The Kind Campaign is a unique non-profit organisation, with the ultimate goal to end bullying and spread the message of kindness in schools, founded by Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson. We spoke to them about their tips for 11 year olds, how they define kindness and what they think about social media. They also share their own experiences which gave them the inspiration they needed to create the award-winning documentary ‘Finding Kind’ which has impacted so many girls in schools already. The founders are now getting ready to come to England for the first time because of the popularity and growth of the Kind Campaign. There’s a huge demand for it all over the world and England will be one of the stops on their Spring Tour, which marks their 11th annual Founders Assembly Tour.
“I think you need to find kindness within yourself and a love for yourself, really to be kind to yourself and to love who you are and really hone in on that relationship you have with yourself. Especially with women, we can be so hard on ourselves and our insecurities can take hold of so many aspects of our lives and it’s a learning process.”
Taylor Magazine: Could you tell us a bit about the Kind Campaign in your own words and what inspired you to launch it?
Lauren Paul: So the two of us started the Kind Campaign back in 2009 and the inspiration to start the project was from personal experiences that we had while we were at school. I personally went through a really hard time in middle school and it really became a life defining chapter for me and through that experience one of the things that really helped me through it was this idea that one day I can use that story to start a conversation about bullying between females on some platform. Molly and I went to Pepperdine University together and I had the opportunity to work on a documentary that really inspired me and I figured that could be a perfect way to share that story so I sat down with Molly and talked about this idea to film a documentary about the way girls treat one and other and the bullying that takes place between females specifically.
That conversation took place in 2008 actually and at that time bullying was not the hot topic that it is today. We had no idea how people would react to it and if people would open up about their experiences. We decided to jump in and see what happens and we started shooting local interviews. It was through that we became super inspired because the stories we were collecting were so heartbreaking and so incredible. It was obvious that people had been waiting to share these stories and not sweep it under the rug anymore.
So, that’s when the idea for Kind Campaign came along and the idea for school programmes and assemblies and curriculum all came about. About a year into launching Kind Campaign that’s when bullying really became a hot topic in the media. Schools started picking it up, we were already in schools doing things and we were unique in the sense that nobody else was already established so the timing for us was good. Because of that it just snowballed into something that we would have never even dreamed of when we started and had that conversation. It’s been an amazing journey over the last 8 years and Molly and I are actually about to go on our 11th school tour, where we travel to assemblies and we’re just excited about all the lives that have been changed through Kind Campaign.
Taylor Magazine: When you go to a school and speak to the girls, what are the sort of things you try and encourage? What are the things you try to make sure they know about bullying and being kind to each other?
Molly Thompson: When we do our assemblies in schools, it’s the two of us wearing jeans and a t-shirt and trying to build a relationship with the girls where they look to us as an older sister or peer rather than a teacher or a counsellor coming in. I think that helps the messages that we share with them really resinate because we’re not these people who are up there telling them what to do or what not to do. When we go in we open the assembly with two questions to really get the girls all on the same page.
Question 1… is to raise their hand if they’ve ever been negatively affected by what another girl has said or done do them, and then every single hand in the room shoots up. It’s amazing for girls to look around the room and realise that the girl sitting five rows back who they thought had the perfect life had also be affected by things that have been said or done to her.
Question 2… is to keep their hands raised if they have ever said or done something to negatively affect another female and it’s amazing because every single hand in the room stays up for that question as well. We do that to really showcase that we’ve all been on both sides of the issue and Kind Campaign isn’t about pointing the finger at anyone except for ourselves and acknowledging that others have been affected by the same things that have been said and done to us. Each one of us has played a role in it and we have all said and done things that are negatively affecting other people so really within that realisation the girls see that there’s so much hope within this message.
They realise that they have the power to create change within their school hallways and their communities. After that, Lauren and I share your stories and testimonies of our experiences… Lauren’s in middle school and mine in high school which allows them to see that others go through a lot of the same social pressures that they may be experiencing. Then we screen the film ‘Finding Kind’ which is a really powerful film. After the film is when we really dive into the interactive portion of the assembly and it’s really when we see so much change created within these girls lives and friendships mended.
- The first interactive feature is the ‘Kind Pledge’ which allows girls to make a pledge or promise to take an action step to kindness and we open the floor for girls to stand up in front of their peers and share what they want to do to create change in their school. It’s really a powerful moment for them to use their voice in the name of kindness.
- The second interactive activity is our favourite part. It’s called ‘Kind Apology’ and it gives girls the opportunity to say sorry for something that they’ve said or done. It really carries so much power to create incredible change within these girls lives and it’s as simple as writing down: “I’m sorry for this that I said or did to you”, whether it was last week or a couple of years ago. We do encourage them to hand their apology to the person that they’ve written it to after the assembly and it’s really incredible to see. Often girls are so excited to hand their apology and they’ll get up when they’re done writing it and they’ll walk across to the other side of the room and hand this apology to this girl that they haven’t spoken to in however long. It’s such a beautiful moment for us to witness and there’s hugs and tears of reconciliation so it’s one of our favourite parts.
- We end the interactive portion on a positive note with a ‘Kind Card’ and it’s as simple as just giving the girls the opportunity to say something nice to someone in their lives. It could be a good friend or someone that’s an acquaintance. It just creates this really beautiful mutual respect for all of the girls in the room and by this point, they are all passionate about being kind to everyone in their lives and creating a safe community in their school. We end the assembly with different powerful messages that we like to leave with the girls. We want to continue to spread the Kind Campaign message to as many schools and communities as possible which is why we’re so excited to tour and to host our first founders assembly in London.
Taylor Magazine: Where do you hope that the Kind Campaign will in the next 5 years?
Kind Campaign: From the beginning we have always set goals and we take each year as it comes. There’s certain things we do every single year but we always like to introduce a couple of initiatives. A couple of years ago we had the Kind Camp which was a wonderful experience for a group of girls in LA to come together and do breakout sessions and that was a really successful event. We have a new volunteer programme called Kind Ambassadors that we just launched and we actually have Kind Ambassadors in the UK as well. Basically we give girls and women the tools that they need and train them to go out into their local communities and host assemblies and start Kind Clubs. We already have over 50 within the last couple months of launching and we’re just constantly thinking of new ideas. I’d say overall the goal is to keep expanding the way we have. We definitely would love to bring it to a more global platform over the next few years.
Taylor Magazine: There must be so many girls that you meet that inspire you but is there one story that really stuck with you?
Kind Campaign: That’s a tough question because every single girl we meet is so inspiring but one situation that stands out is from last October. We were in a school in North Carolina and we hosted the assembly there. While the film was playing the principal came in and was sharing the things that have been going on in her school. She asked us if she would be able to say something as the end of the assembly and normally that doesn’t happen, but just because of her energy and passion for these girls we said that that would be okay. She asked the girls to go and find someone new that they had never spoken to and just give them a hug and I think it’s just a testament to the environment created within these assemblies that it worked. They were willing to put themselves out there and go and meet someone new in the school.
There was about 300 girls and it was just this beautiful moment. Most of them had happy tears on their faces. The conversations that we had after that assembly were the most inspiring and heartwarming conversations with girls sharing their experiences. The change that we were able to see took place in just a matter of hours because of the Kind Campaign assembly. They had a different perspective on the girls in their school and their experience and where they stood and their self-confidence.
Taylor Magazine: What advice would you give to your 14 year old self?
Lauren Paul: Going through that experience for me I just felt like what I was going through was my entire story. It felt like those middle school hallways were my whole world and I know when you’re in school it can be so hard to see outside of those school hallways or your math class or your lunch period and to just know that there’s more to life and that’s not it for you. I wish I could travel back in time and tell myself that there are all these amazing chapters ahead of me, like the people I was going to meet and the relationship I was going to have. And there’s these friends out in the world that I would meet one day that will change my life and be in my life forever, just to gain that perspective at that age. It’s probably easier said than done. That doesn’t mean that life will ever be perfect but knowing that your experience in school is just one chapter of your story and that there’s just so much ahead is a really important thing that a lot of kids lose sight of. I think a lot of times it feels like that’s going to be your life forever but just to know that it’s not. I really wish I could go back and share that with myself.
Taylor Magazine: Do you think now having social media from quite a young age makes it harder to control bullying?
Molly Thompson: That’s a really great question. Social media is constantly changing and evolving and I feel like we are all trying to learn how to keep up with it and manage it and to know the impact that it has on our lives. Being in schools and witnessing the impact that it holds has been pretty alarming for us to see how much weight has been put into the persona that these girls have put on different social media accounts. Also what’s alarming is the rate at which things travel on social media. A rumour ten years ago would take a week to spread through the entire school, but now it can be spread in a matter of seconds.
It’s caused two things; girls and boys can’t escape from the experiences that they’re going through at school because they’re tied to these devices. They’re constantly bombarded with whatever social anxiety they may be experiencing in the hallways and take it home with them. There is no time for someone to just turn off whatever they’re experiencing at school so it amplifies the experience and it makes it that much more difficult to see that this isn’t their entire world.
Then I think the second thing is there’s so much weight placed on how many followers you have or how many likes you get. I think there will be studies coming out in the future of the impact that has on anyone’s self-esteem and the way that they feel about themselves but particularly those in school because there is so much emphasis placed on that. We’ve seen the devastating effects in conversations that we’ve had within schools so I think social media and technology plays a huge role in the bullying that takes place.
Taylor Magazine: How would you both define Kindness, in your own words?
Lauren Paul: Define Kindness? I like that question. There’s the obvious definition to recognise that you don’t have to necessarily agree with someone or be friends but to have that respect and regard for another human being. Also, to use the resources you have and your own kindness to reach out to those in need, whether that’s friends or complete strangers. But I think to really be able to give yourself to another person (that may seem cliche) you need to find kindness within yourself and a love for yourself, really to be kind to yourself and to love who you are and really hone in on that relationship you have with yourself. Especially with women, we can be so hard on ourselves and our insecurities can take hold of so many aspects of our lives and it’s a learning process.
It’s never perfect for any woman but when you really start to love yourself you can show kindness in a way that you may not have even realised was possible. Kindness comes in a lot of different packages and could vary from…
- Buying coffee for the stranger behind you in line at Starbucks
- Picking up something that someone dropped and handing it to them
- Holding the door open for someone
- Giving someone a compliment and
- Offering up babysitting for your friend
- Just sitting there listening to someone who needs somebody to talk to
Taylor Magazine: Here at Taylor Magazine, we try and focus on inspiring women and women that make us feel positive about ourselves and push us to do better. So who would you say you look up?
Lauren Paul: Definitely my mother. I feel so blessed to have such a strong, compassionate and kind-hearted mum and I feel that so many of the lessons that she instilled in me and my siblings really led me on a path to where I am today. I can credit so much of my own confidence and the healthy friendships that I have and my perspective on women and empowerment really all to her and what she taught me. I would say my mum is the boss.
Molly Thompson: I would say a couple of people. Very similar to Lauren’s just because we both have incredible amazing strong mothers who actually both came on the road trip to shoot the film with us which was really special. My mum is so incredibly inspiring and not to be repetitive to what Lauren was saying but from a young age taught me a lot about loving other people and caring for other people and following the things you are passionate about in life. I watched her from a very young age be so confident in herself.
I can speak for both Lauren and myself about who inspires us within Kind Campaign and within all things girl related… a woman called Jessica Weiner who is a self-esteem expert/guru. She is also one of Kind Campaign’s long time mentors and we just love any conversation that we have with her because she’s so inspiring and powerful and has such a strong head on her shoulders. She always gives us guidance or advice. Then I would say the female ladies I have in my life who are constantly inspiring me every single day and who they are in the close-knit friendships that we have been able to cultivate and keep over the years. Having the support system that both Lauren and I have in our lives not only allows us to do what we do within Kind Campaign but just really fulfils me in my personal life as well.
Taylor Magazine: The next part is a little bit different. The last three questions I have for you are all from 11 year old girls.
- What would you say to a girl who’s being bullied but doesn’t know who to speak to?
Lauren Paul: That’s a great question. First of all I would say that it is so important. One of the things I wish so badly that I would have done when I was going through my experience is just talk more about what I was going through. I felt really embarrassed and I felt worried that my mum would go to the girl’s mum and it would create more issues. I ended up bottling it all up inside and dealing with it by myself and I really honestly think that I got to the dark, lonely place where I didn’t want to wake up in the morning because I wasn’t processing what I was going through.
So I would just tell any girl being bullied that it is just so important just to find somebody to talk to, whether it’s someone at school, someone in your family like an older sister, your mum or maybe your aunt or uncle; having an adult to speak to is so important. As much as it feels like you can’t relate to them, every person you meet has gone through something and been bullied on some level. They have tools and wisdom that can really help you with what you’re going through and can get you the resources that you need. I would say be open and honest about what you’re going through because you never know how that can help you get through it.
- What’s the best tip for if you’re having a bad day or you feel lonely? What would you guys do or what would you advise someone to do to make themselves feel a bit better?
Molly Thompson: Thinking back to my high school experience when it seems like everyday was a bad day I felt so alone. Whatever experience was going on when you’re going through a bad day or difficult time in your life it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I would say remind yourself that this will not last forever and you will get through this. I think it gives you perspective to get through whether it’ll be that day or that chapter of your life.
Then I would say a second thing… just hopefully you have one person in your life, whether that be a friend or a parent or a sibling or even just someone at your school who you may not know that well but on that bad day you see that person who might be sitting alone as well and just reaching out to someone in your life. Doing something kind for someone else when you’re in that place, again going back to the power of kindness, that will have the power to brighten your day even for just that moment or just a little bit during that time to feel like you’ve made a positive impact on someone else’s day.
- How did you build up your confidence when you were bullied in the past and learn to feel good about yourself again?
Lauren Paul: When I was going through all of that, I felt like the ugliest, stupidest, most lonely person in the world. I felt every bad thing about myself and really a few of the things I can really attribute to helping me and giving myself some sort of confidence was finding things I was passionate about outside of school. I was really into music – I loved playing the guitar, I loved singing and I loved writing. I would journal and I’d write songs and write poetry. I used music during that time as an outlet to express myself and what I was going through. It was helpful because it allowed me to process what I was dealing with but also it did instil a sense of confidence because I felt good at it and it was something that I really looked forward to when I left school.
For anyone, that can really be a confidence builder because not only do you start to hone in skills and build confidence but when you start to find things that you’re passionate about; acting or a sport or whatever it is, you also start to find communities within those passions. I’d meet other people taking the same classes, I was in choir group outside of school where we would travel around and sing together. There was a whole world outside of my world at school and I think that was a very helpful thing for me. Any way that you can find a community and figure out things that make you happy outside of school is a really good thing to do.