Sohan speech
Sohan (the S4Z Head for GEMS New Millennium School) thanking his school’s hardworking nurses with a small speech and a video put together by his S4Z team. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai students who held a “kindness” campaign this academic year now plan to run it annually and expand it other schools after seeing its positive impact.

Jana Alballany

The campaign began after Jana Alballany, a student at GEMS International School – Al Khail, founded Smiles4Zayed, named after the UAE’s founding father Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Jana initially had planned to hold Smiles4Zayed for a month, encouraging random acts of kindness in her school community, such as gifting teachers, delivering inspirational talks and pledging to help others.

Seeing its popularity, her team has launched the ‘GEMSmiles Challenge’ to involve other GEMS Education schools in Dubai. Each participating school was required to create their own Smiles4Zayed team comprised of students aged 12 to 18 and led by a student within the same age range. Once the teams were formed, students began the challenge and held a series of events under the campaign.

Spreading kindness

GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail organised activities including ‘Declaration of Kindness’, teacher and support staff appreciation, and ‘Wheel of Kindness’, which is a digital spinner wheel filled with simple acts of kindness that anyone can do. Any student or staff member who spins the wheel is then assigned a simple act of kindness that they need to carry out that day.

GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail also put up a Declaration of Kindness, a video dedication for support staff, Wheel of Kindness, and Teacher Appreciation Day. Declaration of Kindness sees students pledging to “always be kind and strive to spread kindness and joy”, Jana said. Each school’s declaration was framed and displayed in the main reception of the participating schools.

Teacher Appreciation Day involves students thanking their teachers “for all their hard work and effort, especially during a challenging year like this one. Students gave their teachers letters of appreciation and gratitude for all they have done”. Support Staff Appreciation sees pupils thank members of their support staff team “for their hard work this year”. They did this in the form of speeches, gifts or anything else they felt was appropriate.

Positive impact

Jana said: “The challenge yielded great results and had an incredible impact on the communities of the participating schools. Participating schools reported a marked increase in student involvement and attitude, reduced stress rates, a general improvement in student and staff wellbeing, and, most importantly, a strengthened culture of kindness and positivity.”

Here to stay

She added that GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail and GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail have decided to promote their Smiles4Zayed teams by forming an official and permanent committee in their school, “so that they continue to see these great results”.

Jana said: “After the successes of the challenge, we have collectively decided that we will be running the GEMSmile Challenge annually and that we will nominate more schools next academic year. We have also decided to have monthly meetings with all three of our schools’ teams to stay updated on each other’s progress and to support each other in this journey.”

Power of smiles

Sohan Prasad

Sohan Prasad, student head of Smiles4Zayed, GEMS New Millennium School – Al Khail, also said the initiative has made a difference. “I have experienced the sudden shift in our school’s students as they start prioritising people’s happiness and overall wellbeing... It has revealed just how much of an impact we can have by making people smile. This initiative has undoubtedly become an integral part of our school.”

Adriana Santos

Adriana Santos, student head of Smiles4Zayed, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail, said the campaign, held in June at her school, has been well received. “By doing small activities or giving out small appreciation goodies, we managed to bring smiles to the faces of students and teachers. Through this initiative, the Smiles4Zayed team at my school has managed to drive great improvement in the overall mood of students, teachers and support staff, and we managed to bring everyone a bit closer together. We really hope to continue with this initiative, because seeing people smile is what we do this for.”