By Kala Shah
When I first started the Community Heroes program nearly three years ago. I was hoping my own three boys would learn the value of giving back in the beautiful bubble of Marin County, Calif. I suspected that if we were able to get their friends and peers involved, “service” might even become fun and if I dared to dream, addictive? I invited Toan Lam, founder and Chief Inspirator of Go Inspire Go, to help launch the program at Sun Valley School (San Rafael, Calif.) and now in our 6th semester, we’re still going strong, helping build a stronger culture of empathy and giving in our community. Something magical has happened as the kids’ compassion and kindness has billowed out on campus and beyond, and as our ambitions have grown to do more. We’re now in four Marin County schools with others lining up to join us.
This past Sunday, more than 250 kids and their parents took the Marin area by storm, giving back to their community. Four schools, participants of the Go Inspire Go Community Heroes program, embarked on the second annual Day of Giving, with 12 unique service projects including:
-Cooking an elegant meal and preparing shelter kits for Homeward Bound of Marin
-Gardening at the Canal Community Garden in San Rafael
-Cleaning up with the Downtown Streets Team San Rafael
-Weeding and trash pick-up at Marin Civic Center
-Planting 150 plants and clearing non-native plants at Terra Linda/Sleepy Hollow Open Space Preserve
-Making superhero capes and blankets to benefit patients at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and Rooms that Rock 4 Chemo
-Multiple bake sales to help pay for expenses
That’s an incredible amount of good to come from one morning! The joy and excitement was palpable before and after the event. People were glowing… and happy! Why? I truly believe there’s a hunger in this community to try and keep grounded amid our picture-perfect scenery and weather, our gadget obsessions and the super-charged environment fueling the latest tech boom. Disparities are widening and the growing masses of homeless are being shuffled around. You see them out and about more — as local parks shut their gates, and as it gets even tougher to find affordable housing with rents and home prices through the roof. All these Community Heroes CHOSE to spend their Sunday getting their hands and hearts busy to help others. Our secret sauce? We make it FUN and aim to INSPIRE with our videos and our ENTHUSIASM, which I’ve been told is rather contagious. :)
Top heartwarming quotes from kids who took part in the Day of Giving:
-“The people we cleaned the streets with don’t look homeless. They’re just like us.”
-“I can’t wait to see the smiles on the faces of the people we cooked for!”
-“The Day of Giving was the best day of my life.”
Whoa, how’s that for compassion in action. Magic indeed!
As Sun Valley School’s program has been going strong, word has got out and we’ve recruited three new local schools to join us this year: Kent Middle School, Dixie Elementary and Mary Silveira Elementary. More are lining up — and at this point, we need your help. Despite what it may seem from all we’ve accomplished, this program is 100% volunteer-run. Aside from a few grants, including a coveted LinkedIn Innovation Grant, we’ve come to the point where to keep this program growing and sustainable, we need to secure funding. This requires support for a full-time coordinator and Go Inspire Go infrastructure to create videos to grow the curriculum, operate our website and help run an organization.
The Community Heroes program has been teaching kids about compassion and action for close to three years, and we’ve been proving that what we’re doing WORKS! We’ve been getting kids and adults EXCITED and ENGAGED and have gone out there and done A LOT — collection drives, fundraisers and service projects to support local charities. The most exciting aspect of our impact is how kids have felt empowered by the program; they understand how they have the power to make a difference. Who knows how these young philanthropists and social activists will exercise their powers throughout their lives?
I believe there’s no greater gift we can give our kids than to grow their sense of compassion and responsibility to help make the world a better place. Don’t you agree?
Three ways you can help:
1. If you think this program is valuable, and can support us with a contribution, please donate here. Funds would help develop a toolkit, expand to new schools, train facilitators and coordinate among partners and the non-profit network.
2. If monetary contributions are a stretch, we could always use more volunteers and connections to those who might be willing to help. Just drop us a line with your ideas!
3. Spread the word about Go Inspire Go’s mission — to inspire people to find their power to help others! Please forward and share this blog. Use #ComHeroes and tag us @goinspirego. You can also email Kala Shah.
Kala Shah is Go Inspire Go’s Chief Innovation Officer and Program Director of Community Heroes, a service-learning program that is now in four Marin County schools.