Jefferson Awards for Public Service

MORAGA (KPIX 5) — An East Bay woman is helping children feel good by finding ways for them to perform good deeds for people in need.

In 2016, Tanuka Gordon began a non-profit called Mindful Littles, which teaches kindergarten through 8th grade children empathy and kindness through what she calls “mindful volunteerism.”

Gordon started the program after trying to find a meaningful ways to have her own daughters volunteer for service projects.

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Livia Segall remembers taking a trip with other Orinda students to young survivors of the Ponderosa Fire in Butte County. The students brought peace kits they made. They were gifts of healing, like eye pillows, breathing buddies, and comforting words to manage stress.

Segall described the group’s mission, “Give gratitude to others and help them if they’ve gone through a hard time.”

Gordon said the program asks questions of child volunteers to foster empathy, such as, “How would that feel for you if you didn’t have a home?”

“The critical piece is the mindfulness piece then you become self-aware, you’re able to take a pause and really feel compassion,” Gordon explained.

Mindful Littles has led more than 100 service projects, from giving out peace kits and school backpacks to meals for the hungry.

Most of the time, the group is hired to work in schools, churches, and other community groups. But during the pandemic, Gordon is offering educational resources and ideas for free on the group’s website.

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Youth leaders like Livia and her twin sister Nina are happy to share the lessons they’ve learned through Gordon and Mindful Littles.

“She inspires people to take action, be compassionate and kind,” said Nina Segall.

And Gordon sets the tone for everyone, said Mindful Littles facilitator Travis Groft.

“She’s really, really loving and open,” Groft said. “She’s very infectious with that energy.”

So for teaching children to serve with kindness and compassion through Mindful Littles, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Tanuka Gordon.

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