Ripple Foundation is a not-for-profit that hosts annual writing contests, guest blogs, and ‘Write It Workshops’ to cultivate creativity in budding young authors across Canada. Recently, the charity took its legendary workshops online for the first time in response to COVID-19, hosting interactive sessions live on its Facebook page. Now more than ever, children need to be encouraged to express themselves, and writing is one way of creatively doing that. And, the masterclasses are a great idea for parents and carers who are juggling working from home and looking for ways to educate and entertain their children! This week we spoke to the founder, Ivy Wong, about the amazing work the charity does both close to home and worldwide.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Ripple Foundation is a 100% volunteer-led Toronto education charity that cultivates reading and writing in youth across Canada. Ripple delivers free community programs to children designed to harvest creativity, inspire a deeper literary understanding and make confident leaders of tomorrow!
Programs include the annual Kids Write 4 Kids (KW4K) contest, a Write It Workshop program and the Wave Blog that young writers can use as a platform for youth to write about current teen topics, opinions and experiences.
What problem does it aim to solve?
Our programs go beyond the realm of what children learn in the four walls of a classroom.
Ripple Foundation’s three core pillars are creativity, education and leadership. We want to dare our next generation of creative thinkers to have an imagination, inspire confidence and educate children on the power of knowledge and how this can be used in later life. It mixes education with the power of artistic flair in a way that the education system doesn’t, and we aim to give voices to budding Canadian authors across the country as a result.
When did you start/join it?
I started the original – and what has now become an annual – KW4K contest back in 2012. It’s a one-of-a-kind short story contest for students in grades 4-8, and the winner becomes a published writer before high school!
The contest had an incredibly positive reception and we saw so many young authors grow in confidence during the most crucial years of their development because of the program. To expand on this and reach even more youth, we went on to launch the Wave Blog in 2016. This platform is dedicated to amplifying the voices of young Canadians (grades 8-12) and is the next step in the writing journey following the contest. Writers can also earn up to 5 volunteer hours through writing the blogs – bonus!
Finally, in 2018 when Ripple Foundation became a registered charity, we launched the third program, Write It Workshops, designed to teach children (grades 4-8) about the components that make for engaging story-telling and writing. The workshops are led solely by volunteers, and we encourage high school students to assist in the delivery of these masterclasses, too.
What made you want to get involved?
I own my own creative companies, and really wanted to give back to communities by using my knowledge and skills for the greater good. Therefore, I want to inspire young children to find their own voices as a writer, inspire leadership and confidence beyond what’s taught in school across Canada. I chose a writing contest as the first initiative because I wanted it to be accessible to all and not exclude those who are unable to express themselves visually or musically.
I think it’s so important to keep the artistic form (and ability) of story writing alive, which is what the three programs set out to do for children in different age groups. The programs are entirely free and we rely on our amazing volunteers and donations to be able to continue nurturing young minds.
What was the situation like when you started?
Before I started the writing contest and what later became Ripple Foundation, there were no other writing contests out there where the winner became a published author. KW4K is the only one of its kind that does this, and the proceeds from the book sales are donated to the winner’s charity of choice. So, the winner does not receive any physical prize or dollar amount, fostering a sense of philanthropy in the next generation, too!
Winners also get to be part of the judging panel for the following year’s contest. Our judging panel is curated and unique every year to include accomplished authors, editors, professionals within the publishing industry and avid readers from other professions.
To date, we have received entries from over 650 schools, 10 provinces and two territories.
How has it changed since?
Since 2012, 15 books have been published by child authors, we have hosted more than 100 workshops since 2018 and gone live with 84 Wave Blogs (with many more up our sleeve about how our youth are coping with COVID-19).
We connect with children across Canada at a young age and have been lucky to see their writing evolve as we have added to and adapted the Foundation’s offering.
And, we continue to adapt as we face the knock-on effects of the pandemic. Due to the closure of public libraries, our in-person Write It Workshops are temporarily canceled, but we have instead adapted the workshops so we are able to deliver them virtually.
This is a really exciting step for us. In the last month, we have hosted three free, fun and interactive Facebook Live masterclasses that teach the principles of story-writing, from brainstorming through to plot and character development. And, following a hugely positive reception to these we are extending the online program to run every Saturday between May 23rd – August 29th using Zoom to deliver the lesson plan.
What more needs to be done?
We are so proud of everything Ripple Foundation has achieved to date, but we are always planning our next move to reach more and more youth across Canada.
First and foremost, when we are out the other side of COVID-19, we want to partner with even more public libraries across the country to increase the number of workshops children can attend.
We also want to drive awareness of our KW4K contest so that more children know about the opportunity and have a chance of becoming a published author! As a bonus, we’d like to amplify the sales of these books so that even more donations can be made to the winners’ charity of choice.
During this period of uncertainty, we want teens to turn to the peer-to-peer Wave Blog to gain insight and views on relevant topics including living life through a pandemic. This is a safe space through which readers can get real and honest advice – so we want to spread the word so that even more people use it.
How can our readers help?
As a 100% volunteer-led and donations-operated charity, we are always on the lookout for new volunteer recruits who believe in our mission and want to give back to their communities to nurture the next generation.
If you are passionate about promoting and teaching literacy and creativity, we would love to hear from you. We promise flexibility and convenience, and with the series of virtual workshops coming up there’s plenty of opportunities to get involved!
We are also open to donations, no matter how little or large. Every cent counts and is a direct investment in the next generation. Readers can make a donation here.
Do you have any events coming up?
Right now we are focusing on our virtual Write It Workshops to ensure we can keep giving children across the country fun and creative ways to continue their writing journeys while at home. These will be taking place on Zoom every Saturday kicking off on May 23rd and running right through to August 29th. Parents can register their kids online here.
While it’s still being decided exactly how it will be rolled out, we’re also really looking forward to running a Write It Workshop as part of The Word on the Street Toronto Festival 2020, a national celebration of literacy and Canadian writing, this September.
In previous years we’ve had some of our writing contest winners do readings at the celebration, which festival-goers have really enjoyed, so we are hoping to replicate that this year!
Where can we follow you?
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
I’m a huge supporter of Doctors Without Borders Canada. The charity’s medical teams operate all around the world providing emergency medical relief to those in need in conflict zones and areas that need it most.
Its teams are courageous and even in light of the pandemic, they continue to stride on risking their own lives to save others. Simply inspiring.