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05 Jul 2022

Carlow schools invited to join new initiative that 'fosters empathy, kindness and connection'

Schools in Carlow are being invited to join a new national award scheme aimed at recognising and celebrating post-primary schools that promote empathy, kindness and connection among students and staff.

The initiative, launching today, is being rolled out to schools across the country by Narrative 4 Ireland, a Limerick-based empathy education organisation that has trained hundreds of teachers and youth workers to deliver an evidence-based teaching method that fosters connection, empathy and encourages positive relationships in the classroom. 

“I think we can all see why something like this is so timely. The world is very fractured at the moment, barriers are being reinforced and hate crimes and online bullying are rising. We need to dig deeper when it comes to bringing people back together” says TG4 presenter and awards ambassador Louise Cantillon. 

She says “Empathy education cultivates vital life skills in young people.

“It increases awareness of diversity, improves social skills, and gives young people a sense of belonging and connection. The pandemic has been extremely difficult for young people and their teachers. It has isolated and separated us in different ways and stripped away important ways to connect, learn and grow together.

“Thankfully people are responding to these challenges, not least teachers and students out there cultivating a culture of kindness and connection that reminds us of our humanity. This new award initiative is about encouraging and celebrating this work and we're looking forward to schools in Carlow being part of it all.”

The Narrative 4 Empathy School Award follows the format of having three levels of recognition for schools: gold, silver and bronze.

The Gold Award requires at least 10 teachers to be trained in Narrative 4’s Empathy Education Online CPD as part of their continued professional development. Other requirements include a School Empathy Charter, a ‘Walk and Talk’ Empathy Challenge, and a series of modules for both students and staff. The silver and bronze options have similar components, albeit with less time commitments.

Narrative 4 was co-founded in 2012 by New York-based Irish author Colum McCann, who went on to bring it to Ireland in 2016. Narrative 4 is a registered Irish charity and has its Irish base in Limerick city.

Its empathy education programme has won several awards and praise from students, parents, teachers and beyond. Narrative 4 has received recognition and support from organisations such as Rethink Ireland, the JP McManus Fund, the Ireland Funds, and Creative Ireland.

McCann says the work that the organisation does offers benefits across society.  

“This is about embedding empathy work into our schools. So many schools are doing amazing work, but it’s clear there’s potential to do so much more. We’re at a real turning point in our world, and I think this can be a transformative moment for the better. Change starts with education, and by giving our young people the right opportunities.

“That’s why we developed this award. Our hope is that it provides a valuable and timely offering for schools. I’ve seen first-hand how this work brings benefits to staff, students and, in fact, entire school cultures. This ripples into our homes and into society, creating a kinder and more nuanced world, something that is very much needed right now.”

Narrative 4 Ireland Director Dr James Lawlor says the popularity of the programme is largely due to its accessibility and wide variety of practical applications.

“It creates space for young people to connect and share their own stories and those of their classmates and others. This helps them to see the world from another’s perspective and so that they can understand themselves and other people better. I am continually filled with hope for the future when I meet the young people and educators involved with Narrative 4.

“They have the humanity and the skills to shape and make this world a kinder, more empathic place. They are committed to addressing prejudices, particularly the stigma around mental health concerns, as well as issues of racism and isolation caused by Covid-19. In this way, they help heal divisions through the power of dialogue, connection and empathy”

More information at www.narrative4.ie

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