Imagine unrolling a paper chain from Carlsbad more than 18 miles south.
Now, consider that each link of that paper trail carries a handwritten message of love and kindness. Consider, too, that these 360,000 chain links were created with used paper — homework assignments, old tests, artwork, paper bags, cereal boxes — by students from schools in all 50 U.S. states and on all continents except Antarctica.
You get the gist of this colossal undertaking by Kids for Peace, a global nonprofit based in Carlsbad.
Instead of stretching the paper chain from Carlsbad’s Pacific Rim Elementary School to Westfield UTC, however, they arranged the strands into a giant heart on the football field.
This paper chain project, more than 18 months in the making, came to fruition on Nov. 13, World Kindness Day.
“It was started because of the pandemic,” explains Jill McManigal, a Carlsbad mom and former teacher who co-founded and heads Kids for Peace.
Students, isolated for months at home, needed to find ways to connect and to remain optimistic during this uncertain time, she says. “By doing this paper chain, they were symbolically connected.”
The recycled paper “love links” were written in several languages, including Chinese, Farsi, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Swahili and Tagalog. One message read “love” in Braille.
Messages sent from other states and from abroad were stapled and assembled into chains by local student volunteers.
“We did it on campus throughout the day, during lunch recess and after school for six weeks,” says Oscar Torrico, an Oceanside Reynolds Elementary School counselor.
Among thoughts shared were: “You’re loved,” “Kindness matters,” “Have faith,” Care for each other,” “Have a good day,” “All we need is hope,” “Stay Strong!,” “Be the source of someone’s joy” and “Learn to dance in the rain.”
Teachers said the project energized and excited students.
“My kids were so proud to be part of something on such a grand scale. They read messages of love from all over the world,” says fifth-grade teacher Margaret Malek at Reynolds Elementary. She made assembling the chain a community service project.
A team took a section of the chain to classrooms inviting all students to join in creating links.