Hey ladies, it’s Anna from Fash Boulevard here with another edition of our Ladies Who Laptop interview series. This month we’re chatting with the inspirational duo behind one of my favorite organizations, The Kind Campaign. The Kind Campaign is an internationally recognized nonprofit organization that brings awareness and healing to the negative and lasting effects of girl-against-girl bullying through their global movement, their award-winning documentary, and their in-school assemblies and educational curriculums. Today, founders Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson open up about their own bullying experiences, the challenges of launching a start-up and how they’re impacting girls around the world with their groundbreaking movement. Let’s dive in…
What inspired you to partner with your friend Molly and launch Kind Campaign?
Lauren Paul: My middle school experience put the issue of girl-against-girl bullying on my heart and since that time, I knew that I wanted to do something to start a conversation about this topic. While attending Pepperdine Film School, I had the incredible opportunity to intern for Tom Shadyac on his documentary, I Am. That experience inspired my soul and I knew that a documentary was the perfect way to share this story. The summer going into our senior year, I sat down with Molly and shared the idea. She immediately connected, having gone through her own experiences with bullying during high school. We instantly started shooting local interviews to see if women and girls would be willing to open up on camera. We started making the film back in 2008, before bullying became the hot topic that it is today so we had no idea if people would be willing to open up about their experiences. Kind Campaign was birthed out of those initial stages of filming Finding Kind. The moment we turned those cameras on, it was so blatantly apparent that women and girls had been waiting for someone to expose this issue that had been swept under the rug for so long. At that point, we looked at each other and realized that this could be a huge movement and that’s when we started developing our school programs and ultimately founded Kind Campaign in February of 2009.
The two of us have spoken in around 360 schools across North America and Kind Campaign Assemblies have been hosted by faculty in thousands of schools. Kind Campaign Assemblies now take place almost every day of the school year. Molly and I are currently on our 10th Founders Assembly Tour where we will be speaking in 30 schools across America for National Bullying Awareness Month.
What were some of the struggles/hurdles during those early days of launching Kind Campaign? How did you overcome them?
Molly Thompson: Our biggest challenge was learning to manage the struggles that came with being a start up and the lack of funding we had to fuel different initiatives and ideas. Every year we were brainstorming new ways to keep Kind Campaign afloat. But I think our biggest challenge was also one of our greatest assets. The grassroots nature of our programs is a huge part of why girls relate to us the way that they do. It’s also one of our favorite messages to share: If you are passionate about something, work hard to accomplish your goals and achieve your dreams. We have learned the value of female friendship and how important it is to surround yourself with people who lift you up, celebrate you, and are there for you. Therefore any struggle or hurdle that we overcame was worth working through because of who we are fighting for, and keeping that at the forefront of our minds is how we overcame any obstacle we faced.
Lauren, you were bullied so badly in 7th grade that you contemplated suicide. Can you please share a little about this experience with us?
Lauren Paul: Middle school was such a dark chapter of my life. I can still vividly recall every awful experience a group of girls put me through. It all started with a rumor and turned into two years of torture. I could go on and on about all the things these girls did to me, but the most important part of my story is the effect that those experiences had on me as a young girl. As a result of those experiences, I ended up dealing with severe depression, which turned into an eating disorder that I battled for a few years. I completely lost my sense of self-worth and self-confidence, my grades dropped…and I got to the point in seventh grade, where I tried to commit suicide as a result of what I was going through. To this day, it has remained the hardest time period of my life. As cliché as it sounds, I would not change a second of that experience because it lead me on a path to Finding Kind and Kind Campaign. I feel so fortunate that I am able to stand in front of tens of thousands of girls during our assemblies and honestly share that part of my life while letting girls know that they are not alone, how important it is to reach out to an adult when they are dealing with anything that feels bigger than themselves and to remind girls that their school experience is just one chapter of their story.
This month you are touring the country on your 10th School Assembly Tour. What is your favorite part of this experience and the most challenging?
Molly Thompson: We love being on the road! Our time spent in schools, speaking to girls and witnessing so much healing take place is really what fuels us in every other aspect of Kind Campaign. The most challenging part of being on the road is the travel. We absolutely love traveling, but when we’re on tour we are speaking in two schools a day and then typically flying or driving to the next location. So, when we’re emotionally and physically drained from the assemblies, sometimes the travel starts to take a toll. But our favorite part is talking with all of the incredible ladies that we get the opportunity to meet in schools all over North America. It’s so inspiring to watch as a girl stands up in front of her entire school and courageously asks for help or apologizes to someone. I can’t quite explain the feeling that it gives us, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. It’s really special.
Lauren your husband, Aaron Paul, has been extremely vocal about his support of Kind Campaign. From helping with fundraising to spreading the word in his 2014 Emmy’s acceptance speech. How has his support impacted the Kind Campaign?
Lauren Paul: Aaron is a remarkable human being and I feel lucky to call him my best friend and my hubby! He has gone above and beyond to use his platform to help us spread the word about Kind Campaign. A couple years ago he threw an event for the series finale of Breaking Bad and he turned the event into a fundraiser for Kind Campaign. He spent countless hours helping raise over a million dollars for Kind Campaign, which completely changed the game for the nonprofit and has allowed us to provide Kind Campaign Assemblies free of charge to hundreds of schools across the world.
Aaron’s Emmy shout out was incredible. The fact that he used that special moment of his as a platform to inform people about Kind Campaign left me speechless but it truly is such a testament to his heart. He is always thinking of how he can help and celebrate the people in his life. When Aaron made that shout out, our website crashed immediately. Because of Aaron, millions of new people know about Kind Campaign. He has completely elevated Kind Campaign to a level that we could have never done on our own and we are both so indescribably thankful.
What does it mean to see the program and curriculum that you created impact so many schools and communities?
Lauren Paul: It is truly surreal for both of us to see the global impact that Kind Campaign has had over the last 6 1/2 years. It all started with a conversation at a café in Santa Monica and turned into an award-winning documentary film, Kind Campaign Assemblies, national tours, Kind Clubs and Kind Camps that have been implemented into thousands of schools and have directly impacted hundreds of thousands of students. Last year, we measured our impact for the first time by distributing a survey at our Kind Campaign assemblies. We had about 4,000 girls participate and these are a couple of the statistics we received after HK Impact Advisors analyzed the data:
- 96% of the girls surveyed were compelled to be kinder to other girls after experiencing a Kind Campaign Assembly.
- Two out of every three girls apologizes to someone during or after a Kind Campaign Assembly.
- 90% of the girls surveyed agreed that they did not want to participate in gossip or drama after experiencing a Kind Campaign Assembly.
- 90% of the girls surveyed realized that they are not alone because of the Kind Campaign Assembly.
Knowing that just one girl has been positively changed because of Kind Campaign programming would be enough. I can’t quite put into words the joy we feel in seeing these results.
Do you think that social media has contributed to a rise in bullying?
Molly Thompson: Definitely. In our assemblies we talk about the importance of using social media wisely and kindly. It’s so heartbreaking to listen to girls experience traumatic stress and anxiety surrounding whether or not her friends are going to talk to her that day based on if her Instagram photo received enough “likes” or if she has enough followers. But that is a very real thing. And the bullying that is linked to social media provides no escape. People are tied to their cell phones and the world that lives on that little screen, so if something traumatic is going on at school or outside of school they don’t get a break when they come home. It’s so important for everyone, kids and adults alike, to remember that the words that you type out in a text message on your phone or in the comment section of a YouTube video have just as much impact on the person reading those words, whether you know them or not, as they would if you were standing in front of that persona and saying those hurtful things to their face. I think if we all reminded ourselves of that and humanized the situation before quickly firing off something damaging, this cyber world that we’ve created would be a lot less malicious. At the end of the day, we’re all just people looking for love and acceptance whether in our real life friendships or in our virtual worlds, so it’s just as important to be kind online as it is in real life.
You launched Kind Campaign 6 years ago. Did you ever image it would have such a huge impact?
Lauren Paul: It’s hard to put into words the impact that we see, but here is a special story from one of our assemblies last year to give you an idea. Rachel is a girl we met during our last spring tour while in Utah. At the end of all of our assemblies, we take a picture with the group of girls we are speaking to and post the picture on Kind Campaign’s social media. We were scrolling through the comments on our post about our assembly in Utah and came across this comment from a girl named Rachel:
“I was at the Kind Campaign assembly at Draper Park. You guys really changed my point of view on everything. I can relate to everyone in the film. Every girl friend I’ve had, I have lost. This morning when I woke up I was thinking about committing suicide. I came to school today on the verge of tears. Once I got in and sat down I wasn’t really paying attention but once I watched the movie and I was in tears. I came up and shared my Kind Card. It was about one of my best friends. He stood by me through all my hard times. Once I got home I realized that even though some girls can be rude and don’t understand what their words can do that it shouldn’t be worth dying over. I called my best friend and talked to him for an hour. I was just crying my eyes out. Your assembly today? Yeah, it saved my life.”
What advice would you give to girls out there that are being bullied?
Molly Thompson: There are several pieces of advice that we like to share with girls (or anyone!) who is being bullied. The first is that this is not your entire story. I remember back when I was in school and my junior year of high school felt like it would never end. At the time it seemed like those school hallways were my entire world. It’s so hard when you’re going through something difficult to gain the perspective that it is just one chapter of your life, but it’s so important for people to realize that what they are going through is temporary. It’s critical to gain that perspective and remember that no matter what you are going through, this isn’t IT for you. Even though it seems like that difficult experience will last forever, it is not your entire world and it really is just one small chapter of your life. And even in the darkest of times, try and look for the slivers of hope, laughter and happiness. They are there, and they will help you get through whatever it is that you may be going through.
Another piece of advice for someone being bullied or someone dealing with a conflict with another person is to be respectful. Oftentimes as females, we avoid confrontation by gossiping about the situation with our group of friends. The only thing that does is blow the drama way out of proportion and ultimately make the situation much more emotional and difficult. We encourage people to have enough respect for themselves and others and simply go directly to the person you are having a conflict with and have an open and honest conversation with them, come to a resolution, and then move past those experiences. We’re not suggesting that everything is going to end with a perfect friendship, and that’s okay, but it’s about respecting others enough to not create unnecessary hardship for them and ultimately you.
How can we join/contribute to the Kind Campaign?
Lauren Paul: First, you can learn more about the organization at www.kindcampaign.com or by following us on social media at @KindCampaign. If you are interested in bringing Kind Campaign programming into your local schools and community you can book a Kind Campaign Assembly at www.findingkind.com! We also have a brand new volunteer program called Kind Ambassadors, where Kind Campaign supporters across the world work with us directly to bring Kind Campaign Assemblies and Kind Clubs into their local schools. If you are interested in becoming a Kind Ambassador, email [email protected]! Last but certainly not least, you can donate to Kind Campaign on our website or by contacting [email protected]. All donations go towards our Free To Be Kind initiative, which provides Kind Campaign Assemblies free of charge to hundreds of schools across the world.
What advice would you give to young ladies looking to create their own movement?
Molly Thompson: Work really hard. Don’t let roadblocks stop you, be creative and find alternative solutions. Take people up on their offer to help. Let your passion be your guide and stay true to who you are.
Words to live by?
Lauren Paul: Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others.
Who would you like to see me interview for my next Ladies Who Laptop?
Let me know in the comments below!