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As a child, the British florist Nikki Tibbles was often found sleeping in a dog bed, so deep was her affection for the family dog. Today she owns seven rescue dogs – Reuben, Tia, Smith, Lenny, Ronnie, Ruby, and Rita – and presides over the Wild At Heart Foundation, a global charity that works to reduce the world’s 600 million stray dog population through rescue, adoption, and sterilization . At the heart of the foundation is the mission to educate people on how to deal with animals, a promise that she has implemented with her latest project: the Be Kind program for school children.
Kristina Blahnik, CEO of Manolo Blahnik – Wild At Heart’s Be Kind program is the result of an ongoing partnership with the shoe brand
The new curriculum from Tibbles will be available free of charge from September and is the result of an ongoing partnership with shoe brand Manolo Blahnik: the project is funded by Kristina Blahnik, the brand’s CEO and owner of Poppins, their pet schnauzer. Like Tibbles, Blahnik grew up with dogs, and Manolo himself has 10 rescues at his home in the Canary Islands. “He always said that he got on better with dogs than with people,” says Kristina of her uncle, the always sociable designer who was born in Spain and who is now 78 years old.
By teaching children how to handle dogs, Blahnik and Tibbles hope to inspire kindness, compassion, and understanding. The program comprises 10 lessons and is an extension of the foundation’s work around the world to promote respect for dogs. “Where these dogs used to be kicked or mistreated, they are now beloved pets,” says Blahnik, “and that has brought communities together as well.”
The Be Kind curriculum encourages children to empathize with dogs – and express their own feelings
Five workbooks follow a fictional rescue called Lucky that teaches students to recognize their emotions – happy, relaxed, angry, or scared. Teachers then use these feelings as a stepping stone to ask how their students might react in similar situations. “When children have difficulty communicating their feelings, we believe this will help,” says Tibbles. “And then they can recognize these emotions not only in themselves, but in all living beings. It’s not just about bringing dogs into schools for the kids to pet in the congregation – it’s real and life changing. You raise a child and reach seven adults. ”
Although tied to the national curriculum, Be Kind is a voluntary program for elementary school students, with most teachers choosing to teach during the PSHE (Personal, Social, Health and Business Education). But the hope is that it will continue. “We want this to be part of every school’s curriculum,” says Tibbles, who is currently working on adapting the program for secondary schools.
“It creates a friendlier world,” says Blahnik. “If we can even get a child to help another child or talk about how they feel if they hadn’t done that before, then that is a success.”