Winnipeg Police Association (WPA) has spent around $116,000 over nine years to fund kindness initiatives at schools in Winnipeg.

On June 29, Chancellor School was the newest school to welcome a new Buddy Bench to promote kindness and friendship as part of the WPA's Cool 2B Kind Campaign.

The WPA started the Cool 2B Kind Campaign in 2013 and has spent approximately $116,000 funding 233 different kindness proposals.

"It's a campaign to focus on the positive side of being kind and not the negative side, 'don't be a bully.' We feel that if we can teach young kids, especially from kindergarten to sixth grade, that it teaches them the virtue of being kind and how it can have positive outcomes for them in life as they get older," says the President of the WPA, Maurice Sabourin.

Sabourin says that the call out to schools to bring forward their kindness proposals is in the fall, at the beginning of the school year. The WPA allows schools to be as creative as they want.

"What we typically do is we'll have a kick-off in the fall when school begins and we put out a call to educators, to students to come up with some sort of kindness initiative and present it to the association. Then we decide on which ones should be funded. It's probably no secret that we funded all of them, so in the nine years, I think we have spent $116,000 on 233 different kindness initiatives in that time. We leave it up to the students and the teachers. There are some very creative proposals, the Buddy Bench is just one of them."

Indigenous Elder, Byron Beardy, blessing and performing a dance for the Buddy BenchIndigenous Elder, Byron Beardy, blessing and performing a dance for the Buddy Bench

The Buddy Bench is an idea that originates from Germany and it is an idea that if someone is feeling lonely or does not have anyone to talk to during recess, they sit on the bench. Ideally, others who see someone sitting on the bench are encouraged to approach the lonely person and ask if they would like to join them.

"Ultimately, the goal is to make sure the Buddy Bench stays empty. It's a great initiative, and it's a way for kids to say 'I need some help' without actually saying 'I need some help.'"

During the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Chancellor School, special guest appearances from Brody Jackson from QX 104, Counselor Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood), Premiere Heather Stephens, and Indigenous elder Byron Beardy who blessed the bench and performed a dance.

The pandemic has made it difficult for the WPA to fund proposals as students were not in school regularly for the last two years.

"It's been a very difficult two years, especially with kids not being in class, and that sort of thing. So this year. I think we're probably right on par with the number of schools that have presented proposals in the past, but we're always hoping that the word will get out and the Cool 2B Kind Campaign can grow even bigger."