Paviglianiti: Class promoting a Legacy through kindness

By Nicola Paviglianiti
November 28, 2013

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ButterflyIllustration by Frank Neufeld

Have you ever heard of a student excited to complete a course project? What if I told you there was a class of 350 students (including myself) engaged to voluntarily complete a course project together? What if that project was assigned just weeks before final exams and not worth any grades or mark for the course?

The Butterfly Effect: A Legacy Through Kindness is such a project. It has grown wings and started to fly as part of a second-year Health Promotion class taught by Health Studies professor Jennifer Irwin. The initiative has a specific goal:


Come together, complete and chronicle as many random acts of kindness (RAKs) as possible before the fall semester ends, and along the way engage as many others as possible.

Since the idea was proposed in class on Nov. 11, RAK submissions have been rapidly fluttering in through direct email and social media outlets from people who are being touched and motivated. Not even 24 hours after the launch of a Facebook page, there were more than 260 official ‘likes’ and many more individuals had viewed posts on the page.

The project idea was rooted by professor Irwin during a lecture when she described a grocery shopping experience where she had passed a produce bag to the person waiting behind her before grabbing her own. The reaction of pure happiness and gratefulness she received made her day. It inspired her to share the story with the entire class and developed into a challenge to make small, simple acts of kindness a part of every day life.

It seems there is a need for everyone to become more aware that one simple act of selflessness can spread and make all the difference.

The idea didn’t take long to get off the ground. Immediately, there was a sense of eagerness and agreement to participate in the project as a class.

What can I do? Where can this go?

Students of all different talents and skills voluntarily came together to collaborate and contribute. Project name ideas were submitted and voted on collectively, Twitter and Facebook accounts were launched and the Health Sciences Students’ Council was contacted to help promote the initiative. A few students even assisted the not-so-technology-advanced professor sign up for a Twitter account by sending her detailed instructions.  

What should have been a typical required second-year course – you should see how dry the textbook is – has fostered a new sense of joy in learning and become something special. Creativity, self-discovery and appreciation are the purpose of education and attending university but these skills are impossible to measure through marks and exams. The ‘butterfly effect’ has reinforced again what really matters in the classroom and has opened our eyes to the potential and uniqueness of every person and situation.

It is initiatives like this that bring university to life and are the reason students choose to come to Western – I know it is why I did.

I have never been more excited to attend a lecture or been more engaged and interested in the material. I feel more connected with my classmates; we share a special sense of pride working together on something meaningful with potential. It is touching witnessing how one act of kindness in the project motivates another act of kindness and how more and more people are stepping up to be part of it.

This project demonstrates the importance of community and emphasizes just how big an impact a class can have when they unite. The students who contributed the name for the project stated it well:

“Since our random acts of kindness resonate in the actions of those whom we influence, we are generating our own gust of wind. Through enough subsequent actions, our kindness can affect thousands. Anyone who recognizes the importance of our actions may choose to carry out their own random acts and in continuation of more and more along the way.”

All it takes is simple a selfless moment to make all the difference.

Join us.

What is your next random act of kindness?

Nicola Paviglianiti is a second-year Health Sciences student.

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Perform your own random act of kindness today, and then submit it to The Butterfly Effect: A Legacy Through Kindness project via an email to, post on The Butterfly Effect UWO Facebook page or via twitter @2250RAK.


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