Nobody is helping elementary and high school students boost their self-esteem while being altruistic at the same time.
“Nobody” the rag doll, that is.
Former teacher Kelly Clark developed the doll as part of a hands-on self-esteem and social responsibility program that she started in her own classroom in 2001, and it’s now being used in some 300 classes across 16 school boards, she said.
It’s a tangible way to feed character development. It’s a way for each student to realize they fit in by being different, because everyone adds something different to the doll— Kelly Clark , program creator
The project works by having students in grades 1 through 12 choose a project that helps a living thing – a person, animal or the environment – and then use their personal interests to be kind to that thing in a tangible way. Each student takes the “Nobody” doll home with them for one week. At the end of the week, they attach something small to the doll that represents their activity. The student also presents their project to the class, along with a story and picture that they put in a communal scrapbook.
The idea is that by the end of the year, with all of the students’ contributions, “Nobody” becomes “Somebody.”
Clark said the project was born while she was searching for a concrete way to build self-esteem among her students.
“It’s a tangible way to feed character development. It’s a way for each student to realize they fit in by being different, because everyone adds [something different] to the doll,” she said.
Last year, Eli Sokoloff Harris took part in the project by selling fair trade chocolate bars to help raise money for children in developing countries to go to school through the Free the Children program.
“I had heard of [Free the Children] before, and I knew it was to help children around the world go to school, and not be in slave labour,” the Grade 6 student said about his project.
“With the standard way of making chocolate, children and their parents are in danger, because they have to use big knives to cut off the cocoa pods, and toxic fumes for helping them grow.”
By contrast, fair trade bars are made using cocoa pods that are grown in worker-friendly conditions.
Eli, 11, added that with traditional chocolate bars, workers see about six per cent of profits, but with fair trade bars, they receive 36 per cent. Eli also simultaneously landed the title role in his school’s production of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and he used the hype from the play to sell more than 120 bars.
Andrew Shinoff is also in Grade 6. He participated in the Who is Nobody program when he had Clark as a teacher in Grade 1, and he has been selling Freezies to raise money for Interplast ever since.
Interplast provides free reconstructive surgery to children in developing countries with cleft lips and palates, burns and hand injuries by teaching and partnering with local doctors.
“You can’t just put [money] in an envelope and say, ‘Here it is, Third World.’ We had to choose something,” said Andrew’s father, Steve. A fellow nursing colleague of Andrew’s mom suggested Interplast.
I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve helped a lot of people in developing countries and its just a great feeling— Andrew Shinoff, grade 6 student
Andrew, who was profiled for his accomplishments in a 2004 CJN article, raised $800 for Interplast in his first year. He sold Freezies twice a week at recess with the help of a family member or his nanny. Due to the campaign’s success, Andrew chose to continue the project. Now, he sells Freezies on every warm day.
Last year, in Grade 5, the Forest Hill Public School student sold just under 2,000 Freezies and raised $4,500 for Interplast.
In total, Steve said, Andrew has raised more than $8,000 for Interplast.
“It’s become an institution at the school,” Steve said.
“I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve helped a lot of people in developing countries and its just a great feeling,” 10-year-old Andrew said. “It makes them feel good that people care about them from another side of the world, and it’s making them feel good because they don’t have a cleft.”
“I just want to keep on helping as much as I can,” he added.
“[‘Who is Nobody’] gets everyone involved, and it gets everyone thinking and doing things for other people, not just themselves.”
For more information, visit www.whoisnobody.com.
This article was published in The Canadian Jewish News on 1st November 2007