Mindful Littles 4th Annual Peace and Freedom Carnival Teaches Kids

(Jeff Heyman, Photographer)
On Nov. 6, children and parents from the Bay Area enjoyed the 4th Annual Peace and Kindness Carnival held at the Orinda Community Center. Three of the 22 stations centered on helping local veterans.

    Happy children went from one activity to another in the plaza area of the Orinda Community Park on Nov. 6, where projects centered on helping others. It was the 4th Annual Peace and Kindness Carnival for Bay Area families, sponsored by Mindful Littles.
    There were 22 stations, three concentrating on projects designed to help local veterans in advance of Veterans Day.  
    Tanuka Gordon, founder of Mindful Littles, said the kids loved the “Peace Begins with a Smile” and “Dream Catchers” stations, both created by Lamorinda Tooth Buds, a pediatric dentistry practice in Lafayette.” 
    Gordon said they are the only non-profit organization dedicated to restoring connectedness through high-impact mindful service experiences.  
    “Our unique program combines mindfulness and authentic service experiences into a holistic model for the whole community,” said Gordon.
    “Research shows experiencing compassion has positive health benefits, including reduction in anxiety, stress and depression, plus increased mental and emotional resiliency and connectedness,” Gordon added. “Backed by several years of research, Mindful Littles offers workplaces, schools and community organizations both mindful service experiences and compassion training workshops.”
    Content manager for the organization, Lisa Sadikman, said the first time she took her daughter to a Mindful Littles event, they assembled peace kits for veterans.
    “I wasn’t sure she’d understand what we were doing, but Tanuka had arranged for a veteran and his daughter to be at our event to tell their story. That made a big impression on my daughter,” said Sadikman. “She was so excited to make and give something special to veterans, to thank them for their service.”
    Sadikman added, “Fast forward four years, I now work at Mindful Littles and Lilah, 11-years-old, comes to help at our service events. Teaching children at a young age how they can help others is so empowering for them. We’ve seen the way our Mindful service experiences restore human connection and encourage compassion again and again. It really touches your heart.”
    In early 2016, Gordon said she began experiencing critical gaps in family community service, leading to the creation of the non-profit.
    Gordon explained how Mindful Littles got started.
    “When my older daughter was almost 5-years-old, I made a commitment to engage in regular volunteerism with my children,” she said. “I found a family volunteering opportunity at a local crisis center. Once a month after my workday, she and I would head to the center to pack rice and beans for those in need.
    “I remember feeling stressed sitting in traffic trying to make it to the non-profit site on time for the service project. Often, we were already exhausted when we arrived. Further, the non-profit staff was understandingly overwhelmed having to organize an age-appropriate event for young families.”
    Gordon added, “For a crisis center distributing thousands of pounds of food each month to feed hungry community members, it felt more burdensome than helpful to bring our families to serve.”
    Gordon said that the change was dramatic: “What stood out to me most was leaving the service project without a full understanding of who we were helping or the meaning behind our work. After having spent my entire career designing customer experiences that deeply engage and delight humans, I realized 
this disconnection meant we were missing a major opportunity in community service; we were not engaging perhaps the most important audience in compassion, our children. It was then that I decided to take matters into my own hands and began the Mindful Littles journey.” 
    With the help of local parent volunteers, the first Mindful Littles Service Experience was organized on Oct. 2, 2016, as a grassroots initiative in the founder’s backyard. Fifteen neighborhood Bay Area families gathered to mindfully engage in service – making heart-felt hygiene kits for foster care youth in need. The first project deeply impacted the group. Clearly, according to Gordon the event had planted the seeds for a “compassion movement.”
    Gordon said they expanded into new demographics and communities in 2019.
    “Moved deeply by our Peace Kits for Paradise service project, the Paradise Unified School District hired Mindful Littles to bring our compassion training programs to all elementary schools to help children in Butte County cope with the aftermath of a devastating wildfire,” said Gordon. “Our Journey into Paradise reinforced our commitment to help wherever we could.”
    Mindful Littles’ mission statement reads, “The mental health crisis happening in our country touches us all. Providing the younger generation with mindfulness, compassion and volunteerism, helps alleviate that crisis. Doing good encourages us to be good.”

Bobbie Dodson can be reached at bobbiedodson109@gmail.com.

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