Q+A — Brady Polkinghorne, Director of The Kindness Institute
What is The Kindness Institute and why does it exist?
We’re a community-based organisation that delivers programmes designed to support marginalised rangatahi and promote social participation within communities throughout Aotearoa. Our core mahi is working to empower and transform youth mental health and wellbeing, and that of those around them.
When was it set up and who is a part of it?
We were founded by a highly awarded philanthropist and amazing woman Kristina Cavit in 2016. Since its inception, The Kindness Institute (TKI) has now worked in Auckland schools with more than 600 young people have gone through our term-long mental health and mindfulness programme.
We’re run by a small team of volunteers, experts, and mentors with ambitions to expand and be able to offer more hauora support and initiatives throughout Aotearoa.
What kind of work do you do and who do you do it with?
Our flagship programme, ATAWHAI, supports rangatahi holistically through activities including yoga, mindfulness, reflection and the creative arts, using these as tools to equip them with lifelong communication, stress management and resilience skills.
We work with a cohort of 10 rangatahi over a 12-24 month period, who join our programme through kura kaupapa, youth justice, alternative education and low decile schools, community and school partners and Oranga Tamariki.
How do you integrate Te Reo Māori philosophy and practice into the organisation?
Our holistic framework is guided by Te Whare Tapa Whā, grounded in te Ao Māori, tikanga, and Te Reo. From here, the kaupapa of Atawhai is built on five principles; non judgement; vulnerability; self-compassion; fun; and support.
Why is supporting mental health so important to the rangatahi you work with?
We’re responding to direct community demand and an urgent need to support mental health in our communities. This kaupapa is so important to rangatahi because it allows a safe space for learning, sharing and connecting, where their voices are not only heard but used to direct the movement of the programme.
Our work is so important to help rangatahi learn to manage stress and anger, increase their ability to focus and develop a sense of calm, feel connected and be able to work through their emotions in a healthy and sustainable manner by feeling connected to their culture and sense of identity.
What are the main triggers/causes of anxiety and mental health rangatahi face today?
Our observations show how varied triggers of anxiety, stress and negative emotions are for our rangatahi but there are some consistent, prevalent factors contributing to mental health issues, including:
- Effects of urban poverty
- Lack of connection to cultural identity
- School demands
- Social media
- Family issues
- Lack of positive influences.
How can I help or contribute?
As a non-profit organisation with no significant government funding, we’re constantly looking for financial support to ensure we can continue to deliver our ATAWHAI programme and support our rangatahi. If it’s available to you, you can support via a donation on our Givealittle page, with all money going towards the programme and its successful delivery.
But it’s not all about putea for us - we’re advocates for positive mental health in all of Aotearoa so you can support us by following us on our socials, sharing our kaupapa, or even just having open, honest and vulnerable discussions with your loved ones on what mental health means to you.
Aroha mai, Aroha Atu - Love and Compassion received, Love and Compassion given.
Where can we find more about you?
ATAWHAI VIDEOS - https://thekindnessinstitute.com/videos