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Rabbi brings the art of kindness to Joburg

Be Kind, they say. They’re the first in what David Masinter hopes will ultimately be a series of 18 art installations around Johannesburg.

It’s a project to break the spiral of negativity – particularly in the City of Gold.

“I’m tired of people saying this is a crime city, that there’s nothing worth celebrating. I want to motivate them to think differently, but most of all just to be kind.”

The artwork follows a poster board campaign that ran for three months last year, being suspended over December and January, and which will restart in February.

The campaign, stark in its simplicity, merely injunctions to drivers and passers-by: “Tell someone They Look Great” read one; “Just Be Kind” instructed another; “Complain Less , Smile More”, “Make Someone A Coffee” and even, “Call Your Mom”.

“We are just trying to bring the art of kindness to Johannesburg,” says the Chabad House Rabbi who was the architect of Acts of Random Kindness, the little yellow plastic arks that have been distributed to Johannesburgers for the last five years for them to fill up with unwanted change and given randomly to those in need.

Masinter is a firm believer in the overwhelming humanity and compassion of people – especially South Africans.

“There’s a teaching,” he says, “that if someone does bad, speaks it or even thinks it, a negative energy is created. On the other hand, if one does good, speaks good, a positive energy is created.”

So far, 700 000 arks have been distributed since 2014, with Masinter’s goal being a million.

Added to that, 140 000 underprivileged children have benefited from the parallel Chabad House literacy programme that establishes township libraries and trains teachers. The art project and the billboard campaign hope to build on this.

“We’re not selling anything. We’re only advertising kindness,” he says.

“All we are hoping to accomplish is to foster an increase in acts of goodness and kindness in our city and beyond – and, by doing that, change the world for good.”

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7-Year-Old Spreads Kindness At School With “Rocks Of Encouragement”

7-year-old Stephany Martinez is the reason why. “I put some rocks around the school,” Martinez said.

To be clear, they were not just “some rocks.” They were the result of a collaboration between Martinez and her mother, Rosy Mendez.

Mendez, at home, had been stressing the importance of kindness to her daughter.

“Kindness is contagious,” Mendez said. “If you are nice to someone, this person is going to be nice to you.”

So, the two came up with the idea of painting rocks with bright colors, then writing inspirational messages on them with the hope of scattering them around the school. That is if Principal Milly Estrada agreed to it.

“Immediately, I said, ‘Of course,'” Estrada said. “In all my years in education, I had never had a someone come to me with such an initiative.”

Now, dozens of “Rocks of Encouragement” adorn the school.

The hope, Martinez says, is that the messages will provide a boost to any of her classmates who are feeling down or, as Martinez puts it, having a “blue” day.

“When someone has a blue day they could pass by and see the rock and it’s kind of a message to them and probably they could have a happy day again,” Martinez said.

Martinez says her classmates have told her they love the rock and their positive messages.

Adults around her hope it inspires other kids to do something similar and, perhaps, turn a single rock of encouragement into an avalanche of kindness.

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New flushing toilets and taps for pupils after Zondo repays act of kindness

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo visited Ixopo in southern KwaZulu-Natal this week and changed the plight of pupils at his former school, Emazabekweni Primary.

From now on pupils at the school will no longer have to use pit toilets after flushing toilets and taps were installed.

This was the judge’s initiative to pay back an act of kindness to those less fortunate after he was a recipient of goodwill when he was a law student many years ago.

During an interview with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Justice Zondo recounted how businessman Solly Bux – then based in Ixopo – made a deal with him to provide groceries for his family so he would have an opportunity to further his education and study law.

But when he returned to settle his debt after graduating from university, Bux refused to take the money and instead asked him to repay the kindness with good deeds.

In 2017, Justice Zondo, Bux and their families met and the Zondo and Bux Educational Trust was established to assist historically disadvantaged pupils. On Thursday, the judge, his wife Sithembile and trustees visited two schools in the area.

“I came back to take further the message that Mr Bux gave me; namely, do for others what I have done for you and I am very grateful that Mr Bux continues to do his philanthropist work,” said Justice Zondo.

“The school principal told me his school was very much down the line in terms of priorities, the issue of toilets can’t wait, it’s very urgent. After I had spoken with the provincial government and they seemed not to be able to assist, I then spoke with Mr Shabir Chohan who is helping in the trust and he contacted people who could help with funding,” he said.

The trust received a donation of R1million from the South African Muslim Charitable Trust which was used to build a borehole and to replace pit toilets.

The trust also completed the construction of a hall at the neighbouring Amazabeko High School which had been left incomplete since 2016.

The judge received a warm welcome from residents, childhood friends and even people who had attended school with him.

He said although his family had relocated to Durban when their house was torched during political violence, the walls of the building remained and would always serve as a reminder of his childhood.

“This is the community that made me what I am. It’s wonderful to come back home when you have good news to share with people.

I was happy to see a lot of people that I have not seen in a long time. Around 1992, during political violence, my home was attacked and burnt. What remains are just walls. Those walls remind me of where I am coming from,” he said.

During his speech, he encouraged pupils to study further and not to be discouraged by circumstances.

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Feilding fundraiser remembered for dedication and kindness

Daphne Sowerby was the type of humble, kind and dedicated person who holds a community together.

She worked hard to make life better for her family and everyone around her and devoted the last 26 years of her life to raising more than $100,000 for Palmerston North’s Arohanui Hospice.

Daphne worked almost fulltime creating knitwear, craft work, jams and baking to sell at an annual fundraising stall at her home and “Daphne’s Stall” became legendary in Feilding.

She died peacefully at the Nelson Residential Care Centre in Feilding on December 22, aged 88, after a long and fulfilling life, surrounded by family.

Daughter Aileen Rutherford said it was touching to see how many people from the community and the hospice joined the family at her mother’s memorial service.

Daphne would have enjoyed the gathering, she said.

“She made so many friendships through [her community work]… and she always loved having people around.”

Murray Sowerby said his mother, and his father Albert, both grew up on rural properties near Waituna West – and both shared a sense of humility and hospitality.

“Mum and Dad were never high-rollers. They worked hard to make a happy and comfortable life, and that’s all they ever wanted for themselves.”

They never really travelled, instead concentrating on making their little patch of the world better, he said.

In the early years of their marriage, before the family moved south to Feilding, Daphne was heavily involved with Waituna West School and the local Women’s Institute branch.

The couple were also foster parents, helping look after children in state care and raising them alongside their own children.

When Albert died of cancer in 1991, Daphne took comfort in her crafts and kept herself busier with them than ever before to deal with the grief.

Daphne Sowerby, with some of the hundreds of items she knitted for her annual fundraising stall.

Rutherford said the Arohanui Hospice was so kind and supportive in her father’s final days that her mum decided to sell her handiwork and donate the proceeds to help continue its work.

In 1992, Daphne held her first craft day at her home, offering a free afternoon tea to attract patrons and raising her first $200 for hospice.

Rutherford said her mother’s children’s books, with hand-stitched pictures in them and an original story by Daphne, were her favourites.

“She made hundreds of them, which people sent all over the world … She loved that. She always wanted to write children’s books growing up.”

Towards the end of her life, Daphne set out to make a unique picture book for each of her great-grandchildren.

“She wanted them all to have something to remember her by. But she didn’t manage to finish them all, due to her health.”

She is survived by her three children, 11 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren.

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Principal cooks for pupils at a rural Chinese school, repaying his childhood teachers for their kindness

When he was a lonely, fatherless third-grader, Zhang Zhanliang’s teachers were a source of comfort.

They took him into their homes for meals and stitched up his ragged clothes.

Today, Zhang, 45, is the principal of a remote Chinese village school in the eastern province of Jiangxi.

Inspired by the kindness of the teachers of his youth, he cooks for pupils whose parents work away from the community, offering a source of much-needed comfort.

“The children don’t lack money – they lack the company of their parents,” The Beijing News quoted Zhang as saying.

In September, Zhang set up an oven made from an old barrel on the playground and made his first meal for the children.

Four months later, his hot after-school meals have not only become a reliable source of nutritious food and a fun event for the children, they have made him a Chinese internet star.

Videos documenting the meals posted on a video-sharing website by a student teacher at the school have won more than 180,000 followers.

Each video under the “Happy Little School” subject heading has got hundreds of thousands of views.

Thousands of viewers have “liked” the videos and hundreds more have left supportive messages.

Left-behind children a poignant reminder of the cost of China’s development

A teacher since 1993, Zhang first taught at a private school in Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province in eastern China.

But he quit because he felt he would be more use working in a rural community where children were often being raised by their grandparents while their parents worked in cities.

Working with some of China’s 7 million “left-behind” children at the Huangni Primary School in the Yujiang district of Yingtan, also allowed Zhang to repay the teachers of his youth for the love and care they showed him.

Zhang told The Beijing News that he frequently missed classes after his father died, but rather than punish him, his teachers took care of him.

When Zhang came to the rural primary school, its enrolment was down to 25 students. It had been emptied as migrant workers took their children with them.

It was the smallest school in which Zhang had ever worked.

Picture of the hardships of a young ‘left-behind’ child in China goes viral on the internet

Moreover, his rural pupils were less confident and had weaker learning skills than the private schoolchildren he had taught in the city, according to the report.

Zhang said cooking for the children allowed him to spend more time with them and give them the attention they were missing.

What is clear is that mealtime with Zhang became a happy group event.

“Every day they came to me and asked what we would have today,” Zhang was quoted as saying. “They always hugged me or huddled me.

They were very happy and I am very happy that they trusted me.

The principal and the pupils bonded over the joint effort it took to prepare the meals.

“More importantly it made up for the love missing when their parents were away,” Zhang said.

‘Hong Kong has too much city’: villagers protest with rural murals

Zhang buys his ingredients every morning and starts preparing the meal at about 2pm so it will be ready when school is over, around 4pm.

The principal, whose salary is 4,500 yuan (US$655) a month, pays for the food from his own pocket, about 80 yuan a day.

Viewers of the videos and others inspired by Zhang’s effort tried to donate money to the cause but Zhang turned them down, saying donations would make things complicated and might make the children feel uncomfortable.

“I have enough money and I don’t smoke or drink,” Zhang said. “My wife supports me very much.”

The videos show children helping Zhang prepare the meals.

In one, the children walk to a field to dig up sweet potatoes and later gather around Zhang as he places the cut vegetables in the steamer. When he finally lifts the lid, they applaud with excitement.

Beijing’s cruel eviction of migrant workers is no satire

More than 90 videos have been uploaded, many of them showing the children pouring seasonings or ingredients into the pot or playing in the playground while Zhang cooks.

The climax comes when they queue up for food and enjoy it outdoors.

Among the typical meals are steamed pork ribs with sticky rice, noodles with beef and mushrooms, seaweed soup with steamed buns and noodles with pork and liver.

He produced the meals in modest conditions, washing the potatoes in a river and cooking with water pumped from underground.

Starting the fire always captures the children’s interest and they run to collect dried leaves or branches.

Those who behave well were rewarded by being allowed to help Zhang start the fire by blowing on it.

“It’s very pleasant to be with lovely children and also to be contributing to society by teaching them to be a better person,” Zhang was quoted as saying.

“Rural children are raised by their grandparents and they need guidance.

“I hope I can [fill] them with knowledge so they can leave school with confidence and receive higher education in the big cities.”

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Kindness of strangers helps brave Six-year-old to step out at last

Six-year-old Ellice Barr had been unable to walk due to cerebral palsy as a result of brain damage sustained at her birth.

She needed an operation to help her walk that was not available on the NHS.

So kindhearted strangers stepped in and raised the money needed. It was the best present that little Ellice could have asked for this Christmas.

Mother Amy, 32, who lives with husband Joe, 38, an assistant store manager, in Deal, Kent, with their son Jay, eight, and Joe’s daughters Chelsea, 18, and Cayse-Jo, 16, said: “We have just been overwhelmed with people’s kindness in helping to raise the money to help Ellice walk.

“To see her standing on her own two feet without any help is just the most amazing sight in the world. It is the best Christmas present for her we could ever have wished for.”

Ellice was diagnosed with Diplegic Spastic Cerebral Palsy when she was just 22 months old.

She had been born seven weeks early, weighing a tiny 3lb 9oz, and while her brother had been standing up at six months, Ellice was late even crawling.

Mr Barr said: “Ellice could only stand on her tiptoes and she couldn’t walk.

“She saw a paediatrician and then was diagnosed.

“It was a massive shock – we had never imagined it would be anything like that.” Cerebral palsy occurs when a child sustains a brain injury before or at birth, most commonly when premature.

Parts of the brain that control leg movement and coordination are particularly vulnerable. The difficulties it causes change continuously in the growing child.

Ellice spent the first years of her life using a walking frame and a wheelchair.

Then the couple heard about the selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery which can help children with cerebral palsy to walk.

The six-hour operation involves cutting the nerves in the lower spine responsible for making the muscles become rigid.

Over the following months movement and walking improve. But it isn’t available on the NHS.

Mr Barr said: “We set up a fundraising page for Ellice in November last year and donations started to come in.

All these people were willing to help her achieve her dream.” Backers included Millwall star Jed Wallace, who carried Ellice on to the pitch as team mascot in April.

In May they hit their target of £65,000 to pay for the operation and months of physiotherapy afterwards.

Ellice had surgery at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital in July.

Mr Barr said: “It was difficult at first because she is having to use muscles to walk that she has never used before. But she is doing fantastically well. For the first four months she started to walk using sticks to help with balance but a few weeks ago she started to walk without them. To be able to see her walk like this is a dream come true – we never thought that we would see it happen.

“Her brother Jay is fantastic with her and he has helped her recovery enormously. He wants her to play tag and chase with him too, which has helped her improve a lot quicker.”

Ellice is due to have an operation to lengthen her calf muscles next year, which surgeons have said will help her recovery even more.

Mr Barr added: ‘We are so proud of what she has achieved, and to see her walk now is the best present any of us could have asked for. We are going to have a lovely Christmas this year.”

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Tampa boy to hold public birthday party to teach kindness, raise medical funds

An inspiring Tampa boy has been in and out of the hospital his entire life, and still makes time to bring kindness to all. He wants to spread his message by throwing a birthday party, open to everyone and anyone.

Eric Piburn is on a mission to teach the art of kindness to others. He has been doing this for a while, and sometimes from his hospital room.

He has brought cookies to officers, and flowers to nurses. The 12-year-old has had four heart surgeries, but still needs more work to his lungs and heart.

But there is still time for presents, he said during his visit to Good Day Tampa Bay.

His party will be held on February 3 from 11 am. to 3 p.m. at Old McMickey’s Farm in Odessa. Piburn said there will be cake, superheroes, fun, and most importantly, activities to teach kindness.

“It’s going to be one of the best birthdays in the world,” he said. “I rest my case.”

Old McMickey’s Farm is offering discounted tickets for the public party. The money will go toward Eric’s medical fund.

Guests will be treated to cupcakes, pizza, and visits from members of the 501st Legion dressed as Star Wars characters. There will also be superheroes and princesses from the organization, Costumers with a Cause.

Eric said he cannot wait to see Spiderman and Captain America. His birthday was actually in December, but he didn’t get a chance to celebrate it because he was in the hospital.

“Last year was really tough,” his mother, Randi, explained. “So, we’re just going to celebrate this year. We’re going to have a good time and have a great time and have a great party.”

“Let’s give mom a round of applause,” Eric said while clapping.

In 2018 Eric was named “Kindness Warrior of the Year” by Julie Weintraub’s Hands Across the Bay.

“We just intend to make 2019 his year of kindness,” said Amanda Romero, who is organizing the party, “and hopefully get Ellen’s attention.”

During Eric’s time in the hospital, he also watches TV, and one show caught his attention: The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The message from the show is one that has stuck with him: Be kind to one another.

And Eric hopes it’s a habit that he can teach others, and, maybe, get the attention of Ellen DeGeneres, herself. One day, he hopes to meet her.

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Volunteer firefighters receive heart-warming act of kindness at Auckland café

The crew at the Silverdale Volunteer Fire Brigade in north Auckland have thanked an anonymous woman for an amazing act of kindness on Sunday.

A group of four volunteer firefighters were sitting for lunch at an Orewa café when a woman walked in, paid for their food and drinks, wished them a happy New Year, and promptly left.

The Brigade posted to their Facebook page on Monday thanking the “Lady in Pink”.

It said the four firefighters were on a 24 hour shift and were “unaware of the kindness that was to be bestowed upon them by a total stranger”.

The post said the meal helped the team to keep up energy at a callout later in the day.

“You paid for four meals and four drinks, which well sustained the team a couple of hours later at a vegetation fire in Dairy Flat.”

The volunteer service said the four were “absolutely stunned mullets at the time” and apologised for not thanking her before she left the café.

“So, Lady in Pink – a very heartfelt THANK YOU from Sunday’s Red Watch crew at the Silverdale Volunteer Fire Brigade.

“You are a beautiful human being.”

They followed up the post with a list of ways to “pay it forward every day” including picking up litter and leaving a good review for a local business.

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Richmond woman spreads kindness across the world with special signs

For Gini Bonnell, it all started with a whiteboard, a marker and a message that focused on two words, “Be kind.”

“I believe kindness is a choice,” said creator of “Be Kind,” Gini Bonnell.

The signs are a way for Bonnell to get her message out to the world on how to cope with any negativity the world has to offer.

“I was just getting very concerned with all the negativity that was surrounding us,” said Bonnell.

So, Bonnell decided to plant a sign in her front yard with a message saying, “In a world where you can be anything, be kind.”

Little did she know, that seed would blossom into something much bigger down the road.

“I started noticing as people were going by they were honking their horns and waving and I thought, ‘hmmmm,’” said Bonnell.

From there, the “Be kind” movement was started.

“It’s all word of mouth, friends telling friends, strangers telling strangers,” said Bonnell.

She calls her friends who help her pass them out, angels.

The best part, she does this all out the kindness of her heart – everything is totally free. Each sign is made with love, as she believes kind words or gestures have the power to change someone’s day.

“It’s the golden rule, it’s so simple and so powerful,” said Bonnell.

The “Be Kind” signs hanging in schools, businesses and people’s yards serve as a daily reminder to do the right thing.

“Everybody has a story to tell. Everybody has something going on,” said Bonnell. “Forget about yourself, and think about the other person and be kind.”

Bonnell said if the sign can touch just one heart, then its purpose has been served.

I’m not an artist, I can barely draw a straight line,” said Bonnell. “But I knew in my heart that I wanted to do something.”

Even though you can find hundreds of signs hanging up across the country. Bonnell wants you to make your sign of kindness to continue the movement.

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Students’ acts of kindness set good example

Understanding the importance of lending a hand, of helping others in need, is something everyone should know. But, it’s a particularly good lesson for children to learn early — to set a foundation of kindness and generosity.

Some elementary school students recently demonstrated why that is, and how the positive impact of helping has no age parameters.

ABC-Stewart school students in Grades 1-6 recently raised nearly $1,000 through a community service project to help children who are less fortunate have a brighter holiday season. They used the money to buy gifts for nine children served by the United Way of Bartholomew County.

The students brought the gifts back to school, where they wrapped them prior to the gifts being taken to the United Way. The students also made holiday cards.

The project resonated with the students.

“It feels good to give a gift than to receive one,” sixth-grader Sam Gupta said.

That sentiment was also expressed by the actions of 10-year-old Teddy Littrell, a fifth-grader at Southside Elementary. He came up with the idea to spread holiday cheer for nursing home residents by creating homemade Christmas cards and pairing them with warm socks. Littrell called the project Santa’s Socks and Sweets.

The gifts were delivered recently by Littrell and willing family and friends. Not only did the gifts warm the hearts of the nursing home residents, but helped heal the hearts of family members who have been saddened by the loss of an uncle a little more than four years ago.

What the students did was put a smile on the recipients of the gifts and lift their hearts during the holiday season, and show that it can be better to give than to receive.

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