During these uncertain times, we’ve all had to dig a little deeper. Finding ways to connect, to create meaning, to feel a sense of community, or to affect change are all a little harder to come by. Despite these challenges, Dave Kiyvyra has forged ahead with his mission of keeping at-risk students healthy through access to literacy programs and good nutrition. As someone who inspires everyone he meets with his kindness and passion, Kiyvyra is a beacon of hope to children around the world.
“I am truly inspired by the vision Dave and his wife Alicia had for making sure local kids have access to healthy food when they’re not at school,” said his colleague at Lindamood-Bell, Melissa Garner. “And I am so grateful to them for their commitment to building awareness around this critical issue. We are lucky that he extends that same commitment and passion in his work with teachers and students in our school partnerships.”
As Director of Development for Lindamood-Bell for Schools (LB4S), Dave has worked to implement literacy programs in over 30 states across the U.S. and internationally, including Hong Kong, Taipei, Honduras, Jamaica, Japan, London, Myanmar, and Singapore. It was through his work with LB4S that Dave was inspired to start his non-profit, To Be Well Fed whose mission is to help every child in Washington D.C. arrive at school on Monday morning, well-nourished and ready to learn.
We caught up with Dave and asked him to shed some light on his work and his philosophy of life.
Can you tell us a little bit about your non-profit and how it got started?
Dave Kiyvyra (DK): To Be Well Fed (TBWF) provides weekend meals to elementary school students in the Congress Heights neighborhood in Washington, DC. The two schools we work with, and the neighborhoods they are in, have a large number of homeless or housing unstable students, and the students rely primarily on school for meals during the week. I had originally started working with those schools because they partnered with Lindamood-Bell to have their most at-risk students receive intensive small group reading instruction from our staff.
We launched TBWF after reading of the death of a father of a student in one of our schools. The father was shot dead in the middle of the day right in front of the school, and reading of how dramatically this student's life had changed made me feel like we just had to do something. I had heard about weekend meal programs before, and decided this was a chance to do something positive.
Why do you think it's important for people to give back to their communities?
DK: As wealthy as our society is, it's appalling that there are kids who do not have enough food to eat. I can't fix the systemic issues behind that inequity, but I can play a small role. I was born and raised in DC, and have always considered myself a native of DC, but the reality is I am a native of one small section of DC. This gives me a chance to help folks in my home city, and thus become more of my city. Driving the meals across town on Friday mornings is one of my favorite times of the week. It fills me with a feeling of hope and positivity. As much as this helps kids, it helps me mentally. It helps me be a better person, husband, father and co-worker.
What is your favorite part about your work with Lindamood-Bell?
Photo courtesy of The Gleaner, Kingston, Jamaica
DK: I've always wanted to bring these programs to kids who may not have the opportunity to go to a Lindamood-Bell Learning Center. Teaching someone to read is the most empowering thing I can do. And if I can help one teacher, that teacher will work with hundreds of kids over their career. That's how you make a scalable impact.
What does "kindness" mean to you?
DK: Having empathy for other people. I think we can often be quick to make assumptions, or see only the things we disagree on. Kindness and empathy take work, but as researchers have shown, it helps our own brains and health.
Dave Kiyvyra Is doing his best to leave a mark of kindness on the world and he’s inspiring the next generation to do the same.