Laurier and Neruda Arts launch the Kindness Project to bring messages of hope to vulnerable communities

Photo by Darien Funk

Wilfrid Laurier University’s Community Music Program partnered with Neruda Arts to launch the Kindness Project, an initiative that is bringing music and messages of hope and kindness to communities across Waterloo region.

Isabel Cisterna, manager of Cultural Programming and Community Engagement at Laurier and Co-founder of Neruda Arts, sparked the idea for this initiative during the pandemic. 

“I was worried how it would affect the people who were isolated, and how that would make their mental health suffer, so I started envisioning a way where you could give them just a moment of happiness,” Cisterna said.

Consisting of a mobile trailer with a bright orange stage and a large screen, the project plays pre-recorded performances and presentations form Laurier music students and faculty, book and poetry readings from library staff and greetings from Laurier’s Presidents and Vice-Chancellor Deborah MacLatchy and University Librarian Gohar Ashoughian. 

“It’s just a really great way to introduce the community to the music and talent of Laurier, and at the same time it was a good compromise because it’s fun, it’s beautiful and it’s uplifting because all the music has to do with love, kindness and hope,” Cisterna said.

Beginning Nov. 12, the project has been traveling to communities with limited access to local art programs.

“We want to be where people have suffered the vulnerability of COVID-19,” she said.

The Kindness Project will continue visiting locations until Nov. 26 including:

  • Extend-A-Family: 91, Moore Ave, Kitchener, ON – Nov. 23, 1 p.m.
  • Sunnydale Community Centre: – 1052 Courtland Ave E., Kitchener, ON – Nov. 23, 4 p.m.
  • Chandler Mowat Community Centre:  222 Chandler Dr., Kitchener, ON – Nov. 25 1 p.m.
  • Laurier Library, Waterloo Campus (internal audience only) – Nov. 26 – 11 a.m.

“I think in a way we have lost touch with random acts of kindness, and it’s important to come to the people, so that people who have more barriers to participate, can enjoy this same quality in performances as the rest of the folks that can afford it,” she explained.

Although this is a pilot project, Cisterna is hoping they will be able to continue the Kindness Project.

“The most unexpected thing for me is the joy in people’s faces of just hearing music! We’re hoping that next year, we can do the same, but with live musicians,” she said.

The Kindness Project continues to travel across the Waterloo Region, making an impact by connecting community members and Laurier through music and art. 
“One of the wins of this particular project has been partnering with Laurier because I think we often disassociate the universities from the rest of the community. People in the Laurier community want to participate but they don’t know how to, so for me, we have started building that ramp –– can’t call it a bridge yet because it’s just a small step that will bring Laurier and the community closer together,” Cisterna said.

“I believe Laurier and Neruda should always be partnered, so we get to the people who are most vulnerable and give the opportunity to learn about one another.”

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