Words by Smiley Team
Be kind: it’s a phrase we’ve heard more and more over the past few years – and a quality that postively spiralled during the pandemic.
Kindness is simple, easy, and free, but we could always do with more of it.
52 Lives is a charity that aims to change someone’s life every week of the year and spread kindness, with the help of almost 100,000 supporters. It was founded by Jaime Thurston, a writer who lives in Berkshire.
“In November 2013, I was shopping online for secondhand furniture and came across a 'wanted' ad,” she tells Smiley News. “It was a single mum looking for someone to donate a rug, to cover the damaged floor in her house, as her children were cutting their feet. I wanted to help, and felt that if people knew about her, so many people would be willing to help.
“I spread the word among my family and friends, who donated things to help her. When I delivered them, she was in tears and I realised quickly it had nothing to do with the things I was giving her – it was the fact people she didn’t even know were willing to help her.
"She wasn’t alone. I decided I wanted to do more, and started a Facebook page called 52 Lives to help spread a bit of kindness to people going through tough times.”
Anyone can nominate someone in need of help through 52 Lives – although the majority of nominations come from front-line professionals, such as social workers, health workers, teachers, and other charities.
Every week, an individual or family in need of help is chosen and 52 Lives share their story across their website and social channels. The charity shares a request detailing what they need (for example, new beds for a family, new carpet for someone in need), and their kind supporters spread the word, donate, and support where they can to help change that person's life.
100% of donations goes directly to the person or family they are helping each week.
Over the years, the charity has supported a range of people, says Jaime. “From helping a homeless mother and son into a flat; building a sensory garden for a boy in Wales; buying carpet and furniture for women and children leaving refuges; sending cards and kind messages to children being bullied; providing computers to vulnerable children so they can access lessons; and covering bills and grocery costs for families with seriously ill children,” she says.
Although they share one story a week, they help people behind the scenes, too. “For example, last year we worked with another charity to pay for 200 homeless children to have their feet measured for the first time and receive proper fitted shoes,” she says. “Since we began back in 2013, we have helped more than 12,000 people.”
52 Lives also runs Free Kindness Workshops in schools for thousands of children every year. Demand for these workshops has increased tenfold from previous years working with 5,000 children a year, to 55,000 in 2021.
Their workshops aim to spread kindness and empower children by helping them realise the little choices they make every day have the power to change people's lives, and improve their own physical and mental health at the same time.
“When the world feels like it’s falling apart, kindness is what holds communities together,” adds Jaime. “So as well as continuing to help as many people as we can on a practical level (and the need this year will be greater than ever), another key part of what we do is story-telling and inspiring people to be kind."
NOMINATE: You can nominate someone on the 52 Lives website who may need support.
DONATE: The charity also accepts financial donations to keep their kindness movement going.