The Humanity Project

To create and implement innovative programs that teach children and adults how to use cooperation and social connection for individual development and grassroots community improvement
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    "Helping kids to help kids!"™

    That's what the Humanity Project is all about. This website shows you how we help kids to help kids -- and gives you free materials and other tools to join our efforts. Please use our social media links or Contact page to get in touch. (We've disabled new comments for added security.)

       
  • A Challenge For Parents – And A Warning

    Posted By on June 30, 2016

    (Editor’s Note: This blog was written especially for the Humanity Project by Hilary Smith, who writes about the challenges of parenting in the digital age. She is the mother of two children, ages 4 and 9, and lives in Chicago.)

    By Hilary Smith 

    Today, we hear stories about how teens are leaving Facebook in droves to find new social media hidden from our prying eyes. In an effort to keep Mom and Dad out of their online affairs, they are looking for ways to build a safety wall around their social media use to keep us out. This secrecy makes it essential for parents to put a little extra effort into understanding the new apps and sites our kids are frequenting and downloading. One new app our children are discovering is Burn Note.iphone new 010

    The Ins And Outs Of Burn Note

    Burn Note is just one of many disappearing apps that feature “self destructing” messages. All Burn Notes will eventually “burn” or erase after they have been viewed by the recipient. It was developed to help office employees keep sensitive messages from being viewed by people not intended to see the content. Understanding the original purpose is essential, because one of the biggest selling points to teens is that all Burn Notes are gone after they are viewed. Gone.

    Burn Note And Kids: Behaviors To Be Looking Out For

    We need to realize that Burn Note offers our children a liberating freedom. This disappearing app allows people to enjoy authentic communication without fear of censorship or judgment. Most teens might enjoy sharing stories about their new crushes or arranging plans for the upcoming game. The fleeting nature of this app can reduce the pressure to maintain a clean and proper digital trail. Burn Note allows children alternatives to traditional social media that keeps a running timeline of every comment, like, and photo, with the potential to harm future ambitions and employment.

    However, the ephemeral qualities and lack of accountability of Burn Note can backfire. The disappearing nature of this app might encourage children to see the freedoms as an invitation to send inappropriate or cruel messages to another person. This digital harassment without fear of being caught can quickly escalate into cyberbullying.iphone new 030

    5 Essential Tips For Parents

    Burn Note is a fun app that serves a purpose in our kids’ technology usage. However, we owe it to our sons and daughters to empower them to safely handle this social media application. Listed below are five suggestions to help our children enjoy Burn Note without getting burned:

    • Teach and instill social media etiquette in our sons and daughters. Starting when our children are young, we need to teach a sense of right and wrong when it comes to technology. As our kids age, we can also discuss touchier topics like cyberbullying, sexting, and oversharing.
    • Follow the “grandma rule.” Tell your kids to only post items they feel confident wouldn’t make grandma and grandpa blush.
    • If a child is a victim of cyberbullying, open and read all Burn Notes together. Don’t allow your child to read these messages alone. You will be there to offer a shoulder to lean on and can help document the bullying.
    • If a child receives cruel messages, instruct them to ignore the menacing words. Responding to a bully’s messages often only fuels the cyberbullying, continuing a vicious circle. As the adult, you need to address the bullying for your child … but do it offline.
    • Monitor a child’s online activity. Parents need to know what sites a child frequents, who their friends are, and how they behave online. Afterall, it’s the loving thing to do.

    For more information about Burn Note and how it works, please watch the following video from TeenSafe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl3IYc5tFgQ

    A Heads-up For Parents

    Posted By on June 21, 2016

    Crash 1Perhaps you are a parent or maybe a grandparent of a teenager. Or possibly you’re an educator who works closely with teens. We have something you should hear: a new podcast with advice that might save the life of your teen driver. Listen to the podcast.

    You’ll hear a lively and informative conversation with two parents who now also are grandparents — and as you might imagine, they have much experience and wisdom to offer. We also chat with our good friend, Jose Soto, from State Farm about that great company’s push to save teen lives as well as their loyal support for the Humanity Project’s innovative I Care teen driver safety program. We’re just now beginning to plan the expansion of I Care, taking it live through PowerPoint presentations to parent groups. Our sessions will be fun and funny … and they’ll make an important point for parents: You must drive in the way you want your teenagers to drive. You are their role model.

    There are lots of scary statistics we can tell you about. Did you know that teens have the lowest seat belt use of any age group? Did you know 60% of teen crashes involve distraction? The frightening facts are there if you want to look them up. But we would rather help you, the parents or grandparents or educators, simply understand that teenagers need guidance to drive well. And that the key source of that guidance comes from parents, with influence from others who are around teens including grandparents and educators. Gandhi urged us each to be the change we want to see in the world. When it comes to teen driving, we each need to be the kind of driver we want to see in the lane next to us.

    Meeting Hate With Love

    Posted By on June 12, 2016

    Pride Center vigil: June 12, 2016

    Pride Center vigil: June 12, 2016

    It is the day of the mass shooting in Orlando as I write this. It has seemed a long day — and obviously a very sad one for all caring human beings who are aware of this tragedy. But even as a gunman took so many lives out of his hate for gay Americans, even on this very day, something hopeful already emerged. I wanted to tell you about it while it’s fresh on my mind.

    I’ve just returned from a vigil at the Pride Center in Wilton Manors, Florida, something hurriedly arranged to help LGBT folks and allies come together to help each other cope. The Humanity Project is a proud LGBT ally — never more proud or resolute than now in our determination to teach children the importance of respect, diversity and self-value. Our work with kids recently was sponsored by Our Fund, a foundation that serves the LGBT community. We attended the Pride Center vigil to show our support. But while I was there something remarkable happened.

    A speaker standing on the podium asked the crowd of at least 500 people to each think of one word. He said, “I want you to shout out the one word that’s most on your mind today, the thing you really want to share with the world. Tell me — what is the one word you each want to say out loud right now?”

    The resounding answer: “Love!” I’ve never witnessed anything quite like this. I’m a former journalist who covered many events of many types, including violent crimes. I’ve traveled to 53 countries and sampled many cultures in many ways. But no, I’ve never seen anything like this. Think about it: On the day of a mass slaughter directed at the LGBT community, the one word shouted by hundreds of LGBT people and allies as a response to the shooter’s hatred was … “love.” I think that says a lot about the LGBT community. And about human beings. There are a lot more of us than there are of them – many more people who want to live love rather than hate. In the midst of an awful day that will be remembered for hatred, some of us will recall it differently. Oddly, June 12, 2016 turned out to be a day of love.

    Of Kindness And Kids

    Posted By on June 4, 2016

    I was struck by a remark from President Barack Obama just the other evening. And I found it very relevant to the work we’re doing here at the Humanity Project. In a town hall meeting, the president asked a question: “How do we make sure kids are treated with kindness?”Obama quote

    The Humanity Project is one of the many fine organizations worldwide that work to answer this important question. Our Anti-bullying Through The Arts program and our website for socially isolated teens at www.thp4kids.com, our Humanity Club program for middle school children … these are among the key ways our Florida-based nonprofit helps kids to teach respect among their peers. The Humanity Project builds an environment in and out of school that offers more kindness, less abuse. We help kids to help other kids stop bullying. We offer special peer-created guidance for LGBT teens at that thp4kids website. We work with middle school student leaders in our Humanity Club to help fellow students understand the importance of diversity, self-value and respect among everyone in the school.

    And of course, this translates to an atmosphere of greater understanding … and kindness.

    We applaud President Obama’s interest in the future of our children. He has many times shown during his tenure that he cares about creating a nation and a world of healthier kids – young people who are healthier psychologically as well as physically. At the Humanity Project, we will continue to do all we can month in and month out to assist in this profound effort.

    Join Our Leadership Council

    Posted By on May 21, 2016

    I want to extend an invitation to you today through this blog. You won’t need money to accept it. You won’t need to make any sacrifices in your life. You only must commit to helping us help kids (and parents) with whatever time you can spare. At the Humanity Project, we offer a unique brand of service learning and mentoring through programs that discourage bullying, distracted teen driving and social isolation among teens … and build self-value among kids in the process. iphone new 027

    Okay, so here’s that invitation I mentioned: Consider joining our new Humanity Project Leadership Council. To do this, you must live where we’re headquartered – in South Florida, ideally in Broward County. And you must be a parent or grandparent, again ideally with your child or grandchild eager to join our work too.

    We’re creating this Leadership Council to serve as our in-house panel of expert consultants. Experts in parenting, that is. We want the views and ideas of these smart parents and their kids to help guide our work. And yes, we welcome grandparents as well because so many grandparents are raising children and of course have even longer experience in child-rearing.

    The Leadership Council first will tackle our I Care teen driver safety program’s latest expansion, funded by a generous grant from our great partners at State Farm. NEW SF logo with R at end THUMBNAIL - Jan 2015By joining our team, you will help us to create parent-friendly and grandparent-friendly content for a funny PowerPoint presentation on distracted driving, something we’ll give to parent groups around South Florida. We’re hoping to continue the council after this work is done, with our panel moving on to improve other Humanity Project programs and provide ongoing advice.

    The Humanity Project Leadership Council will be made of as many as 16 adults and kids. We want creative folks who would love the chance to contribute to the community in clever, inventive ways. If you’re interested, just drop us an email or call by going through our Contact page: Visit the Contact page.  We’ll tell you more about the kind of thing we have in mind. It’s simply one more way of fulfilling our mission of “helping kids to help kids” … and we could use your assistance.

    Our Fund (and our new friends)

    Posted By on May 15, 2016

    This week we very proudly announce a major new sponsor for the Humanity Project. We welcome Our Fund to the distinguished list of community partners that you’ll find on our Sponsor page: See the Humanity Project Sponsor page. Our Fund

    Our Fund is a foundation that connects the LGBT community in South Florida. They support organizations that improve the lives of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender: Visit the Our Fund website. That includes a $5,000 grant to the Humanity Project because we have a nationally acclaimed anti-bullying program, a website created by Gay-Straight Alliance students for socially isolated teens … and now the Humanity Club, which works with middle school student leaders to create an environment of respect for every kid on campus, making their school into a place that welcomes diversity.

    Our Fund check presentation

    The Our Fund check presentation to new grant winners — May 2016

    This type of work is nothing different for the Humanity Project, of course. What’s different is the partnership with Our Fund under their dynamic new leader, David Jobin. David, along with Our Fund’s Grants Committee and Board of Directors, recognizes that the LGBT community benefits enormously from allies such as the Humanity Project, which deliver programs and foster goals that make the world much more welcoming for all. Take our Anti-bullying Through The Arts program, for instance. LGBT students are disproportionately targets of bullying, suffering in large numbers. Eight years of our pre-post testing shows that the Humanity Project program effectively teaches bystander students to help stop school bullying – thereby also reducing the bullying of LGBT students.

    The Humanity Project is very proud that we have stood alongside the LGBT community throughout our nearly 11-year history, with or without funding. If you look back at our blogs or social media over that period, you’ll find many posts about the importance of respect for people of all sexual preferences and identities. Even our PeacePage’s introductory animated video mentions this, something we created several years ago: Visit the PeacePage. We were working with Gay-Straight Alliance students for more than a year before winning a large State Farm grant to complete our website for teens, “The Humanity Project 4 Kids”: Visit The Humanity Project 4 Kids.  To the Humanity Project, LGBT equality is the great human rights issue of this era in American history. We are honored to be part of it.

    And just as much, we’re honored by Our Fund’s belief in our role within that fight. The LGBT community foundation now joins our other sponsors, including major sponsors, State Farm and Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital … along with Children’s Services Council of Broward County; Google; Barry University; Monarch High School; Dr. David Sharaf and Skin and Cancer Associates and the Center for Cosmetic Enhancement; Blue Gallery and First Impression Printing. We thank them all.

    And we know each of these amazing, community-minded organizations will welcome Our Fund to the Humanity Project family, as we do today.

    Stories About Living More Fully

    Posted By on April 30, 2016

    A very brief post about some very brief stories you should read … stories about you and about all of us. These original Humanity Project tales offer valuable life lessons, something we hope you’ll share with the kids in your life. You’ll find them on the “Fables” menu tab … or just click here to visit the page: Check out the Humanity Project Fables.

    Here’s the beginning of one of those stories for you, with a direct link to the full fable. Enjoy, please … and pass it on to a kid you love!

    The Tale of the Teller Twins 

    Everyone in town called them “the twins.” Tripp and Terry Teller, identical in all ways – except one. As you will see. The Teller twins were tree trimmers and had a nice little business going too. Chopping at trunks, grinding down roots, thinning out limbs. The twins had grown up around this town and this town had grown up around the twins. Yes, this town was no small place anymore and the Teller boys had no small business either.Teller twins fable

    Tripp Teller seemed the driving force. It was Tripp with the charm smile and it was Tripp with the glad pat on the shoulder for everyone. Everyone, at least, who might need their trees trimmed. To Tripp Teller, tree trimming served one purpose only: to give him “the good stuff,” as he always called it. The good stuff meant the good car and the good house of course. Of course. But most of all the good stuff meant feeling like someone important around town, owner of a good business that was pulling in good money. Of course. Sometimes Tripp almost forgot that his twin brother really was his twin brother – almost forgot that Terry really was his brother at all. The tree trimming business to Tripp was all about “me.” Nothing else. Though he had to admit that Terry did help get all those trees trimmed much faster. Which of course allowed Tripp to have more of the good stuff sooner. Of course. …

    Click here to read the full fable!

     

    We Are Proud Of Them

    Posted By on April 23, 2016

    Yes, the Humanity Project is proud that two of our older student volunteers have been busy in the community during the past week. One of them was honored with an award. Another visited a school to lend his expertise to other kids. Both of these fine young people have been deeply involved with our acclaimed teen driver safety program, I Care. JDCH All STars -- Rina Matarasso for I Care -- April 2016 055

    Lat Sunday, Rina Matarasso was honored at a lovely event after being selected as a Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital All Star for helping us advance the I Care program for teens and create an addition to that program for parents. We have worked very closely with Rina for some time now — and she is among the most remarkable students who have assisted the Humanity Project. Congratulations to Rina. And as she heads off to college, we wish her the best of luck!

     

     

    On Friday, Jarret Voorhies visited Crooms Academy in Sanford, Florida, a magnet school known for issuing laptops to every student. Jarret is a professional race car driver and an extraordinary young man who loves speaking out to help fellow students stop distracted driving. He wrote a section of our booklet for parents of teen drivers and has created a video for the Humanity Project.Jarret Voorhies for THP at Crooms Academy -- April 2016

    We hope to continue working with him in the future. Jarret got a rousing reception from the Crooms students — and gave them an inspiring PowerPoint presentation about the importance of paying attention on the roads.

    Our thanks to both these great young folks … and to all the many, many students who allow the Humanity Project to live up to our motto: “Helping kids to help kids!”

    I Care 3.0

    Posted By on April 16, 2016

    The Humanity Project today announces a major expansion of our acclaimed teen driver safety program, I Care: Just Let Me Drive. We’re only now in the throes of creating important new additions to that part of the program aimed at educating parents of teen drivers. And at least for the moment, we’ve called that expansion I Care 3.0!I Care3.0

    Over the next few months, the Humanity Project will be working with both parents and teens to take I Care to the next level. One key to this will be offering live seminars for groups of parents, where we can teach I Care’s important lessons in person — lessons that focus on the central influence parents have in helping their children drive safely. Research has shown consistently that parents are the major role models for their teen drivers, whether the adults know this or not. If kids see their folks texting or eating or checking sports scores while driving, those young drivers are much more likely to do the same. We also will look for new ways to get our core I Care books to more teens and more parents and we’ll explore other opportunities to discourage distracted teen (and parent) driving through I Care. Those books include the teen-created comic book and other fun materials for parents, something we call I Care: Just Help Them Drive.

    None of this would be possible without the generous support of State Farm, our very good neighbors indeed. State Farm helped us create I Care from the ground up in 2012, with funding to work with teams of student writers, illustrators and photographers. This public-minded company also has continued to support I Care financially each year since then — funding that includes their latest grant to the Humanity Project.

    We’re proud to tell you that State Farm has just given us $15,000 for I Care in 2016 and we are deeply grateful. This will allow us the resources and time to bring I Care to more people in more ways. We also must mention that I Care is supported with grants from our wonderful friends at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and Children’s Services Council of Broward County. These partners help us to help kids … and to help parents to help their kids as well. We are very, very appreciative to each of these fine organizations.

    We’ll keep you posted on the progress of I Care 3.0. Please feel free to check out our existing free I Care resources on this website, which you can find by clicking on this link: I Care: Just Let Me Drive. Meanwhile, we want to thank State Farm again for making possible the latest expansion of our I Care program — with a special nod to Jose Soto, State Farm’s amazing Public Affairs Community Specialist for Florida. Jose and his colleagues at State Farm along with our other community partners are making a valuable contribution to society: helping to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths on the highways.

    Too Much “Me”

    Posted By on April 9, 2016

    A more personal blog from me today as founder of the Humanity Project – but on a topic that very much involves our organization’s mission. For some long while now, I’ve been noticing something new in our society. I can sum it up in one word: “Me.” Cowgirl jeans fashion woman with long blonde hair. Standing against wooden wall.

    Our culture always has rewarded a me-first attitude, of course. Children are encouraged to compete against others and win rather than to compete against themselves and improve. Adults are encouraged to go for the bigger title and more pay whether or not that’s fulfilling for them and helpful to others. There’s nothing new about this habit in Western society, especially the United States: “Look at my new hat, look at my new car, look at my new shoes, look at my new haircut, look at my prestigious award or my exotic vacation or my gorgeous spouse.” And social media only has intensified this trend. Now we have selfies of … everything. All me, only me, all the time, me me me. You get to see my breakfast eggs and my Happy Hour and my dog’s Halloween outfit. “Hey, look at me!”

    But now all this “me” appears to have a new outlet. Our language. And this is my point. If you listen closely to people talking, many folks nowadays use the word “me” in a way that I find different and disturbing. Because the word “me” often precedes every other name in a sentence. I hear this all the time. I hear it from famous celebrities and actors and talk show hosts. I hear it from politicians. I hear it from everyday people. It may be a sentence of the grossly ungrammatical variety: “Me and Jim went to the ballgame.” Or it may be simply a revealing reversal of the standard wording taught in schools and in educated families during decades past: “The ballgame was a fun day for me and Jim.”

    I’d always learned the opposite. The other person’s name comes first, as in “The ballgame was a fun day for Jim and me.” Or if expressing the idea in the first example above: “Jim and I went to the ballgame.”

    In some ways, obviously, this is a very small thing. But again, I find it revealing. And yes, troubling. To me, it suggests that more and more people are becoming more and more obsessed with “me” at a very deep psychological level. Acronym of AAM for All About MeMe first, always – even in the way we speak our casual thoughts. And here’s where all this ties in with the Humanity Project’s mission. We are a nonprofit that helps kids to help kids, children teaching their peers through collaboration that strengthens feelings of self-value for everyone touched by our programs: the kids who create and teach the programs, the kids who learn the programs’ lessons. We firmly believe that the only way to live a truly fulfilling life is to focus our talents and experience on helping other people in meaningful ways. It’s not about self-obsession, it’s about rising above self. Our programs show young people how to lift themselves in the process of helping to lift others. And this requires teamwork. It requires “us,” not “me.”

    So I offer this minor observation today about a new social trend in hopes of getting more of us to think. To think about the role of “me” in our own lives. And more importantly, to think as often as possible about “us.”