ACT 2021 Featured Capstone:
A Global Movement of Connecting through Compassion
Founder of Befriend – Richmond, Virginia, USA
Who did your Capstone Project serve ?
My project’s initial intention was to serve people in the city of Richmond, VA. Befriend has now expanded across the United States and around the globe, most recently to Africa.
What was the suffering that your project addressed?
Initially, the suffering we addressed was the division in our city, and our hope was to create friendships so that every person can embrace empathy, foster understanding and build one Richmond for all. Now, we also consider any division in our country and the world and create various opportunities to bring people together.
How did this project address that suffering?
Befriend addresses this suffering by meeting people in our city by offering many paths to connect with others through compassion. Then, we measured the outcomes. Some participants connected via in-person gatherings at parks, libraries, basketball gyms for youth, exercise classes, coffee shops for the homeless, yoga studios, and cooking classes at a local market. There were also virtual gatherings on topics such as mindfulness, resilience, self care, and more. Another example is our texting circles: we created new groups of friends who text each other for support and friendship.
Who was your audience and how many people participated?
We estimate that we have reached nearly 2,000 people to date. We have seen a couple of newspaper articles about the project and Richmond Magazine did an online feature on Befriend. Additionally, we convened 2-3 events per month with a range of 7-25 participants, depending on the type of event.
What was the reported impact on or feedback from participants?
One participant shared: “In my experience of helping Mollie to facilitate group meetings at Jefferson Park, I have found that sharing honestly from one's own experiences with the intention to get to know one another, share common ground and experiences, and learn from our differences is a beautiful way to create a sense of community and to foster a caring for one another. When we get to know one another and see each other's common humanity, we cannot help but begin to care for one another and to see that we are all interconnected."
How has the ACT Program helped you become an Ambassador of Compassion?
The beautiful encouragement I have received from the mentors and my colleagues has been so impactful. ACT's principles of compassion provided me a science-based framework, confidence and credibility for delivering my project. I'm so grateful I was able to be a part of this important, transformative training.
What advice would you give to someone who's considering participating in the ACT Program?
If you are curious to learn more about applied compassion, this is the right program at the right time for you. One concept I particularly found useful is that ACT promotes a deliberate approach of learning by doing. In this safe space, I’d recommend that you open your heart and jump in with two feet to fully embrace all ACT has to offer. You will be so glad you did!