Chamber News

‘Happy to Chat’ benches offer company in the city centre

Happy to Chat BenchesWaterford Chamber, Waterford City & County Council and other stakeholders, have been actively promoting the Big Little Ideas campaign, calling on the public to be part of Waterford’s recovery.

One of the ideas, ‘Happy to Chat Benches’ which was submitted by Deirdre Phelan of Property Partners Phelan Herterich, will be officially launched on 1st October as part of the citywide celebrations to recognise the Day of the Older Persons.

Mayor of Waterford City & County, Cllr Damien Geoghegan, Mary Butler TD, Minister of State Department of Health with responsibility for Mental Health and Older People and Danette Connolly, Waterford Chamber President and National Clinical Lead of Home Instead Senior Care Ireland visited William Vincent Wallace Plaza, one of the five sites where a ‘Happy to Chat’ bench has been identified.

According to Minister Butler, “Loneliness and social isolation represent significant public health risks in our communities. They are non-discriminatory, affecting people from all walks of life, regardless of their age, social circumstances or whether they are urban or rurally based. Initiatives like the ‘Happy to Chat’ benches will offer people an opportunity to reach out to others.

“‘Happy to Chat Benches’, which can be already found across Europe, help tackle loneliness and isolation in the community, by breaking down the invisible wall between strangers who might be sitting side by side but uncertain about starting a conversation. The underlying belief was by simply stopping to say “hello” to someone at the ‘Chat Bench’ could make a huge difference to the vulnerable people in communities and help to make life a little better for them.”

Mayor Geoghegan outlined where the benches will be located. “Five city centre benches will be dedicated to the ‘Happy to Chat’ initiative, one on The Quay, one on the Plaza, one in John Roberts Square, one in Michael Street, and one in Hanover Street.

“These are difficult times for everyone and it is okay not to be okay. We are asking people to take time out, use the clearly identifiable benches if you are happy to lend an ear to someone or if you need to someone to listen. These benches are for everyone, for those with life experience and words of wisdom to share, or young people who just need an open ear. Above all, we ask people to be kind and support each other.”

“We have seen wonderful creativity through the Big Little Ideas campaign”, said Chamber President Danette Connolly. “These benches are just the one of many initiatives to come to fruition and if they will make life that little bit easier for just one person, particularly in these difficult times, then they can only be a good thing. We must remind people to respect the initiative, use it appropriately and of course maintain social distancing and HSE guidelines.”

 

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