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Nourishing the art of empathy

Press Release – Art For Change

A determined group of Auckland artists is gathering artwork to raise funds for a unique anti-bullying programme run in schools throughout New Zealand that is struggling to meet demand and has lost crucial Government funding. A determined group of Auckland artists is gathering artwork to raise funds for a unique anti-bullying programme run in schools throughout New Zealand that is struggling to meet demand – and has lost crucial Government funding.

Art for Change is holding an exhibition to support the not-for-profit Roots of Empathy, whose founder, Canadian Mary Gordon, will visit New Zealand next week.

The exhibition, Nourishing the Roots of Empathy: Towards a Non-Violent Aotearoa/New Zealand, will be held at Depot Artspace, Devonport, from September 21 until October 9.

Expressing empathy through art is an important part of the Roots of Empathy programme. A baby becomes the teacher – visiting a class regularly during the school year and helping children develop essential social skills they can share with their families and community. International research has shown a significant decrease in aggression and an increase in prosocial behaviour among children after Roots of Empathy programmes.

Some 16,000 New Zealand children have benefitted from Roots of Empathy over the past 12 years. New Zealand was the first country outside Canada to trial the programme, which is now run in 14 countries.

Art for Change ran a highly successful art exhibition for refugees two years ago. This year the collective decided Roots of Empathy needed its support – especially in the wake of the Christchurch mosque killings, which affected so many people nationwide.

Roots of Empathy started in a small number of NZ primary schools in 2007 in a pilot scheme initiated by then Prime Minister Helen Clark. It was hailed as a success by the Governor General. But since the National Government cut funding in 2014, Roots of Empathy has struggled to meet demand, relying on support from sponsors and volunteers.

Roots of Empathy New Zealand manager Ally Fulcher says more than 35 schools are waiting to take on the programme, but without government support it had to restrict its services and now it desperately needs funds to train more volunteer instructors.

Content Sourced from scoop.co.nz
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