Children and Youth

The Caring Coins have been reminders of caring and connection giving hope to many over the years. These are but a few of the testimonials…

I MATTER, YOU MATTER: Let’s Start the Conversation was designed to start the conversation that each person matters. A positive approach to bullying, it was the result of brainstorming with over 720 students about ways to open the door to conversation about caring and respect for self and each other. The students themselves came up with the questions which they felt could improve communications with kids, faculty, with family members and others to share about themselves, each other, their dreams and how they can make a difference in our world. The I MATTER, YOU MATTER: Let’s Start the Conversation Program has been implemented in many schools throughout Vermont, the country and some around the world.

Abby’s Story about bullying and how she shared “I matter, You matter, Let’s Start the Conversation” at her school illustrates how it worked:

Hello! My name is Abby and I’m currently about to finish my junior year at Thetford Academy. I am sharing my story and YANAF’s I Matter, You Matter “Let’s Start the Conversation” Program to help fight against bullying and the feeling of being alone.

I first heard about The You Are Never Alone Foundation my sophomore year of high school when I was chosen to go to the HOBY VT leadership conference. During this conference a number of guest speakers spoke about their organizations and inspiring messages. Out of all of the speakers, one stood out in particular: Salley Gibney of the You Are Never Alone Foundation, who spoke about YANAF’s “You are never alone” and “I Matter, You Matter” messages and their “Let’s Start the Conversation” Program as a positive approach to bullying.*

*I could easily relate to the YANAF messages...

…because throughout middle school I was bullied, and I always felt alone. I did not have friends to turn to or anyone to get help from at my school. This feeling of being alone, out of all of the things that happened, was the hardest part of my situation. Just one person could have made such a difference.

I contacted Salley Gibney of YANAF and told her that I would like to share the Let’s Start the Conversation Program and the Caring Coins with my swim team Since the age of 9, I have swam for the Upper Valley Aquatic Club, practicing every day for up to 4 hours and competing just about every weekend across New England. Swimming has always been a huge part of my life and I have met some of the most amazing people who have always been there for me no matter what.

Let’s Start the Conversation enabled me to share my own experiences with being bullied and discuss what it was like to be alone ad have nobody support you. I explained to them what YANAF and the Caring Coins mean to me. The response was amazing. Everyone loved YANAF’s message and the Caring Coins. We all put the coins on our swim bags along with our little mementos from swim meets. I heard so much positive feedback on what the presentation meant to people and how they were taking it back to their schools and sharing the second coin with other classmates.

Ever since I gave my presentation to my swim team and saw the difference it made, I looked for ways to do it again, but had no idea of where to start. It wasn’t until my English teacher talked to me about an essay I wrote and suggested I give a presentation to the class that I found a way to share my story again.

Although I was incredibly nervous and worried about exposing myself and my story which I usually chose not to share even with my closest friends, I did agree to share my story and the Let’s Start the Conversation Program. I told how I was bullied in middle school and focused on the role of bystanders. I talked about what bystanders were and how much of a difference they can make to a person. I showed the different ways that a bystander could intervene: ranging from direct confrontation to the bully to saying a simple hello to the victim. Most people are too afraid to directly stick up for the victim and do not realize that they don’t have to in order to make a difference. Sometimes showing the victim that they are not alone and that someone cares through small acts can make even more of an impact. I related this to my story and how much a bystander could have changed it by doing something simple like this.

My presentation opened up a great discussion within my class about bullying and the ways that we could continue to fight against it. After class that day, my classmates came up to me and thanked me for helping them realize the ways that they could make a difference. Although I had my doubts about sharing my story, I don’t regret doing it at all and am so glad that I did.

I look forward to sharing my story and the Let’s Start the Conversation Program in the future to continue to help fight against bullying and the feeling of being alone.

A teacher's response:

“Since Abby’s presentation, things have really changed in class. Now everyone is much more tuned into someone sitting alone, and others have been choosing seats not to leave anyone out, and while Abby used to read a book every spare moment (like waiting for class to begin), she and others now chat away and laugh with each other. It’s pretty magical!”

Mural by Students shares the “I matter, You matter” message.

This mural with the I matter, You matter message was designed by Teacher, Diane Russell’s class at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls, RI. This group of newcomer students receive extra support in English, math civics and sports. They have left a wonderful lasting impression for all to admire and enjoy.

Caring Coins are shared at the Veterans Memorial School’s SPARK Program in Providence Rhode Island!

Students at Veterans Memorial School’s SPARK Program listen as Salley Gibney shares about the “I Matter, You Matter” Program. Each student received two Caring Coins…one to keep and one to share. The students will be sharing Caring Coins with seniors at a local senior center. Caring is Contagious! Thank you Ms. Diane Russell for inviting the Caring Coins to Veterans Memorial SPARK Program.

Caring Day at MEMS, Manchester, VT

On Friday, April 13, the MEMS (Manchester Elementary and Middle School in Manchester, Vermont) community came together for Caring Day. It began with an assembly where the fifth graders presented information about compassion and kindness and celebrated locals for their compassionate acts. Through The Compassionate Faces of the Shires Project, locals were interviewed by students. They then created a poster highlighting them, which was displayed in the Manchester Community Library for a week. At the end of the assembly, all MEMS community members went through lines to receive a high five or a hug. They also given a sticky note to leave a kind message for someone and a Caring Coin to keep or give. Salley Gibney’s story about the Caring Coins was shared, The important message of being cared for and caring for others was shared in MEMS Pre-K through grade 8 building and our greater community.

Boy Scouts received Caring Coins

Boy Scouts painted the gazebo, planted new plants, laid down mulch and donated a new bench to the Home Safe Courtyard at the Safety Net Program which houses several programs that provide assessments and therapy to victims of child abuse and neglect, sexual abuse, family violence and services to foster parents in our community. For their efforts the 13 Scouts each received a Caring Coin. They were happy that their efforts were rewarded with such a simple gesture.

Girls at a Special School Sponsor Caring Coins for Others Facing Challenges

Several girls at a residential school for girls facing many social challenges loved the Caring Coin and it’s message You are never alone as they knew what it was like to feel alone. Initially, they shared the coins with other girls in the school. They then asked other girls in the school to join with them to sign Me to You cards for coins for the father of one of the girls to share with his unit in Iraq. The girls felt so good doing this that they wanted to share the coins with others who are facing challenges similar to themselves. They are participating in assembling the Caring Coins that are being sent the troops, veterans, people in hospices, hospitals and other youths around the world. This has empowered the girls to reach out to others. One of the girls said “It feels good to do something for someone else. It gets me out of my own problems”. One of the girls gave a coin to a new girl who had arrived at the school.

Shaftbury School raised money for Caring Coins for the Homeless

The Students in each class raised the money in their own unique ways such as coin collections, penny wars, couch searches for change and read-a-thons. The students had fun coming up with these creative ways to raise money for children and youths who are less fortunate than themselves showing how much they care about others. The students realize that although the weather is getting warmer, the needs of the Homeless do not go away.

Veterans Day at Molly Stark Elementary School

Students shared Caring Coins with the Veterans following a wonderful Veterans Day Performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by the Veterans and the Staff. One Vet remarked “It’s so nice to know these kids appreciate us…this little wooden coin will remind me they were here”.

Graduation Ceremony at Spaulding High School in Barre, Vermont

Faculty members shared an I matter…You matter Caring Coin along with a personal reflection with each Graduate prior to them receiving their diplomas. This ceremony touched students, faculty and parents alike and will be repeated each year. One Graduate remarked: “Getting an I Matter, You Matter coin from a teacher at graduation that had helped us through such a big part of our lives meant a lot to me. It was nice to know that I truly matter to a teacher, and it was a nice surprise to everyone that an act of kindness was occurring on such a momentous day!”

Camp Agape. Vermont: “I don’t think I’ll ever take this off”

These words from a camper at Camp Agape, a camp in Cabot, Vermont for children who have experienced having a parent in prison resonate how the Caring Coins are a tangible reminder of caring, connection and hope they receive at Camp Agape. The campers participated in discussions, games, and crafts focusing on caring, respect for self and each other. Each camper received a Caring Coin for themselves and additional coins to Pass On. Frequently, a camper shared a Caring Coin with another camper they felt was having a difficult time. Many campers returned with their coins from previous years which reflects what Camp Agape and the Caring Coins meant to them.

When the Mudslide occurred in Oso, Washington

some students from Long Trail School in Dorset, Vermont, remembering the devastation of hurricane Irene invited other students in their school to sign caring cards which were attached to Caring Coins they sent to the mud slide victims in Oso, Washington.

Mems Students share Caring Coins with street girls in Mexico

Students at MEMS, Manchester Elementary and Middle School in Manchester, Vermont raised money and collected items for a Program in Mexico City, Mexico helping girls who are living in the streets. The students have shared their mission with all of the schools in the area. The response has been amazing. YANAF I Matter, You Matter Caring Coins and cards and written words of caring and hope on posters were also shared with the girls as reminders of their caring connections.

Veterans Day at Molly Stark Elementary School

Students shared I Matter, You Matter Caring Coins with the Veterans following a wonderful Veterans Day Performance which was thoroughly enjoyed by the Veterans and the Staff. One Vet remarked “It’s so nice to know these kids appreciate us…this little wooden coin will remind me they were here”.

You Are Never Alone (YANAF) joined students from Castleton College

shared hundreds of Caring Coins throughout Vermont at the One Billion Rising Events on Valentine’s Day to protest violence against women around the world as tangible reminders that each person does matter.