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Leona O'Neill: A little bit of kindness goes a very long way - and supports Hospice campaign

Many people responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with acts of kindness to support those in need and as an act of solidarity with the community. A new NI Hospice schools campaign is also highlighting the importance of being kind, says Leona O'Neill

BE KIND: Youth Ambassador and Year 10 Carrickfergus Academy pupil, Madison Wright, with Aislinn Delaney, Family Support Worker at Northern Ireland Children's Hospice

IF the last two years has taught us anything, it is that kindness and caring matters, that it helps build strong foundations in society, and that it can change lives.

When the world was thrown into chaos and we found ourselves locked down in our homes during the first wave of Covid, simple displays of kindness from our friends and our neighbours were like little lights in the dark.

Covid made us look inwards, it made our worlds smaller. People did what they could to show kindness to others in grim and bleak times and it made a real difference.

People stocked food banks until they were full, cafés gave out free meals, people stood on their doorsteps and clapped for NHS workers.

Although they were dark times, there were many shoots of light. People did what they could with what they had.

We can't let that sentiment and that positive ethos go now. It must continue.

Northern Ireland Hospice have created a 'Kindness Counts' campaign for schools across Northern Ireland in the lead up to World Kindness Day which is marked on November 28.

The charity decided to create the campaign during the Covid-19 pandemic to highlight the continued need for kindness in our community and are working with local schools to promote the 'Kindness Counts' message.

The Kindness Counts campaign provides schools with free learning resources that are based on the education curriculum for children of all ages.

Schools can celebrate World Kindness Day by taking part in interactive and fun-filled lesson plans.

Upon completion of the lesson, all pupils will receive a certificate of achievement, acknowledging their participation and will receive their Kindness Counts badge, honouring each pupil as a 'Kindness Ambassador' for the charity.

Northern Ireland Hospice is asking the schools that sign up to include some fundraising for the charity as part of the campaign.

Many have already registered to take part, including Carrickfergus Academy.

Principal Dr Paula Downing says she is excited to take part in the campaign with pupils of all year groups.

"The Hospice is a cause close to our hearts here at Carrick Academy," she said.

"Our very own Year 10 pupil Madison Wright is Youth Ambassador for Northern Ireland Hospice. We host lots of fundraising events throughout the year, and what better way to celebrate the extraordinary acts of kindness we've all witnessed this past 18 months, than to join the 'Kindness Counts Campaign'.

"The free lesson plans and resources the Hospice have developed for teachers to enjoy with their pupils are amazing and allow us to teach our children the importance of showing kindness, compassion and empathy to their friends, family, and the local community.

"We're excited to host a non-uniform day to celebrate World Kindness Day and would encourage schools across Northern Ireland to join with us, to celebrate kindness and help raise the vital funds for this much-loved local charity."

Mary McCall from the Hospice said the campaign was designed to push forward the message that kindness is more crucial than ever in today's society.

"Kindness is at the core of our work at Hospice and every year we see the best in people as they help us raise funds for our specialist palliative care," she said.

"This campaign was created because we wanted to share the message that kindness is important, the smallest of kind acts can make a huge difference in people's lives.

"If you are a teacher in a local school, please help us create a kindness movement locally, and sign up for your school to take part.

"When you register, your school will receive a range of free ready-made resources to use in your classroom. By helping us to raise funds, your school will also be helping us care for local people in the community who rely on our incredible care team in our in-patient units and in many homes across the country."

To find out more information on how you can register your school to take part in the 'Kindness Counts' schools programme, visit nihospice.org/kindnesscounts.

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