By Tina Harlow, L.C.S.W. and Rosa Medina, M.A.
It’s 6 a.m. in Australia when 13-year-old Anna, still lying in bed, sleepily clicks on the Zoom link to enter the group meeting. She is willing to sacrifice her Sunday morning sleep to connect with her fellow team members who make up the World Hope Project--an international children’s video troupe composed of gifted youth ages 8-17 from 27 countries whose mission is to share messages of hope and ideas for positive social change.
One-by-one they join—Belva from Mozambique; Marek from Slovakia; Marie from France; Joshua from Malaysia. Soon the screen is transformed into a moving, interactive, artful display of young faces. Some are smiling while others appear more tentative. Will they be able to understand what is being said? Will they be able to communicate their ideas? Despite their insecurities, they curiously and boldly embrace the challenges of language, culture and technology. Our videoconferences take place mostly in English, but we encourage the children to use their native language to fully express their ideas. We utilize translation software and are gradually adding volunteers to assist with interpretation. Two senior citizens have volunteered to interpret for our French and Italian members, adding a multi-generational layer to the meetings.
These virtual meetings are the “special sauce” that inspires us as co-producers of the World Hope Project. It is a window into a world of connection, hope and infinite possibility with internal dividends that no currency can replicate. These children represent the capability of human beings to come together for a common cause, greeting one another with curiosity instead of judgement.
The online meetings are the first step of preparation for each new video. The collaboration continues through email, surveys, shared documents, and a group chat. We encounter challenges along the way. After all, we are a microcosm of our greater world with all of its imperfection, suffering and beauty. Team members often have to re-record their clips several times and some have unreliable internet. Communication can be difficult to navigate, but the challenges alone are part of the learning and often catalyze solutions that enrich the process.
This project seems to have a life of its own with unexpected ripples along the way; the first droplet being the making of the original World Hope Project video. It began in April 2020 when Tina wrote a piece of prose inspired by the solidarity expressed by individuals and communities around the world in response to the pandemic. She invited children from around the globe to provide input on the piece and participate in the video. During this process, Rosa enthusiastically arranged for children from three more countries to join. After two video conferences and a number of revisions, the first World Hope Project video was released.
What started as a single endeavor became an ongoing collaboration and Rosa agreed to join as co-producer. The ripples have continued with our videos being shown in schools, conferences, businesses and homes around the world.
The children’s efforts are not reserved for this project alone. In the height of COVID-19, 11-year-old Ryutaro from Japan started his own organization, raising money to support his community during the pandemic. A video interview about his project can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/wJ52ZnuAdvE. Alberto from Chile initiated a class “clean-up day” in a local park. In each of their own corners of the world, they are finding ways to make a difference.
As co-producers, we are also realizing the impact that The World Hope Project is having on our own lives. We have found ourselves being more proactive in our decisions in regard to purchases, waste, and advocacy. We are now writing to companies and those in positions of power to advocate for change. In giving voice to the children, we are finding our own.
Early in the process, each team member was asked to complete an open-ended survey. When asked what they wanted to share with the world, their responses focused on climate change and the environment, racial equality, mental health, gender equality, unity, concerns for animals, distribution of wealth, etc. Climate change and the environment were mentioned the most.
In honor of International Mother Earth Day on April 22, 2021, we released our second video, “Dear Mother Earth,” which is also available in Spanish and can be viewed here. In this video, the children express gratitude for the gifts that nature provides and demonstrate simple actions that we can take in our daily lives to nurture our environment.
We are now actively working on our next video on the topic of mental health. Over the last year, several of our team members lost extended family members due to COVID, and many are painfully aware of the social tensions present in most of the world. Our team recognizes the emotional toll that societal issues are having on all of us. For this reason, our next video will focus on avenues for self-care and mutual support.
Now, more than ever, it is important that we, as individuals and a gifted community, take action for the things that matter to our children and youth. When they see adults choosing new habits over convenience and investing energy in efforts that are not driven by financial gain, it gives them hope.
Young idealists need pathways for bringing forth the world they envision in their minds. They have a strong sense of justice and experience big emotions when they learn about problems that feel daunting and unsolvable. The opportunity for youth to collaborate and brainstorm solutions with peers from different countries gives them a sense of belonging within a global community. These international relationships hold powerful promise for building bridges that foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of cultural differences.
We want children to realize that even though we cannot fix all the problems with one video or one activity, we can at least add to the conversation. Every effort holds the potential to impact ourselves, our friends, our families, and maybe even the world.
The World Hope Project is a no-money enterprise. Those who wish to support this project can subscribe to our YouTube channel, like and share our videos and tell friends about it. Our team feels energized and encouraged when we see “likes” adding up. Most importantly, it is the children’s hope that each of us will choose at least one of the suggested actions to incorporate into our lives. Let us focus on what we can do—sculpt new habits, resist convenience—and together, create the world that exists within our shared potential. To learn more about our team and our latest creations, visit our website at http://www.worldhopeproject.com.
Rosa Medina is a bilingual educator with a B.A. in psychology from the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú and a Master’s in education from the University of Colorado at Boulder. For the last 10 years, she has been involved in gifted education, working to increase the identification of Latino students in gifted programs and to raise awareness of gifted education resources among Latino families. Rosa is a board member of the Colorado Association for Gifted and Talented (CAGT) and administers the Spanish Facebook page for CAGT.
Tina Harlow, LCSW is a therapist, speaker, consultant, blogger and founder of Guiding Bright in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Over the last 30 years, Tina’s work has traversed a variety of settings including outpatient, day treatment, residential, intensive family treatment, child welfare and even a performing arts camp. Tina presents at conferences nationally and internationally on the social and emotional aspects of gifted children. Tina is a SENG (Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted) mental health provider and a Certified SENG Model Parent Group Facilitator. Her website is www.guidingbright.com.