Empathy, a Natural Instinct for Impacting Change
Empathy in the World
The Oxford dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to understand another person’s feelings, experience, etc.”
In 2019 the World Economic Forum identified the decline in human empathy in its Global Risks Report. The report found that between 1979 and 2000 that levels of empathy fell by 48%. People on average feel lonelier and have fewer friends. In a summary of the report, Zurich.com pointed to increased technology use, stating:
“While technological change always causes stress, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is marked by a blurring of the line between the human and the technological, according to the Global Risks Report 2019…The result of this blurring has been an increase in loneliness, polarization and a corresponding decline in empathy”
While the world feels the impact of this decline, a 2022 study from the University of Cambridge looked at Cognitive Empathy by gender across the globe. CNN’s article all around the world, women are better empathizers than men, study finds summarizes the study. It notes cognitive empathy is “when a person is intellectually able to understand what someone else might be thinking or feeling, and they are even able to use that knowledge to predict how the person will act or feel going forward.”
The results of the study showed significantly higher cognitive empathy scores than men in 63% of the 57 countries tested. In the remaining countries, while men’s and women’s scores were similar, women’s were still higher in all countries. The study could not explain the consistently higher empathy scores for women, only confirming the results of earlier research.
In What is Empathy, Kendra Cherry identifies three main benefits of being able to experience empathy:
- Empathy allows you to build social connections with others,
- Empathizing with others helps you learn to regulate your own emotions, and
- Empathy promotes helping behaviours.
Human empathy is declining. Women’s inherent natural empathy and their increasing place in philanthropy are driving positive change. For International Women’s Day Place2Give and Karma & Cents are highlighting two females making waves out far past their local communities.
Sharon Hapton describes herself as a soup maker. She is the person who intuitively shows up at your door when you most need it. Sharon is motivated by an instinct to nurture people in the same way she cares for her own family and friends. She feels that people who have experienced trauma may feel invisible and that many have never had any shield or protection. Those are the people whom Sharon aims to see, to know, and to help.
Sharon was fortunate to have a successful career and has always given back to the community. Caring for others and showing empathy are fundamental guiding principles she inspires in those around her. When turning 50, Sharon combined those principles with her other passion, feeding people. She invited 30 girlfriends to a soup-making birthday party in support of the women and children at the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter.
From that first event, Soup Sisters took off. People of all walks would come together at soup-making events, and the feeling of purpose and camaraderie was infectious. Since March 2009, Soup Sisters has fed over four million women, children and youth in crisis. Giving now reaches 27 cities across Canada and the United States.
COVID Could Have Ended It
The original Soup Sisters model relied on volunteer soup makers who came together to deliver a Hug in a Bowl to people in their time of need. But, as with most volunteer organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic put the program at risk, as governments implemented distancing and isolation measures in March 2020.
Sharon, knew the agencies she served needed the Soup Sisters delivery more than ever. Food insecurity was rapidly increasing with the onset of the pandemic. By April 2020, the new Soup Sisters model had transformed into a Soup Bank model. Working with a food safe commercial food production facility in Edmonton Soup Sisters transitioned to large-scale kettle production and continued to deliver over 5000 lbs of freshly made flash frozen soup each month nationwide.
When it comes to asking for something, Sharon is fearless. With production handled Sharon now had to tackle distribution. Never one to back down when asking, Sharon cold-called the President of VersaCold. She quickly and succinctly described her need and VersaCold stepped up, delivering their soup to over forty agencies and shelters across Canada free of charge.
Soup Sisters soup is delivered flash-frozen, ready to heat and serve. The delicious heat and serve soup reinforces the perspective that no matter the circumstance we all deserve high-quality food. Agencies appreciate it has been developed specifically for them, and most importantly, that the donation is not random, thereby resulting in minimal waste.
“We give to others the same way we give to our own, and it is our inherent belief that soup is the universal comfort food.”Sharon Hapton
National Soup Forward Day, March 3
Working with the Salvation Army and the Calgary Homeless Foundation, Soup Sisters provided over one hundred pounds of soup at Calgary LRT warming stations. Not only did they fill bellies and spread kindness, but they also inspired kindness. Volunteers saw recipients caring for each other, sharing what they could with each other. Empathy and nurturing paid forward.
How to Support “Hugs in a Bowl”
You can help Soup Sisters through MISO – Money In Soup Out. Your donation will give the gift of fresh soup to families and individuals in need of nourishment and a ‘Hug in a Bowl’. Soup Sisters is committed to providing highly nourishing, well balanced meals that provide the support needed to thrive.
Launching in April 2023, Soup Sisters combines prof
t and purpose to offer a new opportunity for restaurants to support food insecurity. Soups Sisters offers chef-crafted and flash-frozen soups delivered to the restaurant. Socially conscious diners can order Soup Sisters delicious soups in restaurants and know that the same nutritious soup will reach someone in need.
A Model for Empathy Feeding Philanthropy
Sharon Hapton is more than a soup maker. She is driven by caring for others equally, looking past trauma and circumstance to let someone in need know that she sees them. In her experience with community work and Soup Sisters, she estimates that a third of the people she meets have been affected by trauma or abuse in their family. It may look like a bowl of soup, but to the person receiving it, it is dignity and recognition of their worthiness.
Sharon Hapton has been recognized for her work regionally and nationally, selected as one of Chatelaine’s and CityTV’s Women of the Year, Global Television’s Woman of Vision, featured in Women of Influence Magazine, and chosen by YWCA – She Who Dares Honouring 150 Women through 150+ years. In 2016 Sharon received the Meritorious Service Medal, by the Governor General of Canada on behalf of the Queen for bringing honour to Canada through performing exceptional deeds.
Geri Greenall is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Spartan Delta Corp., a publicly traded energy company, and serves as a Lead Independent Director for Kelt Exploration Ltd.
A Chartered Financial Analyst, she is a well-respected energy industry leader and mentor, well-known for her professional accomplishments and contributions. In addition, her business and financial acumen, natural giving, and empathetic spirit have made her an influential force in philanthropy.
Geri has a long history of contributing to her community. Growing up in a ranching family, she was always part of a community of neighbours helping neighbours. In university, her first formal volunteer experience was with Home Care Calgary. Visiting an elderly widow, Geri helped her with errands and provided comfort and company. Getting to know the woman, she felt a tremendous sense of gratitude and reward, seeing the positive impact time and friendship can influence.
While volunteering for many events and organizations, her most notable contributions to date have been serving as a member of the Providence School Board, a Governor for Hull Services, and seven years as a Director for Discovery House Violence Prevention Society. It was with these organizations that she was able to tie her professional skills to organizational needs. Starting with the Discovery House audit committee, she learned about the unique financial needs and challenges of non-profit organizations.
Children and Trauma
Hull Services work with children, youth and families who have experienced significant challenges, including trauma. The research on the long-term impacts of trauma was shocking to Geri. Children exposed to trauma or domestic violence are more likely to grow up to be either a perpetrator or a victim. As she affectionately calls them, children, or “tiny humans, ” have difficulty dealing with or processing trauma. When children don’t get the help or mental wellness intervention they need to process trauma-related emotions, the impact is long-lasting.
The COVID-19 pandemic created a generational mental health crisis. In the aftermath of COVID, the World Health Organization observed a 25% global increase in anxiety and depression. They highlighted the significant impact on youth and women: “they are disproportionally at risk of suicidal and self-harming behaviours.” A study published by the University of Calgary found that anxiety and depression in children and adolescents have doubled in the wake of COVID. The long-term consequences could be significant without adequate tools or support to process the emotions created by the COVID pandemic.
Through work, Geri was introduced to Steve Mesler from Classroom Champions, and they connected on a shared passion for social and emotional resiliency in children. Classroom Champions is a Calgary-based organization providing Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) mentorship programs to classrooms across North America. The impact report published by Classroom Champions notes the impact of early intervention in Social and Emotional Learning (“SEL”) in helping children develop the tools to emotionally self-regulate themselves.
“Recent studies indicate that participating in SEL programs improves students’ social and emotional skills, attitudes, behaviour, and academic performance and that SEL skills developed as early as kindergarten significantly predict whether a child will complete high school, enter and complete college, avoid incarceration or drug use, have good mental health, and be employed.”
The program engages world-class Olympic, Paralympic, NCAA or professional athletes to mentor classrooms virtually for an entire school year. The athletes share their experiences of dealing with growth, resiliency, success, and failure. The athletes are inspiring examples to the children of people who were just like them and have done incredible things.
Inspired by the program, Geri hosted a luncheon in June 2022 to introduce Classroom Champions to women who had inspired or positively impacted her life. Joined by Steve Mesler, an engaged group of women learned how Classroom Champions has the power to change lives, both today and for generations to come.
She then approached her employer, Spartan Delta, with an idea to bring classroom champions to kids in the Drayton Valley School Division where they operate. With Spartan Delta’s commitment, the idea grew.
Starting in September 2022, Geri launched a campaign for Classroom Champions to leverage the connections in her professional world to benefit her philanthropic world. Beginning with five fellow female energy executives, she asked for their company’s support. When those ladies quickly delivered their own companies, Geri stepped up to sell it to the rest of the energy industry.
She strategically targeted larger producers in a given area and, using their commitment, approached surrounding partners. Geri was relentless in connecting with the decision-makers in each organization to make her pitch. Repeating their corporate social responsibility pillars back to companies, she convinced them of the collective impact they could have by collaborating. In an industry driven by bottom-line economics, she was able to sell them on the economies of scale of pooling resources together for a more significant impact.
Speaking with almost every company in western Canada, Geri committed 18 companies to a three-year sponsorship. She expects to have 5-6 additional companies on board by the end of March.
Inspiring Empathy in the Next Generation
The official announcement will come out later this month, detailing the total commitment and the organizations supporting this initiative. This groundbreaking sponsorship will bring Classroom Champions to children throughout western Canadian communities. Watch for #energizecommunities for more information.
While she joked that it is “harder for them to say no to a woman”, this is an exceptional feat in a male-dominated industry with a public perception issue. Convincing companies to collaborate for a more significant and long-lasting impact on their communities took more than persistence. It took someone with a great deal of empathy to not only be able to see the potential impact but also to sell it to boardrooms across Calgary. And the next generation will be better for it.
To support Classroom Champions visit their website now.
Women Impacting Change
Thank you to Geri and Sharon for all of the work you do to make the world a better, kinder place.
Do you have a cause you are passionate about and want to start making waves?
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Contact us today at Place2Give and Karma & Cents to help you turn your passion into change.