Share a Smile, the Eden sixth form-led mental health project, is celebrating the end of its successful first year.
Launched in February, Share a Smile is being driven by a group of 29 sixth form students, all of whom received Mental Health First Aid-accredited training. From Ullswater Community College, Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Appleby Grammar School and Kirkby Stephen Grammar School, they are passionate to make a meaningful difference in the local community on mental health. The group is being coordinated by Carlisle Eden Mind.
The sixth form students enjoyed going into local primary schools, directly reaching more than 160 pupils, to deliver workshops designed to get the students thinking about random acts of kindness. Chris Rollings, Deputy Head at North Lakes, said, “the thoughtful presentation and discussion resonated with many of the children,” while Bolton’s Head, Ruth Elston, commented, “it was well worth their visit and the children are still talking about it now.” One Year 6 student, Callum, reflected that “caring for one person could mean that they will care for someone else and it carries on,” and Matthew, also in Year 6, summarised, “we thought about acts of kindness and now we have a beautiful display.” Many of the students designed posters based around random acts of kindness and five winners were selected by the sixth form students.
The culmination of the campaign was their Random Acts of Kindness Week, from Monday 13th to Sunday 19th May, when over 100 golden “RAK” tickets were hidden and then found throughout Penrith, Appleby and Kirkby Stephen. Some of them suggested a random act of kindness for the finder to carry out, like paying a compliment to a stranger, while others contained random acts of kindness given by more than 60 local businesses like free cinema tickets, there for the finder to receive. “We put a smile on people’s faces and realised how much people do appreciate little gifts,” reflected one of the sixth formers. A reaction that was particularly moving came from an elderly woman. “You are the only people I have spoken to all day, and for you to share this with me has made my day- no, my week.”
Throughout this campaign, the sixth formers have developed a variety of skills ranging from the professional use of social media and graphic design to press and public relations, alongside a better understanding of mental health. “Individually, the campaign helped me to recognise when I’m not feeling 100%, and that it is okay to feel like that, that you are not alone,” shared one sixth former. “I would just love for this to be carried on in all schools.”
Phil Dew, the chair of Eden Local Committee’s Children and Young People’s Working Group that funded the project, said Share a Smile has “exceeded all our expectations.” He added that the project has really “blazed the trail,” with several other Districts in Cumbria and Local Authorities in England thinking of running a similar project. He attributes this to the fact that “there is something particularly authentic and profound about young people taking responsibility for each other and rediscovering the importance of simple acts of kindness.”
“We hope that Share a Smile will continue in 2019/20,” he confirmed.