Orly Wahba starts her TED Talk in New York with the following:
“What do you see when you watch the news, when you turn on the radio, when you read the headlines? Hatred, poverty, war, fear, crime, depression, suicide, hopelessness, bullying. But you know what I see? I see people with amazing potential, who just lost their way and forgotten to believe in themselves.”
Our exclusive interview with this ‘kindness activist’ is available here.
Orly has been a middle-school teacher for over 7 years and an expert in counteracting the social issues that are plaguing the youth of today’s time. By instilling self value and self-esteem in her students and many others, she has impacted thousands of lives.
Over the past ten years, Orly Wahba has worked extensively with tweens and teens as well as local charities in her community. Since 2004, she has been an educator for Middle School at the Yeshivah of Flatbush in Brooklyn, New York. Orly is most known for incorporating and integrating ideas of kindness, love and respect in the hearts and minds of her students both in and out of the classroom setting. She is often quoted as saying, “Kindness is not something you do – kindness is something you ARE!”
How it began
In January 2007, Orly Wahba boarded a plane to set out on a family vacation. During an airport stopover, she checked her voicemails, and received tragic news: a young girl from my community, 7 year-old Stella Laniado, had passed away from leukemia.
As a teacher, she had already encountered grief in her classroom – just three years prior, her students had lost a classmate. Now, just as they were recovering from the shock and pain of that tragic death, another one struck. They would be devastated. Hence, Orly’s first reaction was panic: “How would I help my 7th grade students make sense of yet another tragic loss?”
Thoughts and questions flooded her mind. How do you find order in such a chaotic world? How do you stay afloat when so many of life’s events seem to pull you downward?
The organization was born
Hours later, she boarded the second plane for her connecting flight. As she sat dazed and disheartened, Orly looked to her right and a small sign caught her eye: “LIFE VEST INSIDE.” Her eyes fixated on those three small words, she smiled and felt an instant comfort. She explains: “A life vest has the ability to stay afloat regardless of how much one may push down upon it. Our life vest, our ability to overcome our hardships, to make it through comes from inside. Through the kindness we bestow on others, through the kindness others bestow upon us – we help keep each other afloat in the stormy seas of life.”
Life Vest Inside was founded by Orly Wahba in September of 2010 and is based in Brooklyn, New York.
In October 2011, Life Vest Inside posted this video (above) called “Kindness Boomerang”. Masterfully shot all in one take, it shows a chain reaction of random kindness, as strangers are helped—and then help others—through a bustling cityscape. It avoids being merely sentimental through the expert execution, and even achieves a strange power—packing more authentic human emotion into its five minutes than most corporate advertisers manage in a year or more.
Kindness changes lives, it helps us rise after we fall—and at that very moment I made a conscious commitment to spread that message to the world.
Orly Wahba has recently spoken about the ‘Magic of Kindness’ on the international TED2013 conference in Long Beach, California.
Orly, you are our Loving Soul!