Kiki Vo - FORGIVE | Not in Our Town


Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)
Kiki is an extraordinary Sacramento student who, through her perseverance, strong character, and ability to forgive, has been able to celebrate life, finding happiness and success. Ten years ago, Kiki and her sisters were badly burned in a house fire in their native Vietnam that took the life of their mother. Raised by her father after securing treatment in the United States, Kiki and her sisters endured taunts and bullying and were separated when their father died of lung cancer a few years later. They have since been reunited.
However, Kiki does not focus on the pain from her loss. In her own words, "There is of course a part of me that is still hurting, but not from the fire. I'm hurt at the fact that I didn't forgive myself and others earlier...But now I have learned to forgive completely. I'm ready to move on to my next journey in life.”
This lesson addresses the following SEL strategies and you can have students look for these issues and examine them in themselves.
  • Self-awareness: Kiki recognizes the pain she felt from years of teasing but learns to forgive others and believe in herself.
  • Self-management: Kiki gains confidence in herself and her abilities and because of this she does not allow hurtful comments to keep her from her dream of going to college.
  • Social awareness: Kiki realizes that people often judge others based on their physical appearance. However, she expresses the idea that people may look different on the outside but everyone has similar experiences, feelings, and want similar things such as respect.
  • Relationship skills: Kiki finds support through the program and the people in Burn Camp. She develops the desire to share her story with people and inspire them.  
1.  Prior to showing the video, briefly explain the primary themes of the video. Use some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):
  • How many of you have had people tease you or call you names because of the way you look? How did this make you feel? Or maybe you know someone that has been made fun of for how they look, how do you think they felt?
  • Are people made exactly the same? (Correct answer would be “no”, even monozygotic twins aren’t exactly the same.) Why do you think people tease others for being different?
  • What does forgiveness mean to you? Should we forgive others? Why or why not?
2.  After watching the video, engage students in a dialogue about the film using some or all of the following questions (include at least one writing prompt):
  • How did forgiveness play a crucial role for Kiki throughout her life and in achieving her goals?
  • Think of a time when someone hurt you, how did you learn to forgive them? Or maybe you know someone who was hurt but was able to forgive. If you feel comfortable, share your story with one other person.
  • Mahatma Ghandi said, “Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” What are your thoughts on this quote or what does this mean to you? Do you believe it is easy or difficult to forgive?
Extension Activities
1. Nelson Mandela said, “The first lesson is forgiveness,“ he said. “You must not allow hate to fester in your brain. You can never allow racism, hatred, and bitterness to rent space in your head.” Research Nelson Mandela’s life story and write an essay on Mandela’s experiences and views of forgiveness.
2. Read and write a research paper about current research on forgiveness.
3. Write a reflection piece about forgiveness. Share your own experiences forgiving others and being forgiven. What is the impact of forgiveness on the person who forgives and on the person who was forgiven?
4. Break into small groups and identify different people who have made major acts of forgiveness. Do a Venn diagram to look for similarities and differences.
5. Reflect on Stanford University researcher Fred Luskin’s nine steps to forgiveness. Write about a time you could apply these nine steps. 
 By Geraldine Divina and Becki Cohn-Vargas





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