By VANEESHA KRISHNASAMY
At 17, Lisa Surihani had an epiphany.
“There was a social entrepreneurship class in my curriculum, and it was so interesting to learn about CSR-format businesses and giving back,” she said.
“Since then, I’ve been inspired by how ordinary people can do extraordinary things to help people in need.”
That lesson stayed with her her entire life.
Lisa, who is one of Malaysia’s most well-known celebrities and also a Unicef Goodwill Ambassador, is now living her teenaged self’s dream – by using her celebrity status to give back.
“I feel like being in the public eye gives me leverage to do more good. To a certain degree, I have a voice,” she said.
She’s currently using that voice to speak up against school violence by becoming an ambassador for the #StandTogether National Kindness Week campaign.
The campaign, which was developed by The Star’s award-winning R.AGE team and SP Setia, aims to end bullying in schools through spreading kindness.
“I’m participating in the campaign because I like how it is dealing with the issue,” she said. “The #StandTogether campaign doesn’t point fingers and villainise bullies – it uses kindness instead.”
Lisa’s personal experience with bullying in school made her even more determined to help reverse the increase in bullying cases.
“We need to be more aware of what’s happening,” said the mother-of-two. “It’s alarming how bullying has gone from bad to worse.”
In order to keep her children, as well as countless other children nationwide safe in schools, Lisa has vowed to do more to help.
While she has featured in #StandTogether’s PSA, Q and A, and call-to-action videos to raise awareness about the campaign and its aims, Lisa is determined to make an even greater impact on Malaysians.
She will be going down to Johor on Sunday to speak to the teachers and students of SK Kota Dalam about how to create a kinder environment in schools.
“Online awareness is great, but I’m not sure how many of my supporters are aware of this cause,” she said. “I feel that some offline, on-ground interaction is needed as well, to encourage them to participate in #StandTogether.”
She also hopes to encourage the school’s students to participate in the #StandTogether Kindness Competition.
The Education Ministry-approved competition, which is open to all schools nationwide, is calling for schools to submit ideas for National Kindness Week activities. The top ten ideas stand to win grants of up to RM1,000 to fund their proposed idea, a celebrity school visit, and the chance to be named the “Kindest School in Malaysia”.
Most importantly, the competition hopes to kickstart conversations about kindness among students and remind them that they’re responsible and accountable for the world they live in.
From supporting R.AGE’s Predator in My Phone campaign calling for laws against child sexual grooming and now standing up for kindness in schools, Lisa has always stepped up to defend children’s rights.
Her own children might still be too young to understand the causes their mother is fighting for on their behalf, but Lisa believes it’s never too early to teach kindness.
The supermum believes in leading by example.
“It all boils down to how we enforce kindness and empathy in the younger generation,” she said.
“I teach kindness by being the kind of person I want my kids to be. They aren’t too young to mirror what I say and do.”
That’s why she’s calling on everybody to do their part to stop school violence.
“Everyone needs to be involved,” she said with passion in her voice.
“We all have it in us, to make a change. It’s whether we do something about it or not, regardless of whether you’re in the public eye or not.”
Schools that wish to organise their own National Kindness Week can find plenty of resources on #StandTogether’s website, standtogether.my.
There are resources for parents who want to learn more about the cause as well.
“As a parent myself I, too, can benefit from this campaign,” said Lisa.
“I’m learning about the cause, and how to instill the notion of being a good and decent human being in my children so they grow up with empathy and kindness.”
Lisa also believes that initiatives like this are part of the bigger mechanisms of making the world a safer place for children.
“Please stand together with us,” she said.
“We’re all ordinary people doing extraordinary feats to make things better for our children and the future generation.”
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