It all started when Kayte Kaminski walked into a gallery in La Crosse, Wisconsin filled floor to ceiling with children's artwork. Binder in hand, she, her mother and her sister explored the seemingly endless display by reading statements written by each child about their art piece. Every piece was colorful and unique. Some were funny. Others brought on tears. All of them were about compassion.
In the wake of the 2016 election, our country felt divided. Looking for a way to heal the division and remembering the art exhibit she saw several years before, Kayte Kaminski proposed to lead a similar project in Bozeman, Montana. Dr. Alison Harmon, Dean of the College of Education, Health & Human Development at Montana State University approved the project. In the spring of 2017, The Compassion Project got its start as a pilot program at Montana State University. With Kayte as the Director of the program, The Compassion Project was given a home and an environment where it could properly grow.
Unfortunately, almost everyone can recall an experience where they were hurt. At the same time, everyone at one time or another has been shown compassion. When we choose compassion for ourselves, others and the environment, we choose a path to healing.
We define compassion as mindful support, relief, and genuine human kindness for others, ourselves and our environment. When children and adults learn to practice compassion they are taught to acknowledge and work through their own emotional distress as well as exercise curiosity and understanding toward groups with perceived differences. These skills are essential for success in life.
Compassion Project lessons and workshops provide, as one educator put it, “tangible tools to teach compassion.” Our curriculum serves as one resource to take a proactive stance against bullying in children as well as adults.
In 2016, the National Center for Educational Statistics reported over 20 percent of all students are bullied in schools. The rates are even higher for students with disabilities, students of color and students who identify or are perceived as LGBQT. The Center of Disease for Control indicates bullying puts children at increased risk of poor school adjustment, trouble sleeping, anxiety and depression. Our trainings and programming create environments where people feel safe so students and communities can thrive.
With incredible support from the community and funds from grants, donations and events, a core team of volunteers raised $50,000. During the 2018-2019 school year, project facilitators trained over 200 educators and engaged over 6,000 student and community participants in Bozeman, Belgrade and Livingston.
Each participant learned what compassion is, how to recognize it, how to practice it and why it is important, which they artistically represented on 7.5 inch by 7.5 inch blocks of wood. All 6,000 art pieces were brought together and displayed in a city-wide art installation at five installation locations in Bozeman.
In order to create an interactive experience like the one Kayte and her mother experienced, three senior interdisciplinary computer science students from MSU created an app where viewers can read statements about compassion written by the participants. Search The Compassion Project to download the app on your smart device. Thank you to Kyle Melton, Amelia Getty and Mitchell Black.
The 501c(3) nonprofit organization, Compassion Project, was founded in the summer of 2019 in Bozeman to lead and empower similar projects across Montana and beyond.
Read more about our signature classroom program as well as new programming by using the navigation bar at the top or bottom of this page.
We feel extraordinarily fortunate to be doing this work. Please do not hesitate to let us know how we can work with you to cultivate compassion in your school and community.