A colourful new bench sits pride of place in the grounds of Castletown NS this September, to help children form new friendships.
The 'Buddy Bench' was handmade by prisoners and staff in the Midlands Prison, Portlaoise, and officially unveiled last month with the help of Buddy Bench Ireland.
Castletown Primary School Parents Council were behind the idea, news of which has travelled as far as Australia, where a school has made contact to get advice on making their own bench.
The Buddy Bench is part of a wider schools based programme, where children are encouraged to take a seat on the bench if they are feeling a bit alone or shy, so others can come over and show kindness and friendship by sitting next to them to chat and play.
Chairperson Jennifer Moore said it was a “truly inspirational” project to work on.
“A huge thank you to the Principal Monica Phelan and her staff for helping us make this happen, the prisoners and staff at Portlaoise Midlands Prison who kindly supplied the materials and built the bench, Parents' Council who got this idea off the ground, and all the parents and the community for supporting our fundraisers, because without them this wouldn't have been possible,” she said.
Avrelia Mackin is from Buddy Bench Ireland.
“Playtime holds challenges for many children, whether it is because a regular playmate is missing for the day or because a child has not yet developed the social skills he or she needs to be successful. As parents, we try to give our children the tools they need to have successful friendships and to grow into compassionate adults. Tthe Buddy Bench is one more tool we can add as a visual reminder that sometimes we all just need a buddy,” she said.
Buddy Bench Ireland is a school-based positive mental health programme that promotes emotional resilience, by releasing the stigma of asking for help.
It celebrates the children who act with compassion, kindness empathy and encourage them in developing conflict-management skills, thus relieving anxiety, stress and feelings of isolation.
To find out more about the initiative or get involved, see www.buddybench.ie.