Can seven fifth graders at Brooklyn Friends School change the world? One thing is for certain, don’t tell them that they can’t.
On Tuesday, April 5th, the seven young women—Tess, Lucia, Natalie, Sarah, Rose, Letizia, and Lyla—entered into Head of School Crissy Cáceres’ office with a purpose. They had been there before, just one week earlier in fact. However, they were invited back by Crissy to further discuss their plan to honor the children of Ukraine and Russia. Not by raising money, or by sending items, but by raising awareness and sending love and support—to spread joy and knowledge and to strive for justice. They landed on a powerful concept—the BFS Love and Joy Campaign—to illustrate radical compassion among our students and their peers in Eastern Europe.
“I am always connecting to moments that bring to the surface exactly who Brooklyn Friends School is and this moment was so significant and emblematic of that,” said BFS Head of School Crissy Cáceres about when the Middle School students approached her with their ideas. “It was as beautiful in its simplicity as it was in its complexity. The magnitude of what we are wrapping our hearts and minds around is enough to overwhelm adults, and yet to have children distill all of this to humanity, to the place that feelings of love and joy have in our healing process and making a difference was a moment of tremendous pride and reflection and introspection about what matters most.”
The BFS Mission Statement reads, in part: Our graduates are compassionate, curious, and confident global citizens who let their lives speak in the spirit of leadership and service. It does not, however, mention fifth graders. Yet here they were, ready to let their lives speak very much in the spirit of leadership and service.
“Everyone can give love and joy,” one of the students remarked, “that doesn’t take too much.”
Their overall plan is to create a campaign of Love and Joy and to spread the word throughout BFS, the Borough of Brooklyn, the City of New York, and beyond. The goal is that the group can curate messages of hope and expressions of love—written, illustrated, and spoken—and establish authentic relationships via a special web page. Their genuine wish is that these messages of love and empathy make their way to the children of Ukraine—to those who remain within their war-torn country and those who have been forced to flee to neighboring lands. But also to the children of Russia, innocent bystanders to their government’s actions.
“We want to make sure that everyone understands that the people of Ukraine do not want us to remember them for this war with Russia, but for how wonderful Ukraine is and the people are,” one of the young women shared.
One interesting perspective, dripping with hope and innocence that they shared, was to consider that even the man who the world is blaming for this war can be swayed.
“Maybe we can believe that [Vladamir] Putin is more than just this dictator and overlord,” one of the young women stated. “Maybe he can believe in love and joy, too. Maybe we could make him feel it, too.”
At the end of the meeting, one of the seven young women closed things out by reading a heartfelt poem she had written about the war in Ukraine. It was stunningly beautiful. They then stood up to go back to class, with excited student giggles as they walked out the door. After 60 minutes of intense, pointed conversation about making a difference in the world, we spoke about the incredible children they are as a reflection of all of our students at BFS.
“What matters most is the building of genuine relationships,” Cáceres said. “What our students are trying to do is to make sure that the place of love and joy is not forgotten as one of the greatest anecdotes to points of pain, challenge, discord, and hatred. They believe that together we can help change the world.”
We will be sharing more about this exciting initiative in the coming days and weeks! This is open to everyone—not just the Brooklyn Friends community! If any students would like to submit any messages or artwork to be included in this special initiative, we would love to include your work. Once the website is published, we plan to share it with the world!
Or, you can mail them to: Brooklyn Friends School, 375 Pearl Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Attention: Communications Department