The Kindness Institute – by Kristina Cavit

Last year it was recorded that New Zealand has the second highest teen suicide rate in the OECD. The World Health Organisation also estimates that by 2025, 80% of people will have suffered from a mental health condition throughout their lives.

What if we could change this? What if youth did have the tools they needed from a young age to overcome stress, anxiety and to make positive decisions?

After eight years of working with youth dealing with stress and trauma, I believe this is possible and have started a charitable organisation called The Kindness Institute to tackle these issues for our next generation.

I dream of a world where every child, no matter where they are from has the skills they need to manage stress and profoundly improve their lives. From my work in New Zealand and around the world with vulnerable youth, what I’ve seen is that no matter where a child is from, those who thrive, are those with the ability to manage their mind and emotions. All of this is dependent on stress management tools – something that most people in marginalised communities have zero access to.

Yoga, meditation and self-growth are associated with retreat centres and studios.
But it can also be used to build resilience, deal with trauma and reduce stress for some of our most vulnerable children. It can be used to save lives.

We teach our kids how to get peace and love on the inside. That’s something that no one can take away from them.

Our mahi (work)
The Kindness Institute model is inspired in part by Holistic Life Foundation who deliver transformational work through yoga and mindfulness for youth living in urban poverty and suffering PTSD in Baltimore. HLF is researched by John Hopkins Medical School, Penn State and is supported by Harvard Medical School. I have trained with this organisation and share this knowledge with our team of educators.

The young people we work with often lead chaotic lives, are marginalised and suffering the effects of urban poverty. Our Mindfulness and Yoga based programs help students to release stress and anxiety as well as any other negative emotions they are facing.

I also love that it’s not only marginalised youth who need these skills, but youth all over the country and many, many adults. Which is why I also do private wellness and mindfulness coaching and workplace workshops to support adults who want to find more peace in their own lives. This works as a social enterprise model where paying customers fund the programs for youth who cannot afford it.

I love my coaching work and I am passionate about supporting people to find clarity from stressful situations in order to thrive and rediscover their motivation to become the best versions of themselves.

Mindfulness, Yoga and The Work of Byron Katie helped me let go of a lot of stress in my life and I now love supporting people to find a sense of calm, happiness and ease in their lives. I am a big advocate of letting go of the need to people-please, to be perfect or take on unnecessary stress.

Our work so far
In just five months, with a small group of volunteers, The Kindness Institute has started programs in High Schools, Primary Schools and alternative education with youth who’ve been kicked out of school. We’ve recently partnered with The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand and Mindful Aotearoa to pilot a program with youth who’ve been excluded from mainstream school. We’ve also started working with women in prison.

Ninety nine percent of the kids in our pilot program reported a reduction in stress levels and that they would like to continue this program. Nga Rangatahi Toa reported that our work has contributed positively to the development of confidence, empathy, compassion, and turning around anti-social and sometimes criminal behaviours in rangatahi. It has been part of the success they’ve had in their critical ‘hard outcomes’ of educational transition.

The Kindness Institute - YogaTalk

Nga Rangatahi Toa – photo by Dan Eriksen

Youth testimonials:
“I used to be a troublemaker. This program has changed me [and] I am different now. I have a way to help with my anger and I have been teaching my little brother. I need something like this. I want you to come back. I have learnt to be confident. You people are special.”

“Yoga stretches my bones and moves clean blood all around my body. It gets rid of my stress and I feel freedom afterwards. I have learnt to send love to my aunty instead of getting angry. I know it would help if all kids and everyone did more yoga and mindfulness.”

I believe that the future depends on connecting with these rangatahi to cultivate positive inner resources and build an Aotearoa we can be proud of. There may no better group of people to make this happen than the yoga community of New Zealand – those who personally know the power of yoga and mindfulness to positively transform our lives.

We know what we do works, we just want to make it work for more kids.

For those of you who would like to support our mahi, please get in touch.

Here are a few ways to help:

  1.   Host a fundraising yoga class or event
  2.   We need a badass administrator volunteer who loves attention to detail
  3.   Get in touch for personal Mindfulness and Wellness support – your personal development will also support a kid to join our program.

“When educating the minds of our children, remember to educate their hearts. If every child practiced meditation, in one generation there would be no violence.” – The Dalai Lama

Featured image: Kristina Cavit at Onehunga High – photo by Sara Beazley

Kristina is based and working in Auckland now but would love these programs to go nationwide eventually and be available to all kids in Aotearoa. She believes that every child, no matter where they are from needs access to these tools. 

Learn more about Kristina here and get in contact if you are able to help support TKI!

© The Yoga Connection 2016

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