A local children’s book publisher and a nonprofit have come together to use their bright idea to help local refugees.
Looking for a way to connect the holiday spirit with storytelling and social good, Dreamling Books and Kidnected World created a Village of Lights, with over 1,000 Dickens village houses on display. Proceeds from the event’s ticket sales—which included viewing the record-setting village, a hot cocoa room, a village market with local artists’ and makers’ wares, and a life-size snow globe room—will be used to fund a project benefitting local refugees.
“We came together and decided: let’s do something for the community that would invite people in and would give a chance for local artisans [to sell their goods], but also tell a cool Christmas story,” said Jenn Cook, CEO of Kidnected World. “We love the idea of the village—from our perspective, this is a global village. The way we look at our organization and the efforts that we do, both locally in the Salt Lake community and globally, is ‘how do we help everyone come together and see what it’s like to be together?’”
Making connections, in a nutshell, is what Kidnected World is about. The local nonprofit has a platform, The Wonderment (thewonderment.com) that helps children ages 6-14 become involved in social good projects worldwide, as well as learn about and make connections with other countries and cultures. Events like the Village of Light are open on their online platform for children across the world to participate in. For this event, children as far away as Cambodia or Thailand sent pictures of paper or Lego versions of their own houses as imaginings of how they might be included in the Dickens village.
“Social good is where kids don’t typically have an opportunity to engage in on their own because it takes money and time—the two things they don’t get to control in their own world,” said Cook. “By giving them a space to do it that’s safe for them, where it’s not YouTube or Facebook, [we help them] use their creativity, essentially, as currency to make good happen in the world. It’s a cool thing.”
While most of Kidnected World’s projects have usually been focused on global social initiatives, Cook said it was important to the nonprofit to make sure they’re including the local community, as well. Focusing their efforts on Utah’s large refugee population was an immediate fit. With the ticket proceeds, along with 20 percent of the profits from the artists’ sales at the village market tent, and other outside investment, Cook is hopeful that early next year Kidnected World will be able to create a special creative space for local refugee children.
“We do a lot globally with social good projects, but it’s awesome that we have the opportunity to do something in our own back yard, with the refugee community here,” said Cook. “We’re in the process of working with refugee kids to come up with what would be a really great creative space, or experience, that we could have for the kids… We’ve been talking to a lot of people in that community about what would be useful to them and how we can find something that helps them engage—not only with the world and their home countries, but also to get them more involved in the community that they’re now a part of. [We want to be] helping them transition into this new world that they’re in.”