Engaging with children can embed the idea of a compassionate community for later and end of life care from a young age, thereby boosting emotional resilience and empowering the youngest members of the community to care for others in need.
Many of the ideas for compassionate community development with children and young people set out in Abel et al. (2016)1 focus on work to support schools and youth groups supporting bereaved children and young people. Ideas are also described for directly working with bereaved children. However, little is written about ways to engage with children who have not yet been affected by illness or bereavement directly.
To address this, the Acts of Kindness award scheme has been piloted in a primary school class with children aged 7-9 years old. The children were tasked with completing 10 activities covering five areas:
•Supporting older people
•Helping someone who is ill
•Giving to their community
The children choose their challenges. On completion of 10 relevant activities, the children are awarded a certificate to show their achievement. This project encourages children to take action to further develop their understanding of loss and become compassionate engaged citizens.
Selected challenges so far have included collecting food for the local food bank, visiting a care home to meet residents, writing a letter to someone that had recently lost a relative, and placing flowers on a grave.
Evaluation will be qualitative, for example analysing the chosen activities and teacher reports, and quantitative, for example, the number of children completing the award.
Ongoing, the intention is to expand the project to other primary schools in the area. Teachers have also shown an interest in younger children participating in the scheme.
Commenting on the pilot scheme, Sue Wade, head teacher at St Mary’s First School in Uttoxeter said:
“The Acts of Kindness awards have really focused the whole school on what we can all do to support people in need within the community. It has helped the children look at the many ways in which they can be kind and show they care.”
1Abel, J., Sallnow, L., Murray, S. and Kerin, M. (2016) Each Community is Prepared to Help: Community Development in End of Life Care – Guidance on Ambition Six. [Online] London: NCPC