“Kill them with kindness.” We’ve all heard it before, but despite its overuse, what’s wrong with this expression? It implies that in order to deal with the hurt, one must overwhelm rather than understand, placing a hypercritical microscope on the flaws existent within the complexities of society.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kate Rizzo, founder of humanitarian movement The Kindness Effect, challenges every negative connotation that tired cliche statement has to offer. With help from her team of workshop facilitators, Kate strives to be kind to all people; empowering individuals to look beyond the imperfections within themselves and the fragmented world that surrounds them, inspiring long-term, positive change.
Established in April 2014, The Kindness Effect focuses on ‘creating a shift in humanity, a change in the way we treat ourselves, each other, animals and our planet’ through school and community-based workshops.
“The workshops are designed to enable people to better understand themselves and others, so we live with more compassion and kindness and therefore have a positive impact on those around us and our world,” Kate told Dscribe.
It all began at a fragile time for Kate, a then curious university graduate struggling to find full-time work despite having a Bachelor of Social Work and Psychology under her belt. With so many personal and worldly objectives detailed on her bucket list, Kate took a simple idea and transformed it into a benevolent phenomenon.
“The hope of creating a foundation myself started when I was very young. I knew I wanted to work with people and I knew it had to be in a preventative and positive way, but exactly what it was going to look like, well I didn’t figure that part out until a year into already starting TKE,” she said. “I had finished two Bachelors and had already worked with a variety of people; youths, single mothers, the elderly, kids with special needs, survivors of abuse and violence. The light-bulb moment was a couple of weeks after I hadn’t gotten a job – it turned out to be the best rejection I’ve ever experienced – it led me to creating TKE.”
Passionate about social justice, Kate has always been motivated by the intricate nature of human beings.
“I saw issues that needed to be addressed in our community, but I also had the understanding that people who are hurt, hurt others,” Kate said. “I thought, if I could help people get in touch with their authentic selves by supporting them to love and accept despite all the craziness in the world, then they would naturally have more compassion and acceptance of others and in the long run have a positive impact on their community and ultimately our world. Our aim is big, but we start small, we start with the individual.”
An advocate for practicing self-love, Kate believes in order to better the world, humankind must first better themselves. This process is ongoing for Kate as she understands the concept of acceptance is difficult for some to manifest in, however she proposes that it holds the power to change everything.
“Creating something that has such a powerful message of self-love and kindness, comes with a lot of personal pressure to live up to what I teach. I give people tools to better themselves and their world and just like everyone else, I struggle with certain issues and have my bad days. I practice positive self-talk, I dig deep into my vulnerability and honesty when I’m having an issue, I write and reflect upon my own words and actions and my impact on other people.
“I’m not perfect, no one is, but I’ve learnt that the more we practice self-compassion and acceptance, the more peaceful our inner and outer world becomes.”
Balancing the life of a social worker, RMIT lecturer, writer and organisational leader, Kate’s day-to-day schedule is frantic, however she remains determined to devote equal time to each of her roles.
“I am certainly busy and the truth is many things suffer because of my business, but I love everything that keeps me busy and they are in my life because I invited them in, because I said yes to them,” she said.
“All the things I do, I have a passion for. To get up in the morning and go to a job just for the money is my idea of hell. To keep centred, I practice meditation in the mornings, even if it’s just 10 minutes to start the day calm. I also try to read at least every second day as reading really grounds me. Writing always helps me reflect and find balance, but sometimes checking out and watching a movie with a cup of tea gets the job done.”
While she juggles all of her many passions, Kate dedicates a good portion of her energy to showcasing to the streets of Melbourne how a little kindness can go a long way.
Through various short documentary videos, Kate can be seen in action promoting her mission by exhibiting random gestures of warmth to strangers.
A young woman on a social pilgrimage to change the world, Kate caters many of her projects using a youth-focalised approach. Being invited to present seminars in schools across the state, Kate and her team are often told of the struggles young people encounter on their journey to finding themselves.
“Despite working with youths for the last seven years, they still surprise me and teach me something deeply profound every single day,” she said. “It’s so hard being young; figuring out who you are, your body is changing, school is tough, there is so much social pressure – my heart really goes out to them. I see how often people and society underestimate them, but damn, young people are strong and opinionated, with ideas about how to change the world. I always walk away from our workshops feeling so uplifted and hopeful about our future.”
Though she makes it all sound so easy, Kate’s journey to self-compassion has stemmed from a number of influences, ranging from her family to her travels. Kate has spent a large part of her life volunteering and making a difference in marginalised communities, having recently met her sponsor child in Kenya, Africa, in September last year.
As travel is an integral part of her work, Kate finds herself leaving many of these countries with an intense emotional imprint.
“South Africa really touched me,” she said. “I travelled there when I was 21 years old and it was the first time I travelled alone. I volunteered in a small community in Cape Town and then travelled all around South Africa. The people I met, the work I did, the things I experienced had such a deep and long-lasting impact on my soul and who I am as a person. For so many reasons, to this day I still believe South Africa saved my life.”
Kate’s moral compass extends across all living things, with her love of animals acting as a catalyst for her return to Ubud, Bali, in October 2016 to rescue street dogs. Kate worked alongside BAWA (Bali Animal Welfare Association) to vaccinate and socialise canines without a home, just another one of her humanitarian side projects. Such efforts saw the raising of more than $45,000 for BAWA late last year, a remarkable achievement for the not-for-profit organisation.
The Kindness Effect is drenched in Kate’s infectious lust for life, which is perhaps why more than 15,000 people are following her via social media on her daring journey to cultivating world peace.
“When we love ourselves, we have an abundance of love to give. And that is exactly what the world needs!”
To find out more about Kate and her work, head to The Kindness Effect’s social media accounts.