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Roots of Empathy celebrates a decade of success in Northern Ireland and develops a Recovery programme to support schools

30th September 2021

An emotional health and wellbeing programme which has been enjoyed by over 20,000 primary school aged children in Northern Ireland is this year celebrating its tenth anniversary.

The Roots of Empathy programme is funded by the Public Health Agency (PHA) and co-ordinated by local health trusts across Northern Ireland.  In the Southern Trust a total of 52 schools have taken part and a total of 218 programmes, involving 5693 children have been enjoyed.

Noella Murray, Roots of Empathy Mum and Head of St John The Baptist’s College, Portadown  states: “I truly believe that ROE is one of the most valuable learning and personal and social development opportunities that is currently being offered to young children in NI and given the success of this programme, coupled with the growing need for social and emotional support/development of children and young people today, ROE should be rolled out further and all children should benefit from this invaluable provision.

“When Covid-19 hit, Roots of Empathy innovated from an experiential programme with a baby on a green blanket in a classroom, to a baby on screen. Each class will still have their own Baby who should be between 2 – 4 months at the beginning of the programme. The Baby remains central to the programme and the Instructor uses photographs, videos and live calls so that the class can see the baby and celebrate the baby’s growth and development stages.  The Recovery Programme has been developed to support children’s mental health and wellbeing and consists of ten themes which help to build resilience. The first five focus on what has happened around the world, during the current global pandemic and addresses how the children feel about this. The remaining five themes focus on social justice development and well-being. Optional teacher extension activities are also provided and initial feedback has been very positive. The Instructor can be in the classroom or on line and the programme will continue virtually even when children are unable to be in the classroom.”

Lynne Smart, Head of Health Improvement for the Southern Health and Social Care Trust  said: “This programme is a great example of partnership working between health and education sectors and how early intervention can help young people to better cope with their emotions and build positive, healthy relationships in preparation for the challenges they may face in adulthood. Both of the Roots of Empathy programmes available are testimony to the Southern Trust’s commitment to supporting health and wellbeing programmes for our young people.”

For further information please contact the SHSCT Promoting Wellbeing Team 02837564489.

Photo above : Our Lady’s & St Mochua’s youngest teacher Lucia Grace Murray, with Mum Noella, Roots of Empathy Instructor Mary Nugent and Ea, PHA and SHSCT representatives at a celebration event held on the 22nd June 2012  to mark the end of the school’s first Roots of Empathy Programme 

Photos below: A selection of photos from across the years and from all the schools who have taken part over the 10 years