SANTA CRUZ -- Kidpower is using social media to bootstrap its way to making a million children safer.
Last year, the Santa Cruz-based nonprofit launched a new campaign, One Million Safer Kids to double the number of kids it taught about personal safety. It took 20 years to reach the first 2 million kids, but the nonprofit hopes to reach the next million in five years, before 2016.
Kidpower started in 1989 with a focus on teaching kids to protect themselves from physical harm from strangers. It now focuses on other areas, such as preventing bullying, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Students range in age from preschoolers to senior citizens.
For the One Million Safer Kids, Kidpower recruited the help of Storytellers for Good, a group of filmmakers and journalists that helps nonprofits create video versions of its stories. Kidpower used Causes.com, an online petition website to raise a third of the cost from small individual donations.
This week, Kidpower unveiled the culmination of that effort, a five-minute clip that explains what the organization does.
"It's not until they participate in a workshop or see video clips that they understand what it is," board member Jennifer Turner-Davis said.
She emailed the clip, which is also available on YouTube, to a small group earlier this week. She said two people who wrote back said they both cried watching it.
"It shows how we can share
The video is meant to lead viewers to Kidpower's website and the nonprofit's suite of resources, which range from in-person classes to videos and books aimed at teachers, social workers and parents. Bookshop Santa Cruz also carries many of Kidpower's books.
Van der Zande founded the organization after an unnerving encounter in 1985. While leading a school field trip in downtown Santa Cruz, a man charged the group of children, threatening to kidnap one of them.
Van der Zande, troubled by the encounter, took some self-defense classes. Eventually, she decided to start a program to teach personal safety.
Instructors teach children various strategies for maintaining personal boundaries, building confidence and voicing their emotions to stay safe. Kidpower's small corps of 30 instructors teaches classes locally, but the group has a global reach, with 150 certified instructors in the U.S. and in countries as far away as New Zealand, Vietnam and India.
In its first 18 months, the One Million Safer Kids campaign has already reached 400,000 children through in-person classes or books and videos Kidpower has shared with other organizations. Turner-Davis and van der Zante said they are confident they'll hit their goal of reaching another million soon.
"You see things on YouTube that get millions of hits in one day that aren't very important," said Turner-Davis. "And this is important, so we're optimistic,"
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