“Putting aside all our political differences, one thing that most South Africans can agree on is that everyone should increase their acts of goodness and kindness,” says a man who wants to restore kindness in the world, Rabbi David Masinter.
With the election buzz coming to an end, one of the most fascinating events of this year’s South African local government elections was a unique campaign driven by the Kindness Party (KP), whose manifesto was embodied in a small yellow plastic charity box called an ARK – an acronym for “Acts of Random Kindness”.
The KP is headed by Rabbi Masinter, director of Chabad House which campaigns like a political party. It has an annual fundraising event called Miracle Drive. The party or some might say ‘programme’ has distributed close to half a million ARKs over the past two years, with the intention that people will fill them up with money before giving them to someone else in need, or a charity of their choice.
The difference though is that the KP is not formally registered with the IEC, but had its election posters up in numerous street poles throughout Gauteng, right above and beneath the ones of ANC, DA, EFF and others, with a headline strong enough to catch your attention, “Vote for Kindness”.
Similar to the campaign strategy of a certain political party, prominent celebrities such as South African national football star Dean Furman, radio personality Gareth Cliff and Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane have endorsed the ARK project. On Voting Day, polling booths were set up at Hyde Park Corner in Johannesburg and thousands of ARKs were distributed. TV ads were also made for the programme.
Throughout the year, companies have been approached to do a “Change our company for Good” day, where ARKs are distributed by the CEO to the employees. Various companies such as Standard Bank of South Africa, Africa's largest bank, Bidvest, Discovery and Nissan Motor Corporation SA have supported this initiative.
According to Masinter, the ARK project is not a fundraiser for any particular organisation, and Chabad will not take the ARKs back, but wants them all to be distributed to needy people or charities as part of the campaign to increase kindness and goodness in the world.
“There are plans to take the ARK project to even greater heights in the future, beyond South Africa’s borders into the world at large. There is an urgent need for people everywhere to increase kindness and inject more positivity into human affairs," says Tarryn Horton, Project Manager of ARK.
KP's Manifesto is clear: If negative actions create negative energy then positive actions create positive energy, and by filling all of South Africa with positive energy we can impact hugely on the nature of society for the good of all.