New festival in Limerick to foster kindness

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Acts of kindness like helping someone across the road can make someone's day. Here, Teresa McMahon, 89, from Thomondgate is given a hand by scouts Aoife Kiely and Fiona OBrien, both 12. Picture: Sean Curtin.
KINDNESS and generosity can often be in short supply as we go through the daily grind.

KINDNESS and generosity can often be in short supply as we go through the daily grind.

But a new festival to take place in the city next week will show just what pleasure can be derived from being kind to your neighbour, colleague, or a stranger in the street.

Limerick is to play host to a “fun and free” Festival of Kindness, a unique initiative which it is hoped will have a positive effect far beyond the city centre.

Between Saturday, March 14, and St Patrick’s Day, there will be a number of events with kindness at their core.

A free family fun day will take place on Bedford Row on Saturday, March 14, where parents will be encouraged to bring their children.

Children can get their faces painted, parents can enjoy free arts and crafts, and both can pet baby lambs and puppies in the baby animals corner - plus there will be free massages from physical therapists.

More than 400 local scouts on Monday will carry out acts of kindness throughout the city, including shoe shining, and delivering goods to unsung heroes like the emergency services.

And the 14-strong team behind the Kindness Festival will march in the city’s annual St Patrick’s Day parade the following lunchtime.

The genesis of the Festival of Kindness came when the Pay it Forward group – as team of local volunteers and businesses focused on acts of kindness – wanted a bigger event than last year’s single day.

Taking up the story, Michael said: “We got together and decided: Let’s just go for it, and hope the people of Limerick respond”.

And respond they did. For what is remarkable about this festival, said one of the organisers Michael O’Mahony, Clanmorris Avenue, is that all those involved are giving their time and expertise for nothing.

Companies across the city have volunteered their time and resources for the festival, including printing T-shirts, offering haircuts, and cooking biscuits and buns.

“We have no money, we have no resources. We just hoped that people would respond to it, and the response has been overwhelming. I think people are looking for the opportunity to kind,” he said.

The Pay it Forward committee comprise of 14 people from in and around Limerick, all of whom have different backgrounds.

Michael, a psychotherapist by trade, is encouraged by the response he has already had from Limerick people.

“Somebody has said to me this is one of the best things to have happened in Limerick in a long time. Limerick people are very kind. This is all coming from the ground up,” he said.

It is hoped the festival will recreate the same feel the city centre had during the visit of the giant granny last September.

Something that has been lost in more recent times is a sense of community, with many people not knowing their neighbours in the same way they might have done in the past.

On Monday, March 16, a special event taking place at the former Mount Vincent Convent in O’Connell Avenue will help this.

“The Adult Counselling Service based in O’Connell Avenue, will be dropping notes to the neighbours, up and down the street, saying: ‘We would like to invite you for tea and coffee’. It will be a nice event to help get to know your neighbours,” Michael explained.

Michael’s own festival highlight, involves a unique ‘pass the parcel’ type event involving schools, initially from the city’s northside.

“The children of Corpus Christi school in Moyross are going to bake cakes and give them to the Salesian school in Fernbank. The Salesian school will then bake more cakes and pass them onto Caherdavin National School,” he said.

“Ideally, the Caherdavin school will find another school to pass it onto, and the idea will be to do this across the city.”

Whether you are having your shoes shined by scouts, or your child is enjoying having their face painted, a reflex of people is often to give money.

But Michael insists that no donations will be accepted.

Instead, people will be asked to help in another way.

“What they can do is contact us on Facebook, and tell us they would like to give us money, and we can tell them what we need,” he explains, “For example, our scouts are baking 700 biscuits, and will be giving them out on the Monday. But we do not have bags yet. So it would be good if people could donate the bags for example.” Although this year’s Festival of Kindness is yet to happen, Michael says the team already has its eye on next year, with pledges of help already coming in from the likes of Hermitage Green.

The folk-rock band were unable to help this year due to touring commitments, but are keen to help next year, he said.

From humble beginnings, Michael hopes the festival will grow bigger next year.

But in the meantime, it is hoped it will foster a generous spirit across the county.

“All we are hoping to do is drop a pebble in the water. We are hoping to create a ripple that will become a wave of kindness, that will be ongong. It really is cool to be kind,” he concluded.

For more information, and to volunteer, telephone 085-9931929.