Kindness Retreat with Nipun Mehta

Nipun Mehta is the founder of Service Space, an incubator for generosity projects. He lives a radically generous life dedicated completely to service. Service Space is a volunteer driven ecosystem that leverages technology to encourage everyday people around the world to do small acts of service. Their projects range from a daily positive news service, to an acts-of-kindness portal, to a gift-economy restaurant. Their work has been the inspiration behind many ‘labour-of-love’ projects around the world, including The Goodwill Tribe.

We were so extremely happy to have him here in Dubai with us and organized a Kindness Retreat, facilitated by him, for the community. 22 people, most of them strangers, and a cute little grey cat gathered together with the intention of deepening their capacity for kindness, in the serene space at House of Om.

We were amazed by the intentions that brought everyone together and are so grateful for what emerged. Vijayalakshmi Aunty was honouring her decision to do more ‘right now’ and be a kinder version of herself. Neelam Aunty came all the way from Ras Al Khaimah (a journey she repeated for all 3 days of Nipun’s visit to Dubai). Elena who has just moved to Dubai from Hong Kong barely knew anything about the retreat but turned up anyways because her heart had guided her to it. Douma and Natalie stepped out of their comfort zones and reached out to each other to travel together all the way from Abu Dhabi just for the retreat. Yoga and his gentle wife Dona are service heroes who host yoga classes as a gift to the community every weekend. Their curiosity drew them to the retreat. Vahid and Meet are both just visiting Dubai and still chose to spend an evening pushing the edges of their kindness comfort zones. Varunya was soooo excited and her energy filled the room as she shared her joy at being a part of the retreat. Elham with her glowing persona shared a moving story of a woman in India who has dedicated her life to service. This woman is really working at the edges of what is comfortable and changing lives while she’s at it and Elham was moved to dig a little deeper into herself. Natasha, an inspiring warrior of love, elevated our circle with a beautiful opening meditation and spread smiles with stories of her amazing 3-year old daughter (and little warrior of love), Aria. Pranav inspired us with his commitment to really listen, be open and push all the edges as he designs his path for his life. We were so grateful for the presence of Sandhya and Prakash who have been instrumental in introducing Service Space to the community through the first Awakin Circles in Dubai. Nazil lit up the space with his whole hearted laughter and story of kindness with the cab driver. Vikita, always so radiant, added so much to the circle with her gift of being able to beautifully articulate her thoughts. Reema’s genuine and simple stories of kindness reminded us of how natural kindness is to us human beings. Jubi, who is like sunshine, revealed her pure and authentic self through her beautiful shares. Kristin is inspiringly committed to pushing at all her edges and stepping completely out of her comfort zone. She closed our first circle of sharing perfectly by extracting and expressing the common themes that had emerged.

Nipun then had our attention captured with his stories of radical generosity by friends from around the world. What did it mean to be vulnerable in generosity? What is our edge of kindness? How can we push out of our kindness comfort zones? These are a few of the questions that came up. We then were divided into smaller groups, to connect deeply with each other and dive into these questions together. Most groups stepped out into the garden and it was an amazing sight to watch all of these people sharing straight from their heart.

We then came back to the circle and people from each group shared what had come up. And wow! such powerful and priceless reflections. Can we define our own edge of generosity or do we need to factor in others like our family, friends, community? How can we step up the collective kindness in a place? How can we be like nature, so kind and compassionate without any thought? How can we hold space for others to be themselves? How can we be generous even when it makes us feel very vulnerable? It was really amazing to witness the wisdom that can arise from a collective circle of sharing.

Nipun Bhaiya then closed with a powerful story of his dear friend Pancho that left many of us close to tears. We then wrapped each other in a big group hug and closed with the inspiring video ‘Being Kind’ by generosity superhero Nimo Patel. We continued to share beautiful conversation over dinner and how we wished we didn’t have to leave!
It was amazing to be among a community of people who are so deeply committed to serving others, and lighting up this world with the goodness of their hearts.

 

48 hours of magic – Pune

This month is very special for The Goodwill Tribe – Pune chapter as we welcomed two awesome people, Tejal and Pushkar to the tribe and hosted our first outdoor event which was a huge success. After a lot of heartstorming, we finalized the venue, our own ARAI tekdi, Pune(tekdi means a hill in Marathi). ARAI tekdi is a wonderland; visited daily by hundreds of fitness freak souls of all age groups. We already knew that magic was going to happen!

Going live on Facebook while some prep was going on, was super fun! We were at the highest excitement level possible! Four of us headed towards the tekdi as the clock ticked five. Tekdi never disappoints; it’s full of good vibes.

Just as we began to setup it felt like the wind picked up pace significantly. It was fun finding creative hacks to cope with the wind while setting up. Curiosity was piqued and people started to as what we were doing. Any guess what we were doing? 😉

It was a Random Acts of Kindness experiment which evolved around a question – what makes you happy? We served a very popular tangy yet sweet and spicy Indian snack – Bhel and some refreshing lemon sherbet as a gift. Needless to say people were astonished when they realised that the snacks were being offered as a gift with no intention but to spread joy. We held up a board that read ‘Love + Conversations = Bhel connection’ and it did the trick. People were drawn in, curious to understand what we were doing and why. The conversations that emerged were beautiful, everyone resonated with what we were trying to do and shared overwhelming encouragement. A gentleman Mr. Sanjay Bhave touched by our gestures even invited us to his own restaurant Palavi and offered to gift us dinner; we couldn’t say no.

Eight of us had some heart to heart conversions while having dinner at Palavi. We requested Mr. Bhave to let us pay his generosity forward, which basically meant we covered the bill of a group of youngsters sitting at another table. We left Palavi with a bag full of memories.

It felt like everyone wanted the good vibes to continue and so we decided to meet again the next day. Sheetal bhai and Khushmita didi, who were volunteering with us, kindly invited us to their home, The Urban Ashram. As the name sounds, the place is peaceful, tranquil and abundant in positivity. Sheetal bhai and Khushmita didi welcomed us with their warm smile and huge hugs. We didn’t realize how the time flew writing letters at Letter Earthlings, having some deep conversations, meditating and enjoying homemade food prepared on mud stove. The whole weekend was truly magical for all of us!

The Goodwill Tribe is really a space that lets us be the best versions of ourselves. It is about the human connection we miss in our day to day busy lives. It is a lively example that this world still moves by love!

Parcels, Post and Handwritten Letters.

When was the last time you wrote a letter to someone you love? When was the last time you wrote something that came straight out of that soft place within with no filters?

As I signed up to start the Mumbai Chapter of The Goodwill Tribe in Mumbai, I had one inherent feeling, I want to do more and give back more to life for all the abundance and gifts life gives me everyday! We, Grafleen and I, the organisers of the Bombay event organically picked the Letter Earthlings event to start the Bombay Chapter.
So we were asked, why this dying form of handwritten letters? We said, exactly why.

A handwritten letter apart from the satisfaction of knowing you’re making a close friend’s day with your efforts, science has linked expressive writing better mood, reduced stress and overall well-being. Apart from that writing a letter, putting pen to paper requires unplugging from all the technology you’re bombarded with! We all want to live in in NOW – well, here’s a secret! I discovered that letter-writing, just by sitting to write something special to someone – your thumbs won’t be able to scroll another one of those endless Facebook feeds which refresh by the second, hell you’d also have to put your texting and whatsapp aside to someone who actually will fill your mind space as you put your thoughts to paper! For those few minutes you’re in the NOW and nowhere else. I’m always craving for that ‘extra bandwidth’ and no I’m not referring to a slow Wifi connection. Go figure.

On 18th of March 2017, we kicked off the Letter Earthlings event and the overwhelming response to the event has me wondering – wow, how much love can we spread? The sky is the limit and more.

How did we go about it? We created events on Facebook, EventsHigh, Allevents, Little Black Book wrote about us, Mumbai Mirror also listed our event and we had a large turnout of about 20+ people and most of these were absolute strangers. So, in essence 20+ strangers came together to write letters to more strangers! The icing on the cake was the journo from DNA who turned up to take pictures and bytes, our little attempt will now probably make it to the papers, watch out for us!

Gratitude is such a powerful tool, it opens up the doors to the endless possibilities of the universe and I have to say all of this would be incomplete without Chandni and Sonia, the founders from Dubai – Chandni was there, helping us in the event. Thanks girls – for all the input, advice, ideas and for allowing us to run the event in a decentralised sort of way where we added our Mumbai flavour while retaining the overall feel of The Goodwill Tribe. Also Grafleen, my multi-talented co-organiser who designed artistic posters for the event, connected to DNA and Mumbai Mirror, organised the requests and so much more. We synced so organically while organising the event, it felt like we’d known each other for ages. More power to us girl, this is just the beginning!

Now for all you gifted people who attended, thanks for coming and making this extra special from Ravi who turned up very early and generously gifted us about 20 self-stamped envelopes, Harsh for helping out with some of the organising from space to table seating and then providing a request on short notice, Mann for wearing his Happy Hat, Shweta M, Shweta and Siddhant – the siblings, Prerna, Ujjwal, Tharangini and Anirudh, Ratnesh, Kavya and Harshita – the chirpy collegians, Niki and Shruti, Ashish – the composed writer, Suneet for his valuable feedback, Rashmi for helping us organise the letters with her neat labelling, Parthivi, Proscila, Bhavika for her post on Little Black Book which brought Grafleen and me together, Anubha and Ishita, Tejal and Priyanka – thanks you guys, for making our first event so special! All of your sharing and feedback is very important to us and we promise to keep you hooked. Watch this space for more!

The Goodwill Tribe and Letter Earthlings, thank you for inviting us to participate in a slice of immortality – long after we’re all gone, these letters will remain to be read, appreciated and preserved.

Silent Sound

“Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” – RedAuerbach

This was an evening filled with just music and poetry to help understand and experience a kind of ease after a long week. That was the main aim of the event “Silent Sound” in the making. After its first run on 19th Jan 2017 at the Art Space café-Kuwait, it truly was much more than just music but was something that touched each individual’s heart.

The Goodwill Tribe Kuwait believes in this ideology, that music helps assist us to comprehend who we really are and provide us with inspiration, transformation and a kind heart to deal with situations in a peaceful way.

What is silent about sound right? Well “Silent” could mean the breaks between the counts of the notes being played in a music piece. Without silence music would not be able to execute itself. And “Sound” on the other hand is plainly a feature and the language of music.

As the evening began at the beautiful Art Space café in between the many wall paintings with just a mellow glow and fiery fairy lights, we talked about the emotions and feelings that music disseminate and give us and also about the effect it has as a medication of kindness for everyone to consume. We also discussed about how people select their music of whether it is on the basis of their feelings or based on a kind of mode they would like to be in.

Singers and musicians present at the event sang their originals and shared their journey in writing the piece which also included how they came up with the tune.

The best part of the event was just how everyone joined in as we sang together the many popular songs that gave different vibes, namely Country roads, Happy, Closer, Hallelujah, We don’t talk anymore, The Scientist, and how each and every one opened up their feelings and joined in one voice just jamming and relaxing.

In the end we got everyone to write to themselves or to a friend who they haven’t talked to in a while to practically understand the power of words. This was for the purpose to fathom the experience of lyric writing in its simplistic nature of just like how we empathize or sympathize with a song’s lyrics.

Well it was an evening organized to celebrate the existence of music, its kindness and the tranquilities it shares with us to move on in life. Our journey with kindness through music begins here and we are hoping to welcome many more people to hop into our ride. To, many more such beautiful evenings not only in Kuwait but around the world.

 

Joy of Giving Week – Dubai

Every year in Dubai we celebrate the festive season (our favorite time of the year) with a week full of kindness events and activities. It’s a joyful lead up to Christmas that creates a merry merry mood for all of us in the city!

Our first event was called ‘Music under the stars’ where we got together to share joy through music. It started with a few carols and then went full throttle into a popular Indian game called Antakshari, which is kind of like a ‘sing-off’. It was tons of fun with us going down memory lane with popular old songs, singing our hearts away. Among the group were a few quiet ones, just there to listen and it was so great to watch them join in and sing along too! We were pleasantly surprised by Karoona aunty and Nedkant uncle, yoga teachers from India visiting Dubai, joining us for the evening. Aunty  hosted a laughter yoga session which had us running around in fits of laughter and uncle offered us a yoga class which became our spontaneous second event!

This one was very different from anything we’ve ever hosted before. We gathered in our tracks,  with our yoga mats, under a clear sky at Zabeel park. For an hour we stretched and relaxed, listening to the patient instructions that uncle and aunty delivered. We were collectively amazed by their strength, flexibility and commitment to teach people a practice that improves health and well-being. It was a beautiful hour that ended with a deep feeling of gratitude towards these two amazing people for giving so generously of their time, presence and wisdom. They wrapped each of us in a hug, the kind that really makes you feel loved and we returned to our homes feeling rejuvenated.

Our last event was Letter Earthlings. It was a quiet evening, with just a few of us but the kind where we each enjoyed the silence and the space to write out Christmas cards to our loved ones around the world.

The end of the year has been a beautiful time for all of us across the world. We hope that you have enjoyed it too. Here’s to greeting another amazing year in high spirits!

Our Christmas Wishlist

One thing is certain about us folks, we’re a bunch of big dreamers. It’s 19 of us right now spread across 8 different cities in the world (6 cities with full fledged chapters and 2 cities where chapters are emerging) and we’re all connected through our shared belief that kindness can and is going to transform this world. We are here doing the best we can in our own little ways to inspire kindness and human connection. We dream of a world where this way of being is natural and joy is everywhere and are committed to making this dream a reality. You are an active part of this dream and so here we’d like to share with you some of our wishes this Christmas.

  1.  My wish this Christmas is for the world to have gratitude for the connections they have with family and friends, and focus on committing to and strengthening those connections over the holiday season – Kirsty (London, England)
  2. My wish is for The Goodwill Tribe to make its way into schools in all the locations. It all begins with the little ones – Soumya (Bangalore, India)
  3. My wish is for the whole tribe to get together and meet soon – Sonia (Dubai, UAE)
  4. My wish is to get married to all the tribe members and live happily every after – Nivendra (Colombo, Sri Lanka)
  5. I would love the entire tribe to travel together, witness beauty and spread kindness along the way – Siddharth (Pune, India)
  6. My wish is to have a Goodwill Tribe Cafe in all the cities we have a chapter, with lots of good books, kittens and puppies and amazing coffee – Astha (Jaipur, India)
  7. I wish that everyone in this world is shown a way to get across the troubled waters they may be submerged in – Meryl (Kuwait City, Kuwait)
  8. I wish Santa would give me time & money so that I can experience this beautiful life through travelling all around the world and spread kindness, love and peace through small acts everywhere I go – Khushi (Sydney, Australia)
  9. My wish is to dedicate more of my life to The Goodwill Tribe and light people’s lives up with the magic of love, kindness and human connection – Chandni (Dubai, UAE)

Time for some Christmas Kindness

With Christmas and a new year right around the corner, it’s time to rejoice and reflect on everything that we have received in 2016. Look around you and soak in the joy of the festive season – families coming together for celebrations, Christmas trees fully lit and surrounded by presents waiting to be opened and excitement in the eyes of little children who’re waiting for Santa to bring them their wishes. If you’re one of the super lucky ones you’ll see snowflakes on your window pane and hear children playing in the snow.

So wherever you are, if you are enjoying the Christmas spirit as much as we are, we challenge you to step it up and go out there and be someone’s Santa. Make someone’s day 🙂

Here are some fun ideas:

  1. Bake some cookies and surprise your neighbor.
  2. Write notes of appreciation to your family and friends.
  3. Donate books to the local library.
  4. Give out free hugs.
  5. Adopt a family for Christmas and give them things they need.
  6. Baby sit for your friends and let them go for a nice date night!
  7. Sponsor a child’s education.
  8. Make some hot chocolate for your watchman as he sits outside in the cold.
  9. Leave small gift or cards in grocery carts for people to find.
  10. Donate coloring books for children at the government hospital.
  11. Surprise your classmates and teachers with a small card.
  12. Give a small gift to the Santa!! (There are so many around you)
  13. Smile at everyone today
  14. Surprise your parents by cooking for them.
  15. Donate your toys.
  16. Send a letter to someone in the military, thanking them for protecting you.
  17. Give candies to the kids around you.
  18. Bake cookies for the traffic police.
  19. Go Christmas caroling at an old age home.
  20. Be kind to yourself, treat yourself with chocolates and presents.
  21. Compliment someone genuinely.
  22. Volunteer at the animal shelter, get Christmas caps for the animals to wear.
  23. Share your lunch with someone around you.
  24. Pay a past due library fee for someone.
  25. Place little notes with candies on cars in parking lots.
  26. Take coloring sheets and crayons to the waiting room (Doctor, Banks, Bus Station)
  27. Leave a note and treat for your courier man.
  28. Get a new toy for your pet.
  29. Invite someone who is new to the city for a dinner.
  30. Donate warm clothes and blanket to the homeless people.
  31. Hold the door open for somebody and smile at them.
  32. Help an old person cross the road.
  33. Help a family member with a chore.
  34. Leave a small diary with good thoughts in the cab for the next person to find.
  35. Call a friend/family you haven’t talked to for a long time.
  36. Play some happy music for someone sad.
  37. Offer someone your seat in the bus/train.
  38. Read to children at the hospital.
  39. Add small items to a basket everyday and donate all of it on Christmas eve.
  40. Let your parents sleep for some extra time, do the morning chores for them.
  41. Say Merry Christmas to at least 10 strangers and smile at them
  42. Tell someone how much they mean to you.
  43. Leave an anonymous gift for your classmate/co-worker.
  44. Let someone in line go ahead of you.
  45. Lighten the load of a single parent by helping them with anything they need.
  46. Offer to walk your neighbor’s dog.
  47. Help elderly people to wrap gifts, decorate Christmas trees or bake cookies.
  48. Help kids make Christmas cards for their grandparents.
  49. Treat yourself to a good spa and some shopping!
  50. Share this with at least three people   

When Children Write Letters of Love

“I will pray for you daily. I am just 7 years old. I heard that God listens to children.”

Imagine an adult somewhere in the world opening up a bundle of letters of love  and reading those lines in the innocent handwriting of a child. The thought makes our hearts smile. This was the first time ever little kids joined us at a Letter Earthlings event and they really lit up the space. Here are some of their words of purity, innocence and surprising wisdom.

We were super inspired by the kids and are working on taking our events to schools. Children have such wealth of kindness within them. It’s gonna be awesome to see what happens when their goodness starts to beam out into the world.

 

Letter Earthlings – October

The Goodwill Tribe collectively hosted four Letter Earthlings events this month. When you pause and think about it, people in four different cities – Pune, Chennai, Sydney and for the first time, Rajkot, got together on an evening this month to write letters of love, support and encouragement to people all across the globe! We’re so grateful to be connecting people through the art of handwritten letters.

Pune had a special edition of the event where they wrote letters to people serving in the Indian Armed Forces. The event was hosted in a beautiful space called Waari Cafe and they even had a guest speaker there to share life stories with them. Here’s a sneak peek of what it looked like. We’ll be following it up with a full article.

Chennai hosted their event in an outdoor space called Ecopark. Participants traveled large distances to get there which is always humbling. The casual and open setting was perfect for people to get to know each other, share stories and reflect on their experience writing letters to strangers. Here are some sunny pictures from Chennai.

It was a rainy day in Sydney on the 23rd of this month when they hosted their letter writing  gathering. Something about the sound of rain against window panes, with hands wrapped around a warm cup of coffee just sounds so conducive to writing letters. This one was a peaceful event at the cafe that’s become a home to Letter Eathlings in Sydney – My Sweet Memory.

We’re super happy to share that we hosted a Letter Earthlings event in the small city of Rajkot in Gujarat, India. This one was very special for two of our team members, our co-founder Sonia and one of our team leaders from Bangalore, Akshi. Rajkot is home for both of them and sharing this experience with their community was very close to their hearts. We’ll be posting another blog article about this, but for now here are a few pictures.

 

The Gift of Giving – Dubai

I think our biggest learning from the ‘Gift of Giving’ stall was – Everyone LOVES candy haha! So if you ever want to reach out and connect to strangers, we recommend taking some Cola flavoured candy with you.

The organisers had reserved a special table right by the entry of the market and we can safely say that we experienced the crowds as they walked in. Our 7 massive bags of gifts were distributed within the first 2 hours of us being there and the responses as always were heart-warming.

There was this woman who just stood there in disbelief. She kept saying, ‘Really! People actually do things like these.’ She shared that she couldn’t help feeling a little sceptical and our response was in our smiles and the gifts we offered her. There were two reserved men who took their time to carefully pick out the book they wanted; when they’d decided they looked at us and smiled with their hearts and said thank you. There was this beautiful young girl who found a soft toy that she went on to fall in love with, holding it close to her heart. What’s amazing about giving is that you ALWAYS feel like you are receiving so much in return and you find yourself thanking the people you are giving to.

The question on our board read, ‘What’s your greatest joy?’. The board always becomes a space for some priceless moments. Harry shared that his greatest joy was getting to sleep next to his beautiful wife every night. It was travelling, for an old couple from Syria, playing football with friends for a young boy and a hot cup of tea for Ravi.

We had some funky props courtesy of Kunal, a volunteer who’d also driven us to the market in spite of a swollen ankle. It was amazing to watch the fun that people had with their crazy looks and such a good feeling to hear laughter all around our stall.

We’re super grateful to all the people who contributed gifts and to the 12 volunteers who brought their happy hearts and big smiles to the gift of giving stall.

Also here’s an idea for you – Look around and find something of yours that you can give to someone and go gift it to stranger. Tell us how you feel 🙂