This is the first of a multi-part series.
On July 12, 2012, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed March 20 the International Day of Happiness, recognizing the relevance of happiness and wellbeing as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of people around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives. It also recognized the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the wellbeing of all peoples.
But as a society we are not giving this enough priority. Despite decades of economic growth, we are no happier now than we were 60 years ago; we need to re-think our priorities.
The good news is that our actions and choices can affect our happiness. What makes us happy has less to do with our money or possessions and more to do with our attitudes and relationships with other people.
This year’s theme – Happier Together – focuses on what we have in common, rather than what divides us and echoes Rotary’s 2019-20 theme of Rotary Connects the World. Working together – be it with other Rotarians, other clubs, other countries, or other organisations – is at that very heart of Rotary. Here is a look at how we are joining forces to do even more good in our communities and across the globe.
By Belinda Peters
Seasons digital content writer
Source: Rotary Down Under, regional magazine of Australia, March 2020
A COMMUNITY partnership between Seasons Waterford West, Windaroo Valley State High School and the Rotary Club of Beenleigh, Queensland, is making a positive difference to the lives of both its young and young-at-heart participants.
The Silver Angels program involves a group of Seasons residents and Year 7/8/9 students getting together each week to connect over joint activities. Activities during the program have included reading, pot planting, trivia and a talent show.
Heather Kucks, who is both a teacher aide at the school and president of the Rotary Club Beenleigh, says it’s a program she’s wanted to get off the ground for some time.
“The opportunity became available and, in conjunction with my supervisors and Ashley, the lovely teacher we have running it, we’ve put this together. It’s a pilot program and we’re really excited and happy about how it’s panned out,” Heather said.
“This is one of the Masterclasses we offer on a Tuesday afternoon and students had to apply to be a part of it. Some of these students don’t have contact with grandparents on a regular basis so that was one of the ways they could be chosen.”
The program has had a range of positive impacts on both the students and the Silver Angels.
“We had a couple of students that may have been a bit challenging and it’s calmed them down. They have become more respectful and it’s changed some attitudes towards older people – that’s one of the really big things,” Heather said.
“It’s lovely to watch the faces of both the students and the Silver Angels when they arrive each week. I know that for some of the Silver Angels this is the highlight of their week and it is with the students too.”
Teacher Ashley Naude agrees, adding that she’s seen how both the students and Silver Angels have been positively affected by the connections they’ve made.
“I’ve seen kids who refused to talk, who refused to have a relationship with even me, who have just blossomed. They run and they hug their Silver Angels, they tell them how their weekend went, they share photos. It’s so lovely to see that our younger generations can develop a relationship with our Silver Angels – something they can carry through their entire lives,” says Ashley.
“I’ve seen Silver Angels that were quite closed off, and maybe given up, and now they’re chatting, joking, asking kids ‘what are you doing in the holidays? Can we email?’ and it’s giving life back.
“As a teacher, I think this has been one of the most rewarding experiences.”
One Silver Angel who has gained a lot from the program is James, who credits the program for helping give him a purpose and lift his spirits.
“It’s been a terrific experience for me. I have had a lot of problems recently with depression and it was becoming almost impossible for me to operate.
“I’ve found that coming here (to the school) totally changed my perspective on things. It made me a lot happier and my depression has improved – I was quite surprised by that.
“It’s hard to recognise depression in oneself, I recognised it and this program has been the best treatment I could’ve had. It’s been a very good experience.”
The students all report different benefits they’ve gained and things they’ve learnt from the Silver Angels.
Abigail says her Silver Angel has helped her become more confident and able to talk to people – something she struggled with before the program.
“My Silver Angel has been really nice to me and has opened me up to more things. It’s helped me learn I can talk a lot!” says Abigail.