From a small pilot program first offered in a few kindergarten classes in Toronto, to an award-winning international program that has now brought the power of empathy to 450,000 children worldwide, Roots of Empathy has grown dramatically and celebrated many milestones along the way. Here are a few highlights.
Educator, parenting expert and child advocate Mary Gordon creates the Roots of Empathy program. It is first offered as a pilot in Toronto, Ontario, reaching 150 children.
Roots of Empathy becomes a charitable not-for-profit organization. The program begins to expand across Canada, reaching 4,325 children in Ontario, PEI and British Columbia. The organization also initiates a formalized research program where independent, academic researchers conduct evaluations measuring the program's effectiveness across different locations, grade levels and populations.
Roots of Empathy is introduced in Newfoundland and Labrador. Manitoba also establishes the first Francophone Roots of Empathy programs in Canada.
Roots of Empathy comes to New Brunswick and Alberta. The program has now grown to reach more than 21,000 children in six Canadian provinces. Mary Gordon is named one of the first two Canadian Ashoka Fellows, recognizing her as a member of an international circle of social entrepreneurs with system-changing solutions for the world's most urgent social problems.
Nova Scotia launches the Roots of Empathy program.
A truly milestone year, 2005 sees a number of exciting developments:
- The program is introduced in Quebec, and Roots of Empathy launches its French curriculum.
- Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child is published in Canada and becomes a critically acclaimed bestseller. In the book, author Mary Gordon explains the philosophy, evidence-base and values behind the Roots of Empathy program. The Globe and Mail calls it one of the top 100 books of the year in the category "Ideas."
- Mary Gordon creates Seeds of Empathy, Roots of Empathy's "younger sibling," a program for three-to-five-year-olds in early childhood settings. The program is launched in British Columbia.
- The organization's flagship program, Roots of Empathy, is now running in nine Canadian provinces reaching 107,000 children.
In September, Mary Gordon is invited to have a dialogue with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, at an event held to inaugurate his Center for Peace and Education in Vancouver, British Columbia, and His Holiness expresses his belief that programs like Roots of Empathy will bring world peace. In October, Gordon is invested as a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of her work founding Roots of Empathy and Canada's first and largest school-based parenting and family literacy centres.
Roots of Empathy is now reaching more than 200,000 children across Canada. The program is also introduced as a three-year pilot in New Zealand, launching what remains today the longest-running Roots of Empathy program outside Canada. In the fall, Roots of Empathy is introduced in Seattle, Washington, for a three-year pilot – the first launch of the program in the United States.
Roots of Empathy is named one of three winners – and the only Canadian organization selected – of an international Changemakers award given to programs that help youth at risk, an initiative from Ashoka. Meanwhile, the Isle of Man launches Roots of Empathy, beginning a three-year pilot, and Seeds of Empathy is launched in the province of Alberta.
In April, Mary Gordon attends the Seeds of Compassion initiative in Seattle, Washington, an event that draws 50,000 people and countless more through webcasts in 24 languages. Gordon is a panelist on two dialogues about empathy and compassion, including one with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.
On July 18, the Assembly of First Nations passes Resolution 38 to support and endorse Roots of Empathy and Seeds of Empathy, calling both programs "compatible with traditional First Nations teachings and worldviews." Both programs are offered in a growing number of First Nations communities, and to urban and rural Aboriginal children across Canada, and the organization is also working in partnership with Indigenous people globally.
In September, Toronto becomes the first place in the world to open a Roots of Empathy Centre of Excellence. Six schools at the Toronto District School Board showcase Roots of Empathy best practices in fidelity with the program's curriculum and philosophy. In December, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child is launched in a new edition in the United States.
In the spring, Roots of Empathy: Changing the World Child by Child is published in Korea. British Columbia celebrates a decade of offering Roots of Empathy. Meanwhile, Seeds of Empathy is introduced in Seattle, its first launch outside Canada. In the fall, Manitoba and Ontario launch Seeds of Empathy programs.
This year, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland join Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Isle of Man in offering Roots of Empathy.
2011 AND BEYOND ...
A number of countries are working to launch Roots of Empathy.
Roots of Empathy continues to reach children throughout Canada in rural, urban, and remote settings, in English and in French, and in Aboriginal communities. Planning is underway for Roots of Empathy programs to begin in Saskatchewan in the fall thanks to support from the Royal Bank. The program will now be in every Canadian province. It is proudly community-based, and supported by many social service, justice, public health, and other agencies across Canada, along with thousands of dedicated Instructors, Mentors and Key Point People (local program coordinators).
Around the world, Roots of Empathy now reaches children in Canada, the United States, the Isle of Man, New Zealand, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland (funded partly as a European Union peace initiative), and Scotland.
A decade of independent research across several countries has consistently shown that the program reduces aggression and increases social and emotional understanding among children who receive it. To date, the program has impacted an astounding 373,000 children worldwide.