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The Counterattack: Cultivate Compassion by Fostering Empathy
By Executive Director, Tricia Sistrunk
It’s become increasingly difficult for me to watch the news or follow social media. Most recently, I had to take a break from watching the videos taken by frightened teens as they crouched in their classrooms, listening to gunfire and the sounds of terror that filled their school hallways. I also had to take a break from social media where, instead of coming together to help lift up the community in Parkland, Florida, I saw posts debating each “side” with vitriol, only to detach us further from each other and from any sort of solution.
I recently finished reading Unselfie: Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, by Michele Borba, Ed.D. In Chapter 7, Borba talks about how empathetic children think “us” not “them.” She goes on to describe several studies and experiments that reveal the power of collaboration in breaking down preconceived prejudices and hatred for “them.” The studies and experiments required kids from different races, religions, and socio-economic backgrounds to collaborate and get to know one another. Resoundingly, these studies and experiments cultivated compassion between groups of people who were filled with animosity towards each other. Borba states, “I’m firmly convinced that the best way to erase destructive prejudices is through meaningful experiences that expose children to differences and break down barriers until ‘Them’ become ‘Us.’ And it all starts with empathy.”
On the day after the Parkland school shooting, Ernest, our Tanzanian coordinator, sent me this video. The Lunch Project recently received funds from Selwyn Elementary School to purchase textbooks and supplies for the schools TLP supports in Tanzania. The video Ernest sent was of the textbooks being delivered to the teachers and students. It shows children in their crowded classrooms, cheering, and holding up their new textbooks. It offers one example of how The Lunch Project is connecting children with vastly different backgrounds and cultures. The recent St. John’s Fill the Bowl youth fundraiser offers another example. Each child who, after learning about the Maasai children in Tanzania, feels empowered to help provide them lunch so that they can learn, offers another example. Creating that connection is an important first step in fostering empathy and cultivating compassion.
We must continue to put empathy back in our society as a counter to the negativity that divides us. We need to create more of an “us” rather than “them” mentality. This video shows the impact empathy and compassion can have; a counterattack to the evil that happened in the classrooms at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Exciting Announcement About Our Third School!
The Lunch Project is now serving lunch five days a week at our third school, Olkokola, in Tanzania. While we have been serving lunch five days a week in two other schools, Lemanyata and Engorika Primary Schools, we have been serving lunch in Olkokola for two days a week since Thanksgiving. Understanding that it is critical to serve lunch each school day, it is also critical to allow the community to come together to coordinate this effort. Lunch is so much more than lunch—the meal not only increases school attendance rates and grades, but it also brings the community together. Locals are involved in every step, from harvest to bowl. Thank you to all our supporters who help provide the funds for each meal. And to quote Olkakola students, “Having porridge makes us come to school every day!” Ernest, our Tanzanian coordinator, provided video footage of the students giving thanks to our donors.
P.S. We still need your help! Your donation will transform communities and empower children across the globe.
To the Youth and Members of St. John’s Episcopal Church: You Rock!
The youth of St. John’s have completed their month-long fundraising campaign with their Fill the Bowl Event on the weekend of March 2. To close out the initiative, they fasted 30 hours, slept outside in a cardboard village, and performed a community service project. The activities were designed to foster empathy for others who are not as fortunate. They certainly “walked in someone else’s shoes” and reflected on how difficult life is for many people around the globe. All together, they raised over $56,000 for TLP. The impact of their efforts will certainly be felt by their peers in Tanzania. But, we are certain this compassionate and empathetic group will continue to make a difference right here in Charlotte as well. We are so grateful to have such amazing youth and leadership in our community.
Thank You Selwyn Elementary School!
Selwyn Elementary School donated $2500 from their book fair proceeds to TLP program initiatives. Second graders at Selwyn Elementary have also decided to go above and beyond by creating a "change exchange" where they were encouraged to contribute their loose change for a week to help support our lunch program. This activity allows students to put their empathy into action while connecting kids across the globe.
TLP Has Been Active in the Community
Last month, we had the opportunity to present to Chantilly Elementary, Myers Park Traditional School, Selwyn Elementary, and Trinity Presbyterian Church. We also participated in the Girl Scout World Thinking Day and shared information with the Girl Scouts about the daily life of a child in the Maasai community. If you would like The Lunch Project to come to your school, please send us an email.
Morning Break Charlotte
Executive Director, Tricia Sistrunk will be Coach Lamonte’s MVP on WBTV Morning Break, Friday, March 23rd. Be sure to tune in that morning to hear the latest and greatest. Thank you Coach and WBTV for the honor!
Year End Tax Letter
TLP emailed donation statements for the 2017 tax year at the end of February. Please contact our development coordinator email@example.com if you have any questions or did not receive a statement. Thank you again for your support—we couldn't do what we do without you.