By: Rachel Aiello
Helene Campbell believes she is living and breathing proof that kindness is a virtuous cycle.
As a recipient of a double lung transplant, she values kindness as a cause both literally and figuratively near to her heart and so the 21-year-old Ottawa native gladly took an opportunity to share her story, as part of Kindness Week in Ottawa.
“I wouldn’t be as positive as I am and the inspiration to people that they find me to be, it wouldn’t without the kindness I have received from others,” she said before speaking to the crowd at the charity fair in Jean Pigott Hall on Thursday, Feb. 21.
On the second last day of Kindness Week, city hall was abuzz with charities and organizations that had set up booths to spread the word about the work they do to make Ottawa a kinder place, while recruiting new volunteers to help with their mission to keep kindness going past the seven days.
“We loved the idea of people finding a new place to volunteer during Kindness Week since hopefully once they started they would keep going with it,” said Megan O’Meara, Kindness Week coordinator.
“It’s an important message to deliver and it brings communities together,” said Campbell.
When Campbell was approached by the staff at the Caring and Sharing Exchange to speak as part of Kindness Week about being a direct recipient of a kind act—an organ donation— she didn’t hesitate.
“I think just speaking about my experience, people have really commented on how that’s given back to a lot of people and they’ve been really encouraged by that,” she said.
Bringing the community together is something Helene was recognized for and after speaking about her experience, she was presented with a Community Builder award for her work to help build a stronger, healthier and safer community.
“With all of the attention Helene has brought it has definitely helped; it’s the Helene effect,” said Rita Richardson, president of the Transplant Advocate Association, which has noticed an increase in organ donation registration since Campbell started her #BeAnOrganDonor campaign in 2012.
Kindness Week ran from February 15-22 and focused on encouraging kindness. The initiative was spearheaded by Rabbi Reuven Bulka five years ago, as a proactive alternative to the numerous anti bullying and anti violence campaigns.
“People questioned whether it was really necessary to have a whole week dedicated to encouraging people to be kind, because they figured people would just know to do it, but it is because sometimes you don’t really think about it and when you’re reminded it makes you feel good and makes you want to do something to pay it forward,” said O’Meara.
The week included both planned events and other random acts of kindness within Ottawa. Including, ‘kindness citations’ for Ottawa fire police and paramedic services, cupcakes sent to the Ottawa Mission and free hugs from the new youth initiative Small Gestures Change Lives, an Ottawa based group that some Algonquin students are involved with.
For O’Meara, one of the coolest things about Kindness Week has yet to happen. She is anticipating hearing about events or actions that happen as a result of kindness week, in the days to come. “It’s become such an actual social movement.”
Mayor Jim Watson echoed O’Meara’s sentiment, as he spoke at the charity fair about the importance of the weeks events carrying on into everyday life.
“Kindness week may only last a week but its underlying message is that we have to chose to be kind the other 365 days a year.”