Need a little reminder that there’s still good in the world? Our kindness champions have it in spades.
Since the launch of The Kindness Cup in our last issue, calling out for everyday kindness heroes, we were inundated with so many nominations that it made our hearts sing. Every single entrant was a winner in our eyes, but we managed to narrow it down to 10 good humans. Congratulations to our 10 incredible winners (including the Bank Australia People’s Choice winner chosen by you!) – thanks for making the world a kinder place!
A Class Act
BANK AUSTRALIA PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER!
Seeing a real need to weave kindness into her classroom, primary school teacher Sarah Weston, aka @giftedandtalentedteacher, created a free 20-Day Kindness Challenge which has since been downloaded 20,000 times. Grounded in a research-based approach to wellbeing, each day the resource presents a challenge to students and teachers alike to try something new, something kind or something to promote positivity within themselves, others or the world.
“My hope is to always make a difference beyond the four walls of my classroom,” Sarah says. “Kindness means lifting, loving and supporting. It means being proud of yourself and being proud of others. Kindness is an act that lifts one’s self, others and the world. When we are concerned with giving ourselves permission to focus on our social, physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual wellbeing, we elevate our health and inadvertently move ourselves, and others, to a place of thriving. Kindness means being selflessly considerate about the feelings, emotions and wellbeing of others. When one receives a random act of kindness they are likely to pay it forward (the research shows – I promise!). Just as importantly, kindness means being a champion of our world. To volunteer and to consider the bigger picture. When we work as a collective, we don’t just make ripples, we make waves.”
Inspired by her previous life as a member of Circus Solarus (a theatre company focused on roving performance, environmental education and community engagement at festivals and events), her volunteer work in a children’s early learning centre and missing her own five-year-old niece, 72-year-old Cynthia Turner arranged a weekly Zoom story time for the kids in her neighbourhood when the pandemic hit. Dressing up in various costumes and reading from a collection of children’s books, she teleported the kids to treasure islands and magic forests, encouraging them to draw along and make up their own endings – and not to mention gave the parents a break and time to work from home.
“It was great fun!” Cynthia says. “I dressed up, the children drew and we were able to show each other the pictures. I was missing the children in my own life so thought I could at least have the storytelling sessions through Zoom. I suppose it was an act of kindness, but I enjoyed it and it was also an act of kindness that the parents showed towards me becoming so readily involved. We’re all still friends. As the song says, kindness makes the world go around.”
The Job Keeper
Distressed by the plight of temporary visa holders out of work in the hospitality industry, Dani Valent leapt into action at the start of the pandemic, making it her mission to put these often overlooked members of our community first. From creating a free website with resources for overseas nationals to petitioning the government to extend COVID-19 relief packages and providing groceries through the Attica Soup Project, Dani aimed to shine a light on those working and paying taxes who were then omitted from all major government support packages. Looking after up to 50 people per week, Dani says her work is small, grassroots and personal.
“I believe that we have a duty as a community to look after everyone who is part of our community,” Dani says. “To me it was simply not right or fair to leave temporary visa holders out in the cold during a global pandemic. That is not the Australia I want to live in so I did some small actions to show my support and create change. Kindness is a first principle. It is basic but profound. Kindness is an outlook and an instigator of action. Kindness – I hope – is at the heart of my life.”
With a love of craft, sewing and upcycling, retired taxi driver Jan Haisma has been driving a feeling of connection through her social sewing and craft groups – collecting elderly members and taking them to doctor and specialist appointments and the group meetings. She even took two group members on a 3000-kilometre driving holiday to cheer them up during COVID. Thanks to Jan’s tireless efforts, the women, who would otherwise be socially and geographically isolated, are thriving and staying connected to society in a positive way. They themselves are now able to give back to these community groups and share their knowledge with other group members.
“I don’t do these deeds for recognition, I do it because I absolutely enjoy it,” Jan says. “Kindness to me is a natural act that makes you feel good and I don’t even think about it – it’s just a normal thing for me to do.”
As the manager of Lagoon Creek Cafe, an offshoot of not-for-profit charity Better Together, Susan Jones provides a tailored approach to individual disability support. The cafe has grown to become a safe and nurturing hub for connection, and for some of the service users, their time spent there is often their only genuine human connection for the week. Navigating COVID-19 as a restaurant presented many challenges, but Susan was able to ensure everyone felt seen and connected from Zoom sessions focused on menu planning, seating plans and decor changes to just playing silly games, knitting, reading and being present for the staff and their families.
“In my early sixties I decided it was time for a sea change in career,” Susan says. “I had always worked in the healthcare sector but it was my time to give back to the community and I haven’t looked back. On and off duty, I take every opportunity to contribute to positive change. Whenever there is a need, acts of kindness apply. For me, kindness is an action from the heart. Even the smallest kind gesture can have a positive life-changing effect. Just a smile can create a moment of happiness. Kindness is connectivity from one heart to another.”
The Koala Hugger
Spending her days administering medication, providing fresh eucalyptus leaves and literally counting poo (the aim is 100 scats!), Sharon Grady goes above and beyond to give back to our smaller, furrier friends – the koalas. Quietly moving through the world looking out for her fellow human beings, animals and the natural environment, Sharon is trained in wildlife rehabilitation and drives around with rescue tools in her car (think laundry basket, towels, welder’s gloves and a net), always on standby if a call comes in. She was particularly busy throughout Australia’s Black Summer, in which fires killed or displaced nearly three billion animals, and regularly went on ‘black walks’ after a fire had moved through in search of animals in need of water and treatment. Now she volunteers at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary every Friday, where she knows each of the koalas by name, their unique characteristics and backstories.
“Koalas are such uniquely special animals and their existence in the future is being critically challenged by habitat reduction, bushfires and climate change,” Sharon says. “To be kind is recognising my personal blessings, which enable me to share my time, good health and appreciation of the marvellous wildlife Australia showcases.”
The Regional Champion
Inspired to take action after watching the drought coverage in 2019, Kristin Bonner founded The Merry Muster to give back to small businesses doing it tough in the bush. What began as a simple callout on social media and a single bus in 2019, expanded into a whopping seven buses and 350 people who travelled to the drought-declared Southern Downs region in 2020 to spend their Christmas money in small towns instead of with big businesses. The day saw a mammoth $114,000 spent in the regional communities and additional goods donated to local communities including Share the Dignity, Stanthorpe Wildlife Rescue and the Warwick Community Van. These goods totalled 35 cubic metres of donations – picture 175 hay bales! The reach and impact of what started out as a simple act of kindness has spread tenfold.
“Kindness means thinking bigger than your own backyard,” Kristin says. “Little acts of kindness can have a big flow-on effect and the best reward is hearing how you made a difference – no matter how small – to someone’s life. I am so truly thankful that this idea resonated with so many like-minded people and became an event more impactful than me and a car full of friends!”
Mother of Kindness
Founding the charity Little Things for Tiny Tots after having her own children, Kiren Bigwood provides baby supplies to mothers in need in Perth – particularly those living in shelters and in poverty. Five years on, she still works tirelessly and volunteers to help new mums as best as she can. Through the charity, mothers in need not only gain much-needed baby supplies but little extras – such as personalised cards, baby books and baby toys – as morale boosters.
“Motherhood should be a time of joy and happiness, not stress or fear over not being able to provide for your newborn,” Kiren says. “Being involved with Little Things for Tiny Tots, I’m so lucky to experience the kindness of others on a regular basis. I’m always amazed at the generosity of our community. We have supporters who have requested donations to our charity in lieu of gifts for their own baby showers, sleep-deprived mothers who attend volunteer sessions with their newborns in tow, and others who have heard about our stock shortages and purchased nappies and wet wipes online to be delivered to us. They all inspire me to keep going; kindness is definitely contagious and every act, small or large, makes our world a better place.”
Out of the Box
After spending five years working, living and learning in remote communities in the Northern Territory, Emma Sullings founded the Happy Boxes Project as a way of giving back. Now supporting over 25 First Nations communities, the Happy Boxes Project provides women in need with a collection of toiletries and beauty products to spread kindness and happiness.
“I am a true believer in the gift of giving,” Emma says. “It feels so amazing to be able to make another woman feel special, to feel loved and worthy. And in return, I feel worthy, and that I am living with purpose. I feel so incredibly privileged that I am in a position to help others, I will never take that privilege for granted.
“For me, kindness can be as simple as a smile to a stranger – never take for granted how much a person may need a smile – or offering a hug to someone that looks like they need it. Even if they don’t take you up on it, the positive impact has already been achieved just by you offering. And this is why it’s so powerful – it’s free, it’s simple, everyone can offer it and it can be the catalyst for so many wonderful things.”
The Hand That Feeds
Moving to Australia from Syria over 50 years ago, Jimmy Fahham is the kind of person who’s always ready to help out. After working as a caterer and in the restaurant industry for many years, he now volunteers for Community Friends – a South Brisbane charity that provides meals to those doing it tough on the street and living on the poverty line. In 2020, the numbers of people in need facing food insecurity skyrocketed and Community Friends became a huge operation, often supplying food to hundreds of people who waited in line for hours. Jimmy stood up when the pandemic first hit, recognising the lack of supplies to feed all those in need and used his connections to source extra food. He still spends hours each week driving around before helping to hand it out. With Jimmy’s act of kindness and the hard work of the whole group, everyone who lines up is able to access fresh, good food.
“My given name is Akram, which translates to kindness,” Jimmy laughs. “It’s just something natural to me, and it always makes me feel good. Everyone should give it a try and I believe if you manage to help a person, it makes you feel better for a long while.”
Thanks to our lovely partners for their amazing prizes for our 10 winners! Our gorgeous handmade ceramic Kindness Cups were crafted by the talented Brisbane ceramicist Bonnie Hislop, and the ‘be kind to yourself’ packs with self-care goodies were from Biome Eco Store. Big hugs to Outland Denim for contributing to the People’s Choice Award.
Most of all, we’re SO grateful to Bank Australia for helping make this happen! One of Australia’s few B Corp-certified banks, Bank Australia believes in a fair and just world – working with their customers to use money as a force for good to help create positive impact for people, their communities and the planet. That’s what we call kindness.