A few seconds of kindness can change the course of someone’s life. Just ask Laura Louise Persichetti, creator of the The Good Deeds Project, her initiative to inspire people of all ages around the world to take part in practicing small acts of kindness. The project, which includes a documentary, was sparked by her passion for suicide prevention and awareness.
The Sarnia, Ontario woman, now 27, still speaks in amazement when she recalls what happened in the hallways of her high school when she was in grade 12 that ended up shaping her path in life.
“I was walking by this grade 9 [student] and happened to smile and talk to him. Four years later when he graduated he wrote me a letter saying that day he was going to kill himself,” Persichetti tells Samaritanmag. The young man credits Persichetti for taking the time to speak with him. It halted his suicidal thoughts in their tracks and he decided to give life another try.
The encounter also impacted Persichetti, who went on to train in suicide prevention and awareness through the global program Living Works. She currently works at St. Clair Child and Youth Services and volunteers with a hospice bereavement group in high schools and a suicide prevention committee. She also has her own private practice for kids, youth and adults.
Persichetti, whose 2013 book, Discover You, Discovering the World: Confessions of a Travelling Monkette, incorporates a variety of stories and life lessons gathered from traveling the world, challenges people to ask themselves: “What good deed can I do right now?”
The Good Deeds Project kicked off in April with a charitable scavenger hunt in her hometown during which competitors purchased gifts for strangers or engaged in other selfless gestures.
Since then, Persichetti has become aware of a mother and a three-year-old daughter who are randomly picking names from a phone book then mailing them a coffee shop gift card. Others have donated blood or purchased supplies for the Humane Society; bought someone lunch; or winter coats for a women’s shelter.
“This project is a journey, beginning on the East coast of North America to the West Coast,” she writes on her web site. “The idea is to offer good deeds all along the way, while also featuring others doing good deeds, bringing it together into a documentary. The project will inspire others through talks, workshops, and social media to take part and to really explore the idea that good deeds actually make massive differences in people's lives.”
“The project is really about building awareness on impacting others positively and feeling good because you’ve done that,” says Persichetti.
She plans to travel cross-country towing a Tiny House which is part of a growing movement that focuses on dwellings with a very small carbon footprint. These houses are 200 square feet or smaller. Hers was donated via her SoKind Registry, featuring items she needs for her trip. It is currently being built.
“It pretty much looks like a little cottage on a trailer,” Persichetti explains. “You could hook it up to the back of a truck and move with it. There are a lot of people who are downsizing and living in tiny houses and create tiny house communities. A lot of young people but retirees as well.”
The Tiny House movement encourages people to downsize their living space. The houses come in all shapes, sizes and forms but the focus is on smaller spaces and simplified living.
Concern for the environment is the biggest reason people turn to a Tiny House but motivations also include financial difficulties and a desire for more time and freedom. A good percentage of income is dedicated towards housing and Tiny Houses help to free up money that could be used elsewhere.
Persichetti hopes to team up with Habitat for Humanity for this portion of her project.
As she waits for the Tiny House to be built, she will begin travelling with a friend in an RV later this month. She is currently planning a fund-raising campaign to get the Tiny House up and rolling.
The Good Deeds Project is not just about impromptu good deeds; she is also shining a spotlight on those who do good every day. She received a tip regarding a woman who opened up a dance academy when she was 16 years old in Harlem for at-risk youth. The academy is celebrating 25 years of empowering troubled young people through dance and will be featured in the documentary.
“The movement itself is to inspire people that there is good happening in the world. You just got to look for it,” she says.
Persichetti first got the idea of filming good deeds through the viral sensation Neknomination, which encourages people video posting of excessive drinking and nominates others to do the same within 24 hours. Her friend, Danica Sommer, received a Neknomination but wasn’t interested in participating in the alcohol-based online game. She decided instead to do a good deed making Persichetti the benefactor.
“She invited me to her house randomly one day and gave me a gift card for gas,” Persichetti says. “That day I decided to give away the gas card to someone else, made my own video and nominated three people to do the same thing.”
Filming is underway for a documentary with Persichetti following suggestions to New York. Future stops include Boston, then Atlantic Canada. She is open to travelling just about anywhere. She is also looking for champions across Canada and globally to lead activities and will co-lead and provide support, if needed.
Her original vision was to drive a DeLorean and have it pull a Tiny House. This vehicle is most commonly known as the time machine in the Back to the Future movies, a symbol not lost on Persichetti.
“The Tiny House needs to get pulled by something so we decided to do something cool. Moving into the future — the tiny house itself is like going green — the way to create a better future is to do good deeds.”
Unfortunately the dream of pulling a Tiny House with a DeLorean just wasn’t to be. She was told the vehicle is not strong enough to pull the house.
But all is not lost. Her father suggested she could use a photograph of a DeLorean on the side of the vehicle she uses to pull the Tiny House. One never has to let go of their dream, she points out; it just might not be exactly how it was originally envisioned.
Good deeds are happening even within the project itself. Deima Kalinauskaite, from Atlanta, is behind all the Good Deeds project design including the logo and branding. The website has helping hands from individuals in Michigan, Australia and Florida. The Good Deeds t-shirts for the launch were donated by Team Outfitters; and a team of people, including Persichetti, created the business cards with homemade paper and seeds native to Sarnia — when planted the paper decomposes and black eyed susans will grow. Urban Nature Centre donated their space, supplies and training.
Persichetti acknowledges the idea of doing a good deed instead of a drinking-related activity is not hers. But this first video connected to people across the globe from Canada to Australia to South America.
The documentary will be launched in episode format for a two-month period beginning in September allowing viewers to see the film unfold as it happens. She believes the program may eventually be shown online and having a theatre screening a possibility. If the video response is too high to include all clips in the doc, Persichetti will try to feature them online.
So what makes Persichetti so open to helping others?
“It’s always been in me for sure. I started doing international development work. Seeing the world not everything is beautiful out there and going to places like Africa and Haiti and seeing how certain kids and people are living and recognizing that there is an imbalance.”
Although not everyone can travel to Africa to build a house, she says, “Everybody can do something.”balerínky