Volunteers from a local church spread a little bit of happiness around Banbridge at the weekend.
Young people from Banbridge Seventh-Day Adventist Church gathered together in the town centre on Saturday afternoon to give out ‘free hugs’ to shoppers and carry out other acts of kindness.
Curtis Samuel, pastor of the Newry Road church, said the day had been a great success, with more than 70 young people from Banbridge and other areas across Ireland taking part in the event, which was held to celebrate Global Youth Day.
“Every year the Adventist church has an initiative called Global Youth Day when young people are encouraged to ‘Be the Sermon’ as opposed to just listening to the sermon,” Pastor Curtis explained.
“We had the challenge of doing something fun and engaging in Banbridge. The idea the young people came up with was to do some acts of kindness and go around town with t-shirts designed by local member Andre Vieira that said ‘Free Hugs’, giving out free hugs and also walking around with photo frames - with thanks to Paul in Framed - encouraging people to take pictures or selfies with us.”
The youth day involved young people from Banbridge, Belfast, Londonderry/Derry and Dublin, with the free hugs bringing a feel good factor to the town centre.
“We had over 70 young people attend the event which was much more than I expected,” Pastor Curtis continued. “A friend and ministerial colleague of Pastor Julian Thompson spoke to the young people in the morning about being a rebel in this day and age, but not just any kind of rebel but God’s kind of rebel. He encouraged them to stand out for God and that they had an opportunity in the afternoon to do something which could have a lasting impact.
“The group was then split between The Outlet and the high street. The youth were kitted out with their t-shirts and photo frames and off they went into the community to do these acts of kindness.”
Pastor Curtis said the reaction of people in the town had been “so positive”, with most passers-by happy to get a hug or pose for a picture. And the young people were greatly encouraged when, in response to their efforts, staff at the Windsor Bakery gave them cakes, while those at The Outlet were given free donuts.
Overall, Pastor Curtis said he was delighted with how the day went.
“It was a bit out there, it was different, but it was definitely fun. I was so, so happy with my young people, they did such a great job. I said from the start that all I wanted was to put smiles on people’s faces. All the pictures that we took show that people were smiling and happy and this is what it was all about. A little love, a little kindness goes a long way and we all need that in our lives no matter who you are,” he added.