Given everything that’s playing out in the world right now, Harmony Week here in Australia couldn’t have come at a better time. As our kids are reading harmony-themed stories at school and decking themselves out in as many orange items of clothing as they can, we thought we’d take a page out of their book and reflect on what this event is all about.
Here are five stories that celebrate diversity, social inclusion and racial harmony in all their different forms.
- It often takes a disaster or some extreme event to reveal the full breadth of human kindness. Case in point: as millions of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, in neighbouring Poland, locals are supporting refugees by leaving prams filled with blankets at a train station, for parents with young children to take as they need.
- It’s not just Polish neighbours reaching out to help; a grassroots social media movement has inspired people from around the world to book Airbnb rental properties in Ukraine – not with any plans to stay there, but to send much-needed funds to hosts. Over a 48-hour period earlier this month, 61,406 nights were booked in Ukraine through the platform, amounting to $1.9 million in payments. Airbnb itself is also offering free, short-term housing to up to 100,000 refugees. Meanwhile, in Ireland, an online portal to support Ukrainians with accommodation crashed thanks to an influx of pledges – and if you haven’t seen the map of people opening up their homes elsewhere, you can check it out here.
- In Australia, people from around the country (and further abroad) are being applauded for the incredible work they’re doing in flood-devastated areas. In Lismore, 45 Fijian abattoir workers are assisting with rescues and lending a hand in the local evacuation centre. Likewise, members of Melbourne's Sikh community have travelled to Woolgoolga to cook and donate meals. This same group (part of Sikh Volunteers Australia) has previously provided a free food home delivery service during COVID-19 lockdowns and fed victims of the 2020 bushfires.
- In non-catastrophic news, a study from the US has found that social cooperation psychology can have a big impact on reducing crime. Researchers discovered that when people from disadvantaged communities knew a few personal details about local police officers – like their favourite food or sports team – the crime rate decreased by five to seven per cent over a three-month period. Yes, we humans are definitely social creatures, and when we know something about someone else, we feel they know a bit about us in return, so we’re more inclined to behave honestly around them.
- You know we’d never deliver a happy news round-up without some kind of animal story, right? Well, how’s this for a show of social cohesion: here in Australia, ornithologists recently fitted five magpies with backpack tracking devices
to study their movements and social dynamics. What they learnt was a whole lot more interesting: magpies, it turns out, are altruists – willing to help one another without expecting anything in return. The researchers found that when magpies saw their friends with strange ‘parasites’ attached to them, they worked as a team to remove the offending devices within hours. Magpies one, scientists zero.
Faith in humanity (and magpies) restored? We certainly hope so.
– The Coach Place Global
Image by Francesco Malavolta, Associated Press.
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