A WOMAN from Enniskillen who has helped those fighting loneliness and depression across Northern Ireland has received the prime minister’s daily Points of Light award.
The award, which every weekday recognises volunteers who are making a change in their community, was given to Nuala O’Toole who set up her ‘Kindness Postbox’ scheme during the pandemic to link schoolchildren with isolated care-home residents.
The children would post letters and cards in a specially designed Kindness Postbox to be sent to care homes – at Christmas, more than 3,000 cards and letters were sent to help tackle loneliness.
In a personal letter to Ms O’Toole, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he wanted to thank her for the “many small acts of kindness” she had inspired through the scheme.
“Your initiative has seen thousands of letters, cards and drawings shared between school children and care-home residents across Northern Ireland and far beyond,” he said.
“Every day, I write to someone in our country to thank them for their service to others by naming them as a Point of Light.
“It could not be more fitting that today I am posting a letter to you.”
Ms O’Toole is still shocked at the impact the scheme has made in such a short time and at first believed that the award was a scam.
“When I got an email saying that the government was going to cold call me, I was sure it was scammers,” laughed Ms O’Toole.
“It’s not often I’m speechless but I was when it proved to all be true. But I’m not doing this for awards.
“There was a local man who was so lonely since his wife died, he had been writing himself a letter every month, so the postman would knock on his door and he could say ‘hello’ to someone.
“It’s wrong that this should happen to anyone and I wanted to do something about it. If you can make one small difference in one person’s life for one minute, do that.”
The Kindness Postbox was started by Ms O’Toole to bring the gift of kindness to residents of local care homes that had been affected by Covid-19. It was officially launched in April 2021, with a little help from a local shop, McBride’s Spar Chanterhill in Enniskillen.
“We put a small postbox into the shop and Ballinamallard Primary School put letters in it. Other schools contacted me to have the postboxes on their premises. Different organisations got wind of it too and it all grew from there,” Ms O’Toole said.
“Now we have 30 different partnerships in Northern Ireland alone, with the likes of healthcare trusts and councils, as well as two others in the UK and an international group set up in Australia.
“Between 16-18,000 people have now received letters through our ‘Kindness Postbox’ scheme.”
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