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Empowering kids to help rebuild their communities

Do you recall being troubled by world events as a kid? Did you worry about the Vietnam war? Or nuclear testing in the Pacific? Did the fear of AIDS or the hole in the ozone layer keep you awake? Everyone’s experience is unique, depending on where you grew up, what you were exposed to and how you responded to it personally.

All children face the troubling, unpredictable realities of the world at some point, but in Australia today, the proximity and impact of events are much more direct than those that I experienced as a child, growing up in Melbourne in the 70s.

The Covid-19 pandemic, the massive Christmas 2019 bushfires and the climate emergency have significantly disrupted many children’s immediate lives over the past year. As they live through months of home-schooling and extreme weather events, many kids are worrying about the future of life itself in the face of a deadly pandemic virus and the threat of an uninhabitable planet due to climate change. These are big, scary concepts – for adults and children!

Everybody interprets life events differently and at Kids Thrive we aim to equip children with the skills and tools to respond to the world as they see it, in a meaningful and positive way. This is the core of our work, and it has never been more important than it is right now.

Our programs build confidence, leadership skills, self-esteem and mental wellbeing–everything kids need to help rebuild communities impacted by disaster.

Ten years of evaluation shows that Kids Thrive programs have had consistently strong results in children’s personal, social and educational outcomes. Children are building their resilience, self-actualisation, positive relationships and sense of agency – all through leading positive change in their own lives and in their communities. These children are ready and wanting to help rebuild their communities affected by disaster or trauma.

The 2019 Geelong Kids as Catalyst evaluation report showed substantial improvements in many areas of student engagement last year, including self-confidence, empathy, social awareness and cognitive engagement. Nearly 200 Year 6 students worked with 28 community organisations on that program, to deliver 33 positive community change projects. The evaluation is based on data and feedback from:

– Teacher-observed data sets measuring demonstrated change in individual student competencies;
– Students’ self-evaluation and reflections;
– Interviews with teachers, principals, community partners and Year 7 student mentors

Read the full evaluation report. 

These outcomes support the findings of an evaluation report by the University of Melbourne which mapped the Kids as Catalyst program to a socio-ecological framework and found that the:

‘Kids as Catalyst strategy has considerable potential for broad social impacts and should be prioritised as an intervention.’ Child-led Community Change Strategy Evaluation Report 2013-2016.

The University of Melbourne report reviewed four Kids Thrive programs over a three-year period and found that our methodologies;

‘Produce outcomes at multiple levels in the measurable and observable shorter term which ultimately are expected to achieve child-led community change in the longer term. The findings in this report suggest that the Kids as Catalyst strategy works at individual, interpersonal, community and societal levels to promote individual and community resilience and to build social connectedness and social capital.’ Child-led Community Change Strategy Evaluation Report 2013-2016.

Read all Kids Thrive evaluation reports.


Dr Ande Lemon, Kids Thrive Co-Founder and CEO








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