Creating Kind Karma Through Art

Kind Karma is a social enterprise that employs at-risk and transitioning homeless youth in Toronto to handcraft quality jewelry.

When founder Laurinda Lee-Retter left university, she suffered from mental illness that made any kind of employment challenging. When she tried to work, her mental health made it difficult to stay in any job for longer than a year. These experiences were a lightbulb moment for Laurinda, leading her to recognize an inherent issue in society: although there were existing programs dedicated to helping marginalized citizens of society find employment, the positions offered were not always the right fit.

Many at-risk and transitioning homeless youth have faced significant obstacles and experience unique challenges. These youth may not have the same level of education as their peers, suffer from mental illnesses that they are learning to manage or are healing from emotional challenges. As a result of their often limited education, most of the jobs available to them are retail or service-based and require long hours, constant public interaction and minimal flexibility. Laurinda knew from personal experience that these types of jobs were not a good fit for everyone.

This was the catalyst for Kind Karma.

Founded in Toronto in 2017, Kind Karma employs marginalized youth, who are often transitioning out of homelessness, to create fine jewelry in a setting that allows them to flourish. In addition to receiving fair hourly wages, employees are encouraged to discover their individual dreams. They are then given the sales proceeds to support the achievement of their goals, including enrolling in post-secondary education, securing permanent housing or taking courses for personal and professional development.

Because of this safe environment, Kind Karma employees stay employed longer than they have in other positions. They are eager to come to work, interact with each other and make beautiful jewelry that they know is appreciated. Kind Karma’s innovative art therapy-based employment model aims to break the cycle of poverty by enabling future leaders to reach their full potential. Then, as successful adults, they can continue to pay kindness forward by helping those in need.

Kind Karma hopes to expand and open offices in major cities across Canada and North America to continue helping at-risk youth who often fall through the cracks. As the company grows, Laurinda hopes to promote her employees throughout the organization. Eventually, Kind Karma will be spearheaded by the very youth who benefitted from the company most.

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