once approved by students, the documented kind acts will be posted to the website and then threaded through Twitter and Facebook. Prior to the event the website will also feature a list of suggested compassionate acts for people to commit compiled by students.

Among the suggestions students have come up with are planting a tree, donating something to the food bank, giving someone a hug, giving out positive Post-It notes, helping a neighbour, high-fiving someone, volunteering, giving coffee to a friend, cleaning up a local park, donating a book to the library, telling a friend why you like them or calling a parent and telling them you love them.

The idea for the challenge came from students who wanted to find a way to involve the community in the transformative vibe that has been going on at the school. From its beginnings last school year the project has been presented as an antidote to bullying, as an initiative to promote positive relationships between students and as a way for students to take the lead in a progressive, unique and potentially highly influential project.

With the help of teachers the students made a documentary about compassion, held an art show at Brooks of photos of students paired with personal definitions of compassion and have worked with younger students in the district to teach them how it’s cool to be kind. Student leadership has been a cornerstone of the project from the start and the teachers involved prefer to let them run the show while guiding them along the way.

After the Compassion Challenge is complete, students will create Compassion Walls in various places throughout the community that will display what has been sent in for others to see and find inspiration in. Other schools from around the district will create physical walls of compassion that will feature stories and photos from students and will help start a conversation in the school about the value and place of compassion.

“I think people will rethink the way they think,” said Keisha Moore, grade 12. “They know personally that they have issues and that they have problems that they go through and everyone does and your problem’s not worse than anyone else’s problem. So they’ll just start to realize that everyone needs help, everyone needs someone to talk to.”

“You’re making other people’s lives better and you’re also making your own life better,” said Tori Westby, grade 12. “You’re happy helping people and they’re happy when you help them so it’s a win-win situation...I think you learn that it feels good to be kind to people and you get the feeling of ‘why aren’t we like this?’’’

Grade six students from the district visited Brooks on Tuesday, May 10 to talk to the older Compassion Project students and learn about how being nice is cool. Taking the project not just beyond the boundaries of the school but beyond boundaries of age is another goal of the project. Having older students interact with the younger ones and reinforce to them the idea of being nice to other people is seen both as a way to reinforce the message at a young age and to help prepare them for life in high school.

A parent of a student involved in the project, Annabelle Tully-Barr, in conjunction with Skylight Art Studio and Supplies, is organizing a compassion sign painting event for the night before the challenge. Tully-Barr had the idea to turn now unneeded election signs inside out and paint on them, using the same wire frames to display the art.

From 4 to 7 pm everyone is invited to the studio on Marine Avenue and, with paints and materials provided by donation, paint a visual representation of compassion using words or images or any other means. These signs can then be set up and displayed in various spots around the community so that Powell River can “wake up to a panorama of colour, kind words, compassion, random acts and fun,” as Tully-Barr said. Participants are asked to take down their signs the day after the challenge.

Otherwise students are asking everyone to remember to smile at others, say a kind word to a friend or help out someone who needs it, write a word or two about the experience, or take a photo, and let everyone know how compassion touched your life.

This is the first in a series of three articles leading up to the Compassion Challenge.