Saturday, December 4, 2010

Playing for Change

In The Adventures of Mali & Keela, the chapter Keela's Surprise uses the example of a musical performance to demonstrate creativity, generosity, love and unity.

I've found a real-life example of a project that demonstrates these same virtues...

Playing for Change started out as a documentary project, to record music from the streets. Their first single was a cover of Ben E. King's classic Stand by Me (its YouTube video has been viewed almost 26 million time so far!)

As the crew traveled around filming and recording musicians, they became involved with the music and people of the communities they visited. Most of those communities were of modest means, but the people were full of generosity, warmth, and were connected to each other by a common thread: music.

Playing For Change Foundation was then created and made its mission to ensure that anyone with the desire to receive a music education would have the opportunity to do so.

The Playing For Change Foundation works to create positive social change through music education. By providing children a safe place to learn, flourish and express themselves, they help provide a creative alternative to the struggles many of these children face daily.

To put it simply: when children learn to play music, they gain the skills and confidence they need to excel in all other areas of life... the gift of music today means a brighter future tomorrow.

Fantastic stuff.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Everyday heroes

While The Adventures of Mali & Keela follows the adventures of Mali and Keela (and let's not forget Bongo - a hero in his own right) as they sail the oceans and explore their world, back here in the real world the true heroes often go un-noticed.

I'm talking about the everyday parent. Regular people, doing all they can to make this world a better place for their young'uns to grow up in.

That doesn't mean having to change the world (although, we are just a collection of 7 billion individuals, right, so if we all shift together...) simply making our our small patch of planet better is heroic enough.

I was searching for info about Linda Kavelin-Popov on the web and stumbled upon T.E.M. — a blogger who has written a few blog posts about the Virtues Project. Her latest blog is about friendship. She is also a mother, and one of the many everyday heroes out there.

So here's to the everyday heroes. Keep up the great work!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Virtues Project Kenya

Here's something I stumbled upon which made me appreciate the reach of The Virtues Project.

Bibiana and Richard Andabwa are Virtues Facilitators in Kenya.

This 10 minute video talks from the heart about introducing The Virtues Project to Kenya and the positive impact it is having. In the video Mr Andabwa says, "... gave us the idea that Virtues would give us an opportunity for healing and reconciliation... we started training Virtues to our teachers. The experience that we saw in class was that it was transforming..."

I think the comment left on their YouTube page says it all: So much beauty and truth in these 10 minutes. May this spirit of peace and harmony spread throughout Kenya and our needy planet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Mom's Choice Award gold win!

The Adventures of Mali & Keela has been named among the best in family-friendly products by the prestigious Mom's Choice Awards (USA)! It was award a 'gold' – the top accolade in its category.

The Mom’s Choice Awards recognizes authors for their efforts in creating quality family-friendly products.

Parents, educators, librarians and retailers rely on Mom's Choice Awards evaluations when selecting quality materials for children and families. The Mom’s Choice Awards seal helps families and educators navigate the vast array of products and services and make informed decisions.

An esteemed panel of judges includes education, media and other experts as well as parents, children, librarians, performing artists, producers, medical and business professionals, authors, scientists and others.

Great news indeed!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Two week's ago was World Humanitarian Day. To acknowledge and celebrate the generosity of humanitarian workers, the above short film was made.

It is a collaborative film shot in over 40 countries in under 9 weeks, on a shoestring budget - with the goal of showing the enormous diversity of places, faces and endeavours of humanitarian aid workers in 2010.

It was filmed by humanitarian staff and freelance filmmakers from around the globe (over 50 contributors in total) with all time donated.

In The Adventures of Mali & Keela the story 'Keela's Surprise' shows generosity in a simple way that kids will relate to.

Monday, August 23, 2010


My daughter has recently discovered a fantastic online space that I'd like to share with you.

My past blogs posts have had one of the virtues from The Adventures of Mali & Keela as their title, so to continue that theme I've chosen purposefulness for this post. Purposefulness is something that describes the sentiment behind MiniMonos. MiniMonos is a virtual world for children: a place of fun, beauty, discovery, generosity, sustainability and friendship.

The creators of this virtual world say they "created MiniMonos so that children could have a place of their own, a place that allows them to explore and grow without constant pressure to buy stuff. We also wanted them to have a place that embodied core values like sustainability and generosity, without turning those values into a boring lecture".

The concept of making core values fun, accessible and engaging for kids was the driver behind The Adventures of Mali & Keela also, so I loved reading the MiniMono team explain that "sustainability isn't "taught" on MiniMonos; it's normalised. Kids quickly realise that if they don't clean the lagoon, the fish don't come back. If they don't do their recycling, their treehouses get messy".

(Lagoon/Glow-worm Cave story; messy treehouse/The Horse Race story... those who have already read The Adventures of Mali & Keela will notice some neat coincidences between the above quote and content of the book!)

I love also the follow-through they have at MiniMonos; every new membership provides clean drinking water for children in India, and when they hit their first 50 Gold members, they'll adopted an orangutan baby for a year.

That's a company with purposefulness. Great to see.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Sir Ken Robinson makes so many astute observations in this video. The man is quite brilliant. At a time when, as Sir Ken reminds us, the structure of education is shifting beneath our feet, and when, in the next 30 years, according to UNESCO, more people will be graduating through education than since the beginning of history, it is so important we review the role of creativity within education. Thank you Sir Ken – funny, poignant and very insightful.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


As we chase to keep up with the pace of life, joyfulness is often left behind in the rush. Last week I was reminded of the power of joyfulness. My niece, Carla, visited from Australia. She glows with joy. And what struck me was how infectious joy is. Joyful people bring out the joy in others. We had more fun week last week than we've had for ages, and all it took was a catalyst to get the joy flowing.

In The Adventures of Mali & Keela, joyfulness is demonstrated by wise old Lao fully embracing the joy of flight in the story Flying With the Seagulls. The Virtues Project define joyfulness as an inner sense of peace and happiness. You appreciate the gifts each day brings. And certainly Carla's visit provided all of that.

I loved reading Lisa McKimm's blog on the Parentingworx site where she refered to laughter as 'social glue'... "when you share it with strangers you are instantly bonded". She goes on to say "but it is even more miraculous when sharing it with your family", and I couldn't agree more. As it happens, Parentingworx run a workshop called Raising Kind Kids - The Virtues Project Way.

It was so good to experience joyfulness in action with Carla's visit. Without knowing it she was following Ralph Waldo Emerson's instruction when he said "scatter joy".

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I feel so lucky to live in New Zealand. In the latest Global Peace Index report we have been named the worlds most peaceful nation for the last two years.

Although we have a population of only 5 million people, we excel in the global arena at sport, with the all time olympics rating (per capita) putting us as the #11 most successful sporting nation in the world; ahead of Australia (#12), UK (#20) and USA (#28).

We have a history rich with innovators and adventurers. We were the first country in the world to provide women the right to vote, the first to conquer Everest, to split the atom, and even the first to fly (eight months before the Wright Brothers)!

We're in the top 5 for best places to live for quality of life, top 7 for environmental performance, top 4 for educational performance, and in my opinion New Zealand is also the most beautiful place on earth.

So it comes as a surprise that there's a darker underbelly to this story. I read today that NZ faces real challenges with our youth. In a piece titled Addressing the paradox of youth in The Press, Sir Peter Gluckman and Harlene Hayne refer to the challenges we face as a nation to help our youth 'weather the storm of adolescence'. I found it a fascinating read, and was very much encouraged by the closing message of the article, regarding the importance of early childhood education:

There is increasing evidence to show that social skills and emotional development in adolescence are affected by the quality of early childhood education and experience.

Better social and emotional skills contribute to higher rates of high school completion and reduce adolescent involvement in risky behaviours.

Countries that place greater emphasis on the development of these skills from early childhood appear to have lower levels of adolescent morbidity.

Or in other words, our commitment (time, love, energy, education) to our young children has a significant positive impact on their adolescent years.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I had a wonderful exchange this week with someone who is friendliness personified! I dropped Robbin Phillips from Brains on Fire a note to let her know how much I enjoy her blog. It's always rich with inspiration and creativity. Very quickly our exchange became a warm discussion where we found a few strangely coincidental connections.

Robbin then wrote a blog entry that links to the Virtues for Children website about our online discussion, titled 'Finding your company's soul mates'. She finishes off the entry with the words "It’s Friday. Reach out to a soul mate today. Because you can. We have the technology. Trite point maybe, but something we should never take for granted. Because connecting feels really wonderful…"

And she's right... with openness and friendliness connecting does feel wonderful.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thankfulness / Gratitude

There was a section in Maureen Healy's blog about gratitude that made me smile. She talks about how her dad used to say "Rub a Dub-Dub, Thanks for the Grub" before meals. And although said in a jokey way, it was a reminder about giving thanks.

We have something similar in our house. It began after we'd had Japanese students boarding with us for a while. They would precede each meal by showing respect to the food in front of them with a bow and say the words "Itadaki-masu" (thank you for the food). Now to an un-trained ear Itadaki-masu actually sounds like "eat a duckymus". Who knows what a duckymus is (some sort of duck-billed dinosaur perhaps?), but it tickled our fancy, so now, years later, we still proceed our meals (much to the confusion of guests) with the chant "eat a duckymus". I guess it's similar to Maureen's father with his "rub a dub dub"... it's our way of giving thanks and regardless of words used, the sincerity behind them is always there.

Maureen has some great insights at

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Enthusiasm and chivalry

Here's an enthusiastic bunch, based in Wichita, Kansas, that I've just stumbled across. Although their approach is quite different to that of The Adventures of Mali & Keela, the concept - of using tales of adventure and daring to engage with children and then to inspire and educate about virtues - is very similar.

Their program is called
Chivalry for Children and I came to learn of them through Allen Leddon's blog.

In his blog Allen talks about choosing the virtues Honesty, Loyalty, Perseverance, Charity, Humility, Courtesy and Courage for their program designed to bring chivalry back to modern life.

I'm sure Keela's parents - the King and Queen in The Adventures of Mali & Keela - would wholeheartedly approve!

Saturday, June 5, 2010


A few days ago I received an email from Germany. Andrea from The Virtues Project in Germany found me through a friend involved with The Virtues Project in New Zealand. Small World. And getting smaller every day thanks to the power of the internet.

The global network that has grown from the original seeds of The Virtues Project is a wonderful example of unity. Thousands of people all over the world, collectively working to help people live by their highest values.

The Adventures of Mali & Keela, unity is demonstrated by the friends making music together. As a global network, The Virtues Project is also making beautiful music.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Perseverance, and then JOYFULNESS!

The first day of June (well, here in New Zealand it is, the rest of the world is chasing to catch us!). And with the new month, a new beginning... The Adventures of Mali & Keela has just launched!

The journey of creating the book became a personal exploration of the virtues. There were times when, to meet the publishing deadline I would need to spend weekends writing rather than being with my children (yet I was writing about moderation!), times when the ideas just wouldn't flow – I would be writing about creativity, but be at a creative road-block. And so many times I needed to remind myself about perseverance!

And with the kindness of others – editor Sean O'Connor, devoting so much time and wisdom; writing buddy Janice Healey, bouncing ideas with me and adding huge value; Linda Kavelin Popov, whose encouragement topped up my enthusiasm – I came to realize that the pursuit of excellence is made a lot easier with a good dose of unity and love along the way.

I don't want this to sound like an Oscars acceptance speech (even though there are many people I want to thank), but just quickly... publisher Cathy is an angel who embodies so many virtues, particularly trust and caring, so I'd like to use this as an opportunity to say a heartfelt thank you to her.

I'd love this blog to become an interactive space, so if you feel like adding a comment, please do!