Kindness Plan Wins Top Gong

by Linda Morris - SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA

December 1, 2004

The Sydney Morning Herald-- A creative campaign to persuade primary and high school children to perform acts of kindness won the nation's premier multicultural marketing award in Sydney last night.

Three men--a Muslim, a Christian and a Jew--have visited 115 schools and spoke to 13,000 students since 2002 to sell the virtues of tolerance, compassion and understanding.

Their Goodness and Kindness project, originally influenced by the trauma of September 11, 2001, has now become an approved school resource in NSW.

"The program was born from the realisation that some common values to different cultures and religions were not emphasised enough in society," one of the founders, Rabbi Zalman Kastel, said.

"This image of a Christian, Muslim and Jew comfortably together in front of a classroom is a powerful one which breaks down stereotypes and demonstrates that we can all work together as Australians to accomplish a peaceful and progressive society," said the chairman of the Community Relations Commission, Stepan Kerkyasharian.

"The organisers carefully targeted in their marketing strategy 10,000 children living in areas where there is less cultural diversity, such as Sydney's North Shore, the northern beaches, the Central Coast and Griffith. They understood well that after September 11 and Bali there would be unease in those areas and probably ill feelings among some towards Muslims."

The Goodness and Kindness campaign was launched by Chabad House, which is part of a worldwide Jewish education movement.

It invites children to carry out personal acts of kindness, such as helping parents with chores, greeting strangers with a smile or including a stranger in a game, and teacher feedback suggests that children have taken the messages on board.

The project required children to decorate a square of cloth with their hopes and plans and sew it into a giant patchwork quilt. The quilt carrying children's pledges for a better future was strung up in front of the NSW Parliament.

"This is ecumenical action that appeals to the idealism and sense of fair play that all children possess," Mr Kerkyasharian said.

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