Imagining their plans to spend a week surprising people with kindness, Penny Cuddy and Debbie Riopel couldn’t conceal their glee.
Armed with a basket of cone-shaped packets of hot chocolate and small candies tied to heartfelt messages with colourful yarn, the pair beamed as they shared their goals for Random Acts of Kindness Week.
“We’re hoping that it will trigger lots of little acts and goodwill,” said Cuddy, of a seven-day effort that was to take to the streets of White Rock and South Surrey Monday (Feb. 13). “It isn’t a great effort for the returns that we’ll get.”
Riopel and Cuddy are among about 45 members of the South Surrey/White Rock Oneness Gogos – grandmothers who advocate and fundraise in support of grandmothers in sub-Saharan Africa who are caring for their orphaned grandchildren. About 240 similar groups exist across Canada.
Since forming four years ago, the local group’s efforts have raised more than $100,000 for the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign – all funds that help the African grandmothers with basics such as food, housing and school fees for their grandchildren.
Thanking the community for supporting those efforts was a big part of the motivation for developing the strategy that is playing out this week.
“When you see that figure, the bar is set very high,” group president Donna McBride said. “The whole point is, we want to say thank you to the community, who really support us in every way… just telling us to keep going.”
Each day through Feb. 19, members of the Gogos are dividing into smaller groups and delivering surprise thank-yous to businesses and organizations that have offered support over the years. Along the way, they’ll spread the kindness to others, from people they pass on the street, to those they bump into in local stores.
While marking the week is new to the local Gogos as a whole, Riopel is decidedly more familiar with it.
She and her sister Colleen Ring were among the first co-ordinators of Random Acts of Kindness Week in Canada. The pair got it rolling in Alberta, following the 1994 murder of a young mother in Edmonton. Ring, a teacher, was searching for a way to a way to help her young students understand and cope with the tragedy when she was alerted to the U.S.-based effort.
“St. Albert was the first (Canadian) city to proclaim,” Riopel said. “Dozens of cities followed after.”
Riopel described Random Arts of Kindness Week as “a great reminder for the public that they can feel empowered practising little bits of kindness.”
“Even a smile can make a difference.”
It’s about “recognizing that little things can make a difference, sometimes a big one,” Cuddy said.