Yearly Great Kindness Challenge Emphasizes Kindness to Students

Greater Washington D.C.  |  February 28, 2024
The Great Kindness Tree blossoms with countless acts of kindness hanging from its branches. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Written by Wendy Tsai
Translated by Andrew Larracuente
Edited by Ariel Chan

Having originated in 2011 as an activity involving young students in thoughtful acts to coach kindness, 2023-2024’s “The Great Kindness Challenge” engaged over 19 million students globally in a successful venture from January 22nd to January 26th.

The Tzu Chi Education Foundation, dedicated to environmental protection, introduced eco-friendly packages and the “Go Green Pledge” to address climate change. The foundation encouraged students to make small changes in their daily lives, such as turning off faucets while washing faces, to protect Mother Earth collectively. Additionally, the foundation used innovative data-tracking methods to quantify energy conservation achievements, presenting the actual effects of the challenge in a refreshing format.

During the “Great Kindness Challenge,” Tzu Chi Academy, Washington DC, exhibited their creativity with the Great Kindness Tree activity. Children, reflecting on their deeds during the challenge, wrote them on leaves and “hung” them on the Great Kindness Tree’s branches. In a month, the barren Great Kindness Tree bloomed into a lush, fruitful tree of deeds, symbolizing love and compassion among its branches.

Teachers and Parents Collaborate on the Great Kindness Tree

A month before the “Great Kindness Challenge,” on December 16, 2023, teachers and parents at Tzu Chi Academy, Washington DC, began earnestly creating the “Great Kindness Tree.”

Skillful hands and ingenious thinking create great love together.
Artistic minds work in tandem passionately. Photo/Wendy Tsai

On a joyous winter afternoon, teachers and parents allied to cut out text, design posters, depict sturdy tree trunks and carefully arrange every patch of green grass. “The Great Kindness Tree was created by many parents together… This Great Kindness Tree symbolizes the unity of our small community. Because of everyone’s love, this tree can grow strong and pass on love.,” said Maggie Chai, Academic Affairs of Tzu Chi Academy, Washington DC.

Teachers and parents work together sincerely to create a love tree.
Teachers and parents cooperating in the Great Kindness Tree’s creation. Photo/Wendy Tsai
Teachers stick the Jing Si Aphorisms on the trunk of the tree, which is like the root of the tree. It is also the foundation of a person's actions.
Teachers placed reflective quotes on the trunk, serving as the foundation of one's actions. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Tzu Chi advocates for teamwork between schools and parents – aiming to seamlessly integrate school education, household backgrounds, and community resources. This communication builds a bridge to monitor children’s growth and effectively connects family education with school education.

We're done! Parents and teachers who participated in making the love tree took a group photo.
Mission accomplished! Parents and teachers involved in making the Great Kindness Tree take a commemorative photo. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Parental philosophies, family atmosphere, and parent-child communication impact a child’s development. Close collaboration between parents and teachers can ensure the smoothness and consistency of the educational process and create a comprehensive and balanced growth environment for children. Honoring this philosophy, parents actively participated in the “Global Great Kindness Challenge,” spreading good deeds with their children to plant seeds of kindness and reap their fruits (together).

Small Acts of Kindness Fill the Great Kindness Tree

Each leaf of the Great Kindness Tree carries the children’s good deeds and love: “Draw a card to thank the teacher,” “Take care of the Earth, recycle resources,” “Speak kind words, praise family members,” “I had a vegetarian meal today,” etc. Among the many leaves decorating the Great Kindness Tree’s branches were also the children’s heartfelt brushes to vividly depict their good deeds. One leaf, in particular, shows a drawing of a little girl carefully watering flowers with her hands – conveying the silent tenderness and care for plants.

Children use paintbrushes to draw the good deeds they have done on the love leaves.
Children using brushes to depict the good deeds they have done on the leaves of the Great Kindness Tree. Photo/Wendy Tsai
The love tree is full of children's tender and innocent love.
The Great Kindness Tree blooms in abundance with the children's kindness. Photo/Wendy Tsai

Children did many good deeds, such as collecting and donating old clothes during Thanksgiving, thanking the school bus driver for transportation, picking up trash, and participating in environmental protection activities.

Principal Pickwei Lau – Tzu Chi Academy, Washington DC – said, “Every Saturday, the children would apply these completed Great Kindness Tree leaves. What is touching is seeing the good deeds and full hearts of the children on the Great Kindness Tree, such as helping with chores at home, washing dishes, or assisting neighbors in shoveling snow. These little leaves symbolize the full hearts of the children and are the highlight of this Great Kindness Tree. I am very happy to have the opportunity to showcase so much love on the Great Kindness Tree.”

This Great Kindness Tree is not merely a tree growing on paper but a tree of compassion growing in everyone’s hearts. Its branches carry the universal love and contributions of parents, and its trunk is the strong support of the school community’s unity. The bud of compassion, much like DuFu’s description of a spring night’s joyful rain, “quietly entering the night, moistening things silently,” has already taken root and sprouted in the hearts of the children.

Although the 2023-2024 “Great Kindness Challenge” has ended, the children’s good deeds have yet to conclude. The charity stream will continue to flow, and the children’s good deeds will forge a beautiful home!

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