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 2: Kindness Is Tying Shoelaces

On this episode, I speak with eleven-year-old Sid Chaurasia. Sid shares her story of being part of the Terry Fox Run at school when she noticed a younger student off to the side. At the time, only seven herself, Sid stopped to find out why the little boy wasn’t running with everyone else. When she learned of his dilemma, Sid helped him with the issue and then together they finished the run.

Sid acted without any expectation of acknowledgment or reward, but her act of kindness was noticed and she was surprised at the outcome.

As a thank you for sharing her story of kindness, I donated to the SickKids Foundation on behalf of Sid.

For more information about The Terry Fox Foundation and how you can help, please click on this link: https://terryfox.org/run/

For more information about the SickKids Foundation and how you can help, please click here: https://www.sickkidsfoundation.com/

This episode was produced by Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio.

Episode 1: Kindness Is Buddy Benches

Ten-year-olds Maya and Liberty Persaud join me to share not one, but two stories of kindness.

Moving to a new country can be exciting, but it also brings on the challenge of making friends. Maya and Liberty Persaud have a lot of experience with this. When the girls were four years old, they moved from Canada to South Korea, and then at the age of eight, they moved to Brazil. Each move meant a new school, new friends, and a new language.

Familiar with being the ‘new kid’ at school and how that can often make someone feel left out, Maya and Liberty created a Buddy Bench.

This wonderful bench is there for any child who is feeling lonely. The child sits on the bench to signal they need someone to play with. Once other children see that student at the bench, they can invite him or her to be a part of their game and feel included. How lovely!

Maya & Liberty and their Buddy Bench

The girls’ acts of kindness didn’t end with the Buddy Bench. They also share their involvement with Nyaka Orphanage, an organization that supports the needs of orphaned and vulnerable children in rural southwestern Uganda.

As a thank you for sharing their story of kindness, I donated to the Nyaka Orphanage on behalf of Maya and Liberty.

For more information about the Nyaka Orphange, please check out their website: https://nyakaglobal.org/

This episode was produced by Stephen Hurley of VoicEd Radio.