Changing the World
Ten years ago, a small group of Carlsbad children gathered under the leadership of Jill McManigal and Danielle Gram to discuss how they’d like to see our world change and what they could pledge to do about it. With this meeting, Kids for Peace was born, and their mission of helping others, learning about other cultures, and caring for our earth spread quickly through the community. Today, Kids for Peace has five chapters in Carlsbad and 350 chapters on six continents, and their programs have reached 118 countries. In addition to these staggering numbers, every year over four million students participate in the Kids for Peace signature event, The Great Kindness Challenge. While the organization has seen massive growth since its start, it maintains its grassroots feel right here in Carlsbad. We sit down with Co-Founder and Executive Director Jill McManigal to chat about the history behind Kids for Peace and to learn more about how the group is building peace in communities all over the world.
Q&A with Kids for Peace Co-Founder and Executive Director Jill McManigal
Can you tell us how Kids for Peace was founded? What was the inspiration behind its creation?
In 2006, Jill McManigal, a mother of two young children, and Danielle Gram, a high school honors student, met at a neighborhood party. Inspired by a Gandhi button Jill was wearing that read, “If we are to achieve lasting peace, we must begin with the children,” the two engaged in a conversation about their wishes and hopes for our world. They quickly realized they shared a vision of bringing children together to lead the way for a brighter tomorrow for all.
Within weeks after meeting, Jill and Danielle gathered a small group of children in Jill’s backyard and Kids for Peace was born. With a deep conviction that youth are innately wise, the children were asked these questions: “What does peace mean to you?”, “What do you want our world to look like?”, “What can you do to create the world you wish to see?”, and “What do you want to pledge yourself to?” Listening to their wisdom, our Peace Pledge was created and our mission was solidified.
The children got busy helping others, learning about other cultures, caring for our earth, and doing their part to make a positive difference. The news of these dynamic children spread quickly and soon requests were made to replicate Kids for Peace in several neighborhoods. Organically, the pure and powerful message of our children spread around the world.
At-A-Glance | Kids for Peace Co-Founder
Name: Jill McManigal
Position: Co-founder and Executive Director
Community: Olde Carlsbad
Family: Daughter – Hana Craft; Son – Bodhi Craft
Hobbies/Interests: Kids for Peace and my children are my life! Into my life I weave travel, beach walks, and every day acts of kindness.
Favorite KFP Memory: Oy vey! There are so many! If I have to choose one, I’ll pick the time my daughter Hana, the very first Kids for Peace member, presented at the United Nations and then led the entire auditorium in reciting our Peace Pledge. Knowing that she helped create the Peace Pledge and knowing that the entire world embraced it moved me deeply. And, as a proud mama, I knew how nervous Hana – then 15 years old – was, yet she presented with poise, strength, and conviction.
Favorite Places in Carlsbad: Ponto Beach, my home aka the Kids for Peace headquarters, all CUSD schools – we have an amazing school district with each dynamic school campus beaming with curiosity, kindness, and community spirit!
What is the mission of Kids for Peace? How do you go about fulfilling this?
We create peace through youth leadership, community service, global friendships, and thoughtful acts of peace. We fulfill our mission through the two arms of Kids for Peace – our chapters and The Great Kindness Challenge.
Our chapters are made of boys and girls of all ages and backgrounds. The youth in our chapters meet regularly to put the words of our Peace Pledge into action in ways that are meaningful to them. Since our founding in 2006, we have launched over 350 chapters on six continents. Our programs have reached 118 countries.
Our Guiding Principles
We believe every child has innate wisdom to foster peace and when cultivated, will choose a positive path.
We believe every child deserves to feel and share joy, kindness, love, and friendship.
We believe every child can learn and engage in cooperation, teamwork, and peacebuilding.
We believe that learning about other cultures, lifestyles, and traditions leads to unity, respect, and peace.
We believe that every child can participate in simple acts of kindness and caring for our earth.
We believe in helping every child express their hopes, dreams, and wishes.
We believe in every child.
We believe in peace.
Tell us more about KFP’s vision and Guiding Principles. Why are these beliefs important?
Our vision is a safe and peaceful world where all people respect and care for each other and our planet. Kids for Peace serves as a model and inspiration for creating this reality with children leading the way, not only for today, but for generations to come. Our vision and guiding principles are important to keep us focused and united in purpose. As we have expanded worldwide, we ensure our 10,000+ volunteers understand what is important to us as an organization. The more we are all united in our vision and principles, the greater impact we have.
Tell us about the KFP staff and what they bring to the organization.
Our staff and team is positive, passionate, proactive, tenacious, and kind. We do the work of a nonprofit twice or three times our size. We have a staff of two with six part-time contractors, 14 board members, five interns, and over 16,000 volunteers. We still operate out of my Carlsbad home to keep costs low and to maintain the grassroots feel of Kids for Peace.
Bios of our key players can be found on our website at www.kidsforpeaceglobal.org.
Your signature event, The Great Kindness Challenge, encourages children to create a culture of kindness in their communities and schools. Tell us more about this event, how it works, and how it was started.
The Great Kindness Challenge is a powerfully positive bully-prevention program for all grades K-12. Using a provided 50-item checklist, students are challenged to complete as many kind acts as possible within one week. It started with three Carlsbad schools in 2012 and has grown to include over four million students in all 50 states. Because of The Great Kindness Challenge, we have made Carlsbad the Kindness Capital of the World.
Four years ago I was approached by a teacher at my children’s Title 1 elementary school. She had heard about my work with Kids for Peace and wanted to bring this positive approach to the students at Jefferson Elementary. She acknowledged that the school climate was already good, but with bullying becoming more pervasive, she wanted to be proactive and make it even better. She wanted to create a school environment where all students feel safe, accepted, respected, and happy. She knew intuitively what research was reporting – kind and happy students learn better and do better.
Inspired by her enthusiasm, I met with my high school interns and board of directors to brainstorm ideas. Modeled after The Great Kindness Challenge, we created The Great Kindness Challenge – School Edition. We designed a new kindness checklist specifically tailored for schools and extended the time-frame to one week for students to complete the acts of kindness.
We piloted The Great Kindness Challenge – School Edition with three Carlsbad schools in 2012. We intentionally made it free and super easy to implement. All students needed to do was make copies of the provided checklist, distribute them, and encourage participation. A toolkit is also provided with lots of complementary activities. The week was full of joy, connection, smiles, and more smiles. Students who normally didn’t interact with each other went out of their comfort zone in the spirit of a friendly challenge. Not only did the students feel the effect, the staff did too as they were thanked, helped, and appreciated. The results were overwhelming, with all three pilot schools raving about the positive impact of The Great Kindness Challenge. Stated one teacher, “Who knew that simple acts of kindness can make such a big difference?”
Kids for Peace Pledge
I pledge to use my words to speak in a kind way.
I pledge to help others as I go throughout my day.
I pledge to care for our earth with my healing heart and hands.
I pledge to respect people in each and every land.
I pledge to join together as we unite the big and small.
I pledge to do my part to create peace for one and all.
What are some of the other annual Kids for Peace events?
We have an annual Peace Hero ceremony where our children recognize a luminary who personifies our Peace Pledge. Our Peace Heroes are Susan Sarandon, Ben Harper, Jane Goodall, Tony Hawk, Ellen DeGeneres, Rob Machado, Morgan Spurlock, and Frances Fisher.
We also honor The United Nations’ (UN) International Day of Peace with our annual Peace Day Challenge. Learn more about our Peace Heroes and Peace Day Challenge on our website.
Does KFP have any celebration planned for its 10th anniversary in 2016?
Yes! We are launching a #DoItForPeace campaign where we will inspire the world to perform a positive action in the name of peace. We will achieve critical mass as we inspire 700,000 million people around the world to “Do It For Peace.” Stay tuned for details! We hope to engage the entire Carlsbad community in our launch.
Kids for Peace has seen massive growth since it started in 2006, and now has chapters all over the world. How does one go about starting a chapter at their school or in their community?
It’s simple! All they need to do is visit www.kidsforpeaceglobal.org/chapter_start.html, fill out a quick form, and we will joyfully guide them through all the steps. From June 24 through 26 we are hosting a free chapter leader training and conference in Carlsbad. All current and future Kids for Peace leaders are invited to attend.
Does KFP have any projects or programs that are specific to Carlsbad?
Everything we do, we launch first in Carlsbad. We currently have five chapters in Carlsbad. To kick off the 2016 Great Kindness Challenge, we are hosting a Community Pep Rally featuring Superintendent Lovely, Jefferson Principal Chad Lund, and Hope Principal Richard Tubbs skydiving out of an airplane.
How can the Carlsbad community get involved in Kids for Peace? Are there any opportunities for volunteering or participation in annual events?
Yes! We welcome volunteers of all ages. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get you engaged.
What do you think are some of KFP’s biggest accomplishments?
There are so many!
• Over four million students participate in The Great Kindness Challenge.
• 118 countries participated in our 2015 Peace Day Challenge.
• We support 160 students at our Kids for Peace School of Kenya.
• My daughter and founding member Hana Craft and I traveled to Pakistan to help launch KFP Pakistan.
• We’ve hosted two Peace Pledge Tours where we presented our Peace Pledge on the House Floor of Congress, at the United Nations, to the Kenyan Ambassador, at the pregame show of professional basketball team the Wizards, and the professional hockey team the Devils.
• We set a Guinness World Record for the Largest Collage of Cut-Out Handprints with 104,108 kind-hearted handprints displayed at a Dignity Health hospital.
• We’ve sent thousands of Peace Packs to children all over the world.
• Several Awards – The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce’s 2015 Nonprofit of the Year Award, Rotary’s first ever Peacebuilder Award, the Starfish Leadership Award, and the Center for Wealth and Legacy’s Award, among many others.
• We’ve published two children’s picture books, with two more on the way.
What is the biggest challenge for Kids for Peace?
Funding. We need more money to have the resources to keep up with the demand for our services. All tax-deductible donations are very welcome!
What are some of KFP’s short-term and long-term goals?
• Our #DoItForPeace campaign will reach critical mass and engage 700 million people worldwide.
• By 2020, we will engage all 140,000 U.S. schools in The Great Kindness Challenge.
• Every year, we will double our chapters.
• By 2020, we will have at least one chapter in every country.
If you had to describe Kids for Peace in five words, what would you say?
We are changing the world!
Is there anything that we didn’t ask about that you’d like to share?
We are building a school in Kenya. A team of 20 volunteers will travel there in August. Currently, we are raising money for the school. All donations are welcome. Learn more about this inspiring project at www.greatkindnesschallenge.org/School/kenya.html.
At-A-Glance | Kids for Peace
Name: Kids for Peace
Founders: Jill McManigal and Danielle Gram
Website: www.kidsforpeaceglobal.org and www.thegreatkindnesschallenge.org
Mission: We create peace through youth leadership, community service, global friendships, and thoughtful acts of kindness.