The Power of Dreaming: Freeing Georgia’s Children from Anxiety

By: Kim Normand Dobrin, Co-Founder and CEO, Free the Mind Co

Kim Normand Dobrin, Co-Founder and CEO, Free the Mind Co, has over 30 years of international leadership experience, including work with the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Institute and founding the Apartheid Museum. An Ashoka Fellow, she is dedicated to children, education, and Social Emotional Learning, and leads the “Freeing Freddie the Dream Weaver” book series, inspiring individuals to discover their potential and live fulfilling lives.

What does it mean to have dreams? Dreams represent potential, opportunity, and the ability to overcome obstacles. Every child holds the ability to dream big, achieve and evolve. However, anxiety and fear can restrict their potential and limit their opportunities.

Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevalence of anxiety among children was a growing concern. Since March 2020, this issue has escalated to alarming proportions, with one in four children grappling with anxiety disorders. This statistic is not merely a number; it profoundly affects a child’s behavior and performance, both at school and at home, ultimately dampening their dreams.

Tragically, the rate of depression and suicide among teenagers has surged by nearly 40 percent in recent years. This is why our focus is on elementary age children – to sow the seeds early, equipping them with the skills and tools to navigate life’s challenges. Parents, teachers, and caregivers are all working hard to confront this mounting crisis, but they need additional support and resources. Together, we can ensure that every child finds encouragement and inspiration to keep dreaming.

Free the Mind Co developed an innovative online program based on the storybook, “Freeing Freddie: The Dreamweaver” to help children overcome their fears and access their dreams by understanding and normalizing their emotions, building self-awareness, and developing positive relationships. We’ve designed this program to be adaptable across three distinct settings: schools, group homes, and foster parents’ homes. “Freeing Freddie” equips parents, caregivers, and educators with a structured approach and practical tools, ensuring that more children receive the help they need.

We are proud to partner with Amerigroup, who sponsored the program’s implementation in two Lawrenceville schools. Through this collaboration, we have trained over 200 teachers, impacting more than 3,500 children in these two locations alone. Amerigroup’s support enables us to extend our reach to children in group homes and with foster parents, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable youth have the resources for improved emotional understanding and positive relationship development.

With more than 1.6 million children enrolled in schools across Georgia, we are committed to providing teachers, parents, and caregivers with the tools to help children combat anxiety and build their self-confidence. Our approach centers on instilling self-awareness, resiliency, and curiosity in children through a literacy-based digital program, and it works!

One school that recently integrated into the “Freeing Freddie” program witnessed a remarkable decrease in behavioral incidents among participating students by upwards of 60 percent. Additionally, absenteeism declined significantly as students looked forward to school, eager to participate in the program that brings both fun and enjoyment. In fact, Fridays are now celebrated as “Freddie Fridays.”

Our goal is to reach every child in Georgia, providing them with life-changing skills and tools to bring happiness and joy into their lives. By nurturing their dreams, we not only empower them to thrive, but also help them to find lasting joy.

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