Episode 14: Kindness Is Creating Good Karma

Eleven-year-old Will and seventeen-year old Jada Finch share their inspiring story of turning personal heartache into helping animals. When Will was 7 and Jada was 12, the family adopted an adorable puppy they named Karma Rose. Sadly, within a few short weeks, Karma died from canine parvo-virus. Despite being devastated at the loss of his beloved puppy, Will decided to honor Karma on his 8th birthday. In lieu of gifts, he requested donations of money and pet supplies to donate to a local animal rescue. And soon after, Good Will Good Karma was born.

Will and Jada talk to Anitha about their amazing initiative to raise money and awareness to help animals. This podcast is a must for anyone who loves animals and wants to hear uplifting stories of how this incredible brother and sister team have dedicated their lives to helping animals.

As a thank you for sharing their story, Anitha donated to All Paws Cat Rescue. To learn more about this rescue, click here: http://allpawsrescue.weebly.com/

To learn more about Will, Jada and Good Will Good Karma, and all the kind and wonderful things they do, click here: https://www.facebook.com/goodwillgoodkarma/

Will and Jada spoke about several animal rescues they are involved with. To learn more about these rescues, click on the links below:

Northern Connection Rescue: https://www.facebook.com/northernpaws18/

Fetch & Releash Dog Rescue: https://www.fetchandreleash.ca/

Vandana Verma—Creating Kindness One Wish at a Time

Vandana Verma is the kind of teacher every parent wants for their child—enthusiastic, inspiring and full of kindness. She began her career in 2002 and has been teaching at Prince Of Wales Elementary School in Hamilton, Ontario, since 2003.

Vandana was born in India and immigrated to Canada when she was three years old. She moved from Toronto to Brantford and then finally to Hamilton when she was sixteen. Vandana says she was blessed with a wonderful family, great friends and credits some fantastic, caring teachers, who showed her the meaning and importance of kindness.

In 2013, Vandana started a program at her school called Just One Wish Kindness Program. The goal of the program was to show students that everyone has the power to make a positive difference.

The catalyst for this program came to Vandana in a dream, more specifically a poem she dreamt about. Fortunately, for Vandana when she woke up on the morning of January 2, 2013, the entire poem was still with her.

Filled with excitement, Vandana shared the poem and her plan of how it could instigate a movement of kindness within the school. Her Principal and Vice-Principal at the time completely supported the idea.

An assembly was arranged and Vandana introduced her idea to the school. During the next month, every student wrote a wish on a yellow-coloured paper star. These stars were posted all over the school.

Wishes like these:

Paul

Age: 19

Wish: I wish people would stop racism.

Jesse

Age: 9

Wish: I wish they stop all wars.

Kendra

Age: 8

Wish: I wish kids would be nice to people who are different.

Sheldon

Age: 6

Wish: I wish that the world was cleaner.

Frank

Age: 10

Wish: I wish people would stop cutting down trees so we can breathe better – they need to breathe too!

And Vandana’s wish:

Wish: I wish that people who had influence would think before they spoke or acted.

At the end of the month, they had another school-wide assembly. As a group, they decided which wishes they could make happen. These wishes were then transcribed onto blue-coloured paper stars.

Soon after the assembly, the climate of the school changed.  People were holding doors open, smiling at others, playing with others, and the school was a lot cleaner. Students would tell Vandana how another student was kind to them or how they helped another person. Vandana was thrilled to see how the students themselves were able see the change as well as discuss their efforts to make change happen. Visitors to the school would comment on how the school had a very positive, energized feeling.

For the next several years, the Just One Wish Kindness program continued. Vandana worked hard to think up different ways to carry out the program. From individual wishes, they moved to class wishes. They wished for things that would affect their school, the City of Hamilton, and of course, wishes for the entire world.

In addition to The Just One Wish Kindness program, the school is involved in other kindness initiatives. Prince of Wales Elementary celebrates International Pink Day, a day devoted to raising awareness about bullying. They also have a Mental Health Action Team, comprised of teachers and students.

In 2014, a student from the Mental Health Action Team asked why they only celebrate anti-bullying one day of the year. Vandana took this question to heart. She realized that the student had raised an excellent point and decided that people should live a PINK life every day.

PINK became the acronym for Positive Inspiration Noble Kind.

Vandana even created two super-heroes, Pink Power and Pink Passion. Once a week, students from the Mental Health Action Team would dress up as these superheroes. These wonderful pink-caped, pink-masked students would walk around the school and even go into classrooms, praising other students.

Unfortunately, both these initiatives, Just One Wish Kindness and PINK, were discontinued in 2019. But that didn’t stop Vandana from continuing to bring kindness into her school.

In March of 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic forced her school, like many others around the world, into lockdown. Vandana took this time to create puppets based on her PINK initiative.

Over the next two months, she sewed 17 puppets by hand, including Pink Power and Pink Passion. Vandana created seven scripts:

Kindness is Strength

Kindness is Knowledge

Kindness is The Little Things

Kindness is Acceptance

Kindness is Respect

Kindness is Helping

Kindness is Standing up

With friends lending their voices, Vandana has recorded these shows. Each video is approximately six to seven minutes long.

The reception for these videos has been great. They are being used by schools other cities in Ontario, such as Sarnia and Ajax. Vandana has even been asked to do a workshop on kindness for educators in Muskoka.

Vandana’s determination to create a community of kindness and empathy continues to expand. Season two of her puppet show is going to be out in September 2021.  It will have nine episodes focusing on kindness to oneself, others and the environment.  Eventually, Vandana would like her puppet show to address issues such as privilege, identity, racism, etc. 

When asked if there was one thing she could change in the world, Vandana said, “I wish I could change all the negative feelings, words and actions into positive ones.”

To learn more about Vandana and her Just One Wish Kindness Program, check out her website: https://www.justonewishkindnessprogram.com/index.php/about-us/about-vandana-verma/

Vandana has shared the poem that started it all on her YouTube channel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfGKK5GFMgs

Episode 13: Kindness Is Creating Card Games

In this episode, Anitha chats with Zachary Backman, another young entrepreneur from the Explorer Hop program. Zachary shares his fun story of creating a card game full of mythical creatures. A portion of the proceeds Zachary raised from the sale of his card game went to Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.

As a thank you for sharing his story, Anitha donated to Food For Thought. To learn about this charity and all they do, click on this link: https://www.foodforthought.cafe/

To learn about Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, please click on this link: https://www.cafdn.org/

To learn more about Explorer Hop and the programs they offer, please check out their website: https://explorerhop.com/

Episode 12: Kindness Is Telling Jokes

This is such a fun episode. Six-year-old Callaghan McLaughlin talks about how he spent the summer of 2020.

Callaghan set up a table at the bottom of his driveway and shared jokes with those who passed by. He talks to Anitha about his favorite part of telling jokes and even shares a couple of jokes on the episode!

Callaghan is proof that everyone, regardless of how young or old they are, can bring joy and kindness to others.

Anitha learned about Callaghan from author Erin Silver’s book, What Kids Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19. To learn more about Erin and the books she writes, please visit her website: http://www.erinsilver.ca/

As a thank you for sharing his story and his jokes, Anitha donated to Wires Wildlife Rescue. To learn more about this wonderful charity, please click on this link: https://www.wires.org.au/

Episode 11: Kindness Is Creating Opportunities

Community service and helping others have always been a part of sixteen-year old, Arhan Chabbra’s life. In 2019 he started tutoring children in a village in India. Though he enjoyed helping these children, he wanted to do more for them. This spurred him to create APPVIDYA, followed by COVIDYA.

In this inspiring episode, Arhan shares details about these two projects, his goals as well as the rewards and challenges of his amazing initiatives.

To learn more about Arhan’s projects, please click on this link—https://www.projectcovidya.com/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to help purchase a computer tablet for disadvantaged children. This was done through CASP, a charity Arhan has partnered with. To learn more about CASP, please click on this link— https://www.caspindia.org/

Anitha is grateful to author Erin Silver for connecting her with Arhan. Anitha learned about Arhan from Erin’s book, What Kid Did: Stories of Kindness and Invention in the Time of COVID-19. To learn more about Erin and the books she writes, please visit her website: http://www.erinsilver.ca/

Episode 10: Kindness Is Reuniting A Family

Nineteen-year-old, Marcela Kuzma was at her grandmother’s restaurant in Brazil when she heard a Haitian employee talk about going to the airport to pick up his wife, whom he hadn’t seen for four years. Marcela soon discovered that this employee had also left behind a son, who was now five years old. Unfortunately, it was going to take several more years for the son to join his parents in Brazil.

Hearing this family’s plight inspired Marcela to raise funds to reunite them. Marcela shares a heart-warming story of a community coming together to bring the little boy back to his mother and father.

As a thank you for sharing her story of kindness, Anitha donated to LALA: Latin American Leadership Academy. To learn more about LALA, click here: https://www.latinamericanleadershipacademy.org/about

Episode 9: Kindness Is Cooking & Cards

Like many kids, when the pandemic struck, Spencer Burwell found himself stuck at home in much need of something fun to do. A friend introduced him to Explorer Hop. This innovative organization teaches kids about global financial literacy entrepreneurship. But it also teaches them about giving back to society and the importance of helping those in need.

Spencer shares his experience of creating businesses, raising money, and donating that money to CARE and The Canadian Mental Health Association. For more information on these charities, click on the links below:

https://care.ca

https://cmha.ca

In this episode we explore what success really means.

To learn more about Explorer Hop, click here: https://explorerhop.com/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to the Parkdale Food Centre. To learn more about this charity, click here: https://parkdalefoodcentre.ca/

Episode 8: Kindness Is Art & Music

Ryan Elliot Drew shares his innovative idea to teach children about global issues such as climate change and habitat loss through art & music.

Combining his degrees in Music and Global Affairs, Ryan hopes to provide teachers with tools to inspire their students to appreciate the natural world through art.

Join Anitha Rao-Robinson as she and Ryan talk about this wonderful project.

To learn more about Ryan and his projects, click here: https://www.ryandrew.ca/

As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to the PEI Humane Society. For more information about this charity, click here: https://www.peihumanesociety.com/

Michelle Kadarusman—Author & Animal Lover

It’s always a joy to meet another author. However, connecting with Michelle Kadarusman was an extra thrill, because not only do we share a love of books and writing, we share a love for animals.

Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia with her four siblings. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mom, now a single mother and raising five kids, didn’t allow the family to have pets.

But this doesn’t appear to have been a hard rule, since Michelle and her siblings still filled their home with strays. To her relief, once the animals were there, her mom fell in love with the new family members as well. Michelle’s menagerie of strays included cats, rabbits and a dog named Charlie.

In 2000 Michelle moved to Canada and adopted her first dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Buddy was a five-year-old beagle mix. Sadly, Buddy died two years later. It happened when Michelle and her children were walking home from school. Buddy saw another dog across the street. He lunged and broke free of his leash, and he got hit by a car.

Devastated by his death, Michelle knew she wanted to bring another dog into their family.

Dogs add colour to our lives,” she says.

In 2003, India, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, joined Michelle’s family, and then seven years later, they adopted Hannah, a shepherd mix rescued from Aruba.

Given her love of animals, it’s no surprise that in 1996, while living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Michelle’s desire to help animals extended beyond rabbits, cats and dogs. She helped rescue an orangutan.

Her brother, Andre, was also in Indonesia at the time. He was working for an Australian construction company based in Jakarta. His work involved travelling to remote areas. At one of those locations he came upon a captive orangutan, held in a tiny cage, who was being used as an attraction at a restaurant.

Michelle’s brother didn’t know what to do. It is illegal in Indonesia to have an orangutan in captivity. But this was before Google and finding a rescue organization to save the orangutan was very difficult.

Michelle’s brother contacted her, wondering if she could help. Michelle had recently had a baby and belonged to a mom’s group. She told the other mothers about the plight of the orangutan. Luckily, one of the women knew someone who volunteered at an orangutan rescue. She promised to contact her friend at the rescue and get back to Michelle.

A couple of weeks passed and then Michelle received a call from the woman at the rescue. They were in the area that day and needed the location of the restaurant.

Michelle scrambled to contact her brother. Fortunately, she was able to speak with him. Even though he didn’t know the exact address of the restaurant, as it was located in a remote village, he was able to provide enough details for the rescue team to find the orangutan.

Thanks to Michelle and her brother, the orangutan was saved and taken to a sanctuary. Her seven years of being held captive in a tiny cage had finally come to an end.

Michelle never learned exactly what happened to the orangutan, but is hopeful that her life was a lot better having been rescued.

Not only is Michelle an animal lover but she is also an author. This incident with the orangutan has been brewing in Michelle’s mind for almost thirty years. She is now working on transforming it into a fictional story. She plans on telling the story from three points of view: the main character is a girl who is a budding activist, a boy whose uncle owns the restaurant where the orangutan was kept, and the orangutan herself.

As she writes, Michelle is cognisant of the complexities involved in dealing with animal conservation in countries such as Indonesia. She is determined not to vilify the restaurant owners. She says that her brother returned to the restaurant after the orangutan was saved and the owners were relieved she had been rescued. They too, wanted a better life for the orangutan but didn’t know how to make that happen.

Michelle is a gifted writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of The Southern Sea was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She has written three award- nominated novels. I eagerly await the release of this story based on her real-life experience helping an orangutan.

When asked the question, what is the one thing she would change in the world, Michelle said, “To change the world we have to look at our own actions first. It’s easy to forget to simply be kind. I try and remind myself everyday to lighten my thoughts and just do what I can.

For more information about Michelle, please check out her Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/MichelleKadarusmanAuthor

Kelly Thomas & Google Level Funding

I’m sure many of us have dreamt about what we would do if we had Google level funding. Literary agent, Kelly Thomas was asked this exact question on one of my favorite podcasts—The Manuscript Academy. It is a question the creators of the podcast often pose to guests and the answers are varied. But Kelly’s response had me beaming!

Kelly talked about the dogs she adopted from Animal Lighthouse Rescue (ALR), an organization that rescues dogs in Puerto Rico and brings them to New York City to find their forever homes.

It is a challenge to fly rescue dogs from Puerto Rico to New York City. Each dog must have a designated human escort travelling with them before they are allowed on the plane. Once this hurdle is overcome, the dogs are placed in the cargo section of the plane, which can be very loud and frightening, especially to a dog who has already suffered trauma. But for now, this is the only option available.  

But if Kelly had Google level funding, she would change this. She would buy a plane specifically to fly dogs in need of help to their forever homes. Any dog that didn’t find a family, Kelly would keep as her own.

As soon as I heard Kelly’s answer, I knew I had to find out more about her. The only contact information I had was her literary agency email. This email is normally used for writers submitting material to the agency in hopes of acquiring representation. I took a chance and emailed Kelly on her agency email. I explained who I was and that I was hoping to share her story on my Kindness Is Everything blog. Within minutes, Kelly emailed back, saying she would love to! And not only that, she put me in touch with the founder of Animal Lighthouse Rescue so that I could share their story as well.

It was such a joy to speak with Kelly. Whenever she talked about her dogs, both whom she adopted from Animal Lighthouse Rescue, her voice overflowed with love.

Kelly’s love of animals came from her father and grandmother. At one time, her grandmother had fourteen cats under her care. When Kelly was growing up, dogs and cats were always a part of her family. Her dad even threw her canine sibling birthday parties.

When Kelly left home, she was saddened to discover she’d developed an allergy to dogs.  This sudden onset sometimes happens when people are no longer around pets. As she was living in a small apartment in New York, having a pet wasn’t possible, so the allergy wasn’t much of an issue.  However, in 2013, Kelly moved to a larger, pet-friendly place and was determined to once again have a dog in her life, even if it meant allergy shots or medication.

Her search began.

Kelly started looking for dogs in need of a home on a website called Pet Finder. This led her to connect with Julie Sinaw, the founder of ALR.

Julie had three rescue dogs in NYC at the time. Kelly met them and immediately fell in love with Lila. The feeling was clearly mutual as Lila came up to Kelly and nuzzled right into her.

Kelly’s relationship with the rescue didn’t end once she brought Lila home. Kelly was so impressed by Julie’s dedication and efforts to rescue and find forever homes for the Puerto Rican dogs, that she started to volunteer.

She spent time helping out at dog adoption events. Kelly and the other volunteers would each be partnered with one of the dogs. They would learn everything they could about the dog—their history, special needs, if the dog got along with other dogs, cats, children, and if they were an active dog.

Kelly would then meet people who were interested in adopting the dog to determine whether or not it was a good match—for dog and human. Prospective adopters are thoroughly vetted to make sure they are committed to caring for a dog.

Kelly wanted to make sure each dog she was responsible for found a loving home like her own Lila.

Sadly, Lila passed away in February of 2020. Kelly was devastated. After about a month, she contacted Julie wanting to once again adopt a dog from Puerto Rico. This time it was a dog named Daisy who won Kelly’s heart. Soon after Kelly adopted Daisy, she changed her name to Hazel.

Kelly and Hazel moved to Orlando, Florida, in November of 2020. She even found a place that not only boasts a swimming pool and gym, but also a dog park!

Though living in Orlando means it’s no longer possible for Kelly to volunteer at the adoption events, she is hoping to find other ways to help Animal Lighthouse Rescue. Perhaps one day, she’ll buy them that plane!

When asked if there was only one thing she could change in the world, what that would be—her response: “For more people to be aware of how amazing animals are and to rescue them so that they all have a loving home and enough food. No animal should have to go hungry.”  

To learn more about Animal Lighthouse Rescue, check out their website: https://www.alrcares.com/