In 2011, Shadi Pourkashef, a mother, composer/conductor and a teacher, felt the direct consequences of bullying as her then 8 year old son was subjected to what she can only describe as “horrendous ongoing peer bullying.”
Recognized for her fierce advocacy to find a solution, she was chosen by the Woodcanyon Elementary school principal to become the CAC (Community Advisory Committee) Representative for the Capistrano Unified School District. For Shadi the urgency to address her son’s situation quickly turned into an urgency to address this epidemic within her community.
In 2012, Shadi was asked to become a board member of the CAC, serving on the Ability Awareness Programs Committee. While this committee had developed wonderful teaching programs on tolerance, acceptance and understanding towards children with special needs, it became apparent that the area of bullying wasn’t being directly addressed.
Later that year, during a CAC meeting, Shadi Pourkashef and another member serving on the same committee, Kelly McKinnon Burmingham, MA, BCBA, saw the opportunity to fill in where their proposed programs had limited reach. Shortly after, together they founded Ability Awareness Project.
AAP has developed a total of 10 presentations for parents, educators and students providing anti-bullying education that addresses three distinct groups: for the bullies to choose a kinder option, those being bullied to build resilience and feel empowered & bystanders to safely and effectively intervene; not only to identify and put a stop to all six types of bullying but also move towards becoming our next generation of leaders and peacemakers. Thus far, AAP school presentations have reached over ten thousand children.
AAP has also developed 25 Kindness Programs, one for each week of school to continue the momentum, keep the students attention on Kindness and thus create an inclusive kind culture at the schools.
AAP was operating under the 501(c)(3) status of Center For Conscious Creativity from January 2013 to December of 2017 in Los Angeles. As of January 2018 "Ability Awareness Project" operates under the Fiscal Sponsorship of OneOC benefiting from the organization's wide range of support as well as their 60 years of expertise in the world of nonprofit, specifically in Orange County.
AAP has 12 active advisory board members, each with specialized training to bring relevant value in shaping and refining AAP’s contribution to the community.
At Ability Awareness Project we believe to put a stop to bullying we need to build a kinder culture at our schools and a kinder community that supports our efforts. Thus we formed the Laguna Beach Kindness Movement.
In April of 2018, Shadi Pourkashef, executive director of Ability Awareness Project and voted best Activist of Laguna Beach, was invited by Kindness Evolution to join another 29 Kindness Leaders in a gathering in Half Moon Bay, California. This gathering was held for 3 consecutive days on April 20-22, 2018 without a moment to waste for 30 influential Kindness Leaders of our nation to collaborate together and find new ways to collectively make a bigger impact at our schools and our communities.
That meeting led her to become the Goodwill Ambassador of World Kindness USA for the City of Laguna Beach, Ability Awareness Project became a Founding member of World Kindness USA and with the help of Ability Awareness Project's President and Councilman of City of Laguna Beach Mr. Steve Dicterow, AAP brought Kindness to the City of Laguna Beach's government. The City Council unanimously signed the resolution on Sept. 11, 2018 and held an official declaration signing ceremony and celebration on Nov. 13, 2018 (which was the 2018 World Kindness Day) to join as one of the four founding cities of World Kindness USA.
Ability Awareness Project is now also a partner with The Charter for Compassion, a collaborator with The Kindness Evolution, a Raktivist with the Random Acts of Kindness, the 2018 recipient of Best Education Center in Best of Laguna Beach, the 2018 OneOC Champion of Change Makers, and won 1st place at the Patriot’s Day Parade with a song Ms. Pourkashef composed about a conversation between a child being bullied and her consoling mother.
Laguna Beach Kindness Movement continues to grow and the ripples of kindness are reaching out to over 20,000 people weekly online on our social media sites. In town, many people are supporting us with our "Choose To Be Kind" yard signs and our World Kindness Cards.
Our 2019 "Day of Kindness" event was sponsored by the City of Laguna Beach on Nov. 9, 2019 with a stage on the beach and over 50 volunteers. It was a day of music, eye contact and human connection activities along with children activities ending with a "meditation on kindness" at sunset.
We believe the status quo is unacceptable.
We believe as human being we can do better.
We are determined to guide our next generation towards a greater social interconnection along a humanistic path.
OUR MISSION IS TO BUILD A UNITED INTERCONNECTED WORLD, FREE OF BULLYING.
Our Vision is to ensure that everyone is respectful and kind to one another and that no one suffers from social isolation and bullying.