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Whatever experiences we’ve had in the last 18 months during the pandemic, one thing we can all agree on, is that we have missed out on seeing our friends and family, and that we will never take everyday acts, like being able to hug a loved one, for granted again. Friendships are important, they give some structure to our lives – some friendships last a lifetime, some are much briefer, but we remember the times we’ve spent together; the laughter, the tears, the embarrassing and the painful moments; all the support, love and encouragement that our closest friends give us, and above all, we always remember the positive way that our friends make us feel. 

So this year, on Friday 30th July, why not shout your appreciation of your friends from the rooftops, and celebrate International Friendship Day in the best way you can?

According to some sources, the first World Friendship Day was proposed for 30 July 1958 by the World Friendship Crusade, an international civil organisation that campaigns to foster a culture of peace through friendship. Although they proposed the idea in the mid-20th century, it wasn’t until 2011, that the International Day of Friendship (July 30th) was adopted by the UN General Assembly, with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals could inspire peace and build bridges between communities. And it has been used to bolster peace efforts and promote the positive values of friendship ever since.

To mark the day, the UN encourages governments, international organisations and civil society groups to hold events, activities and initiatives to promote dialogue, solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation. UNESCO has defined a ‘Culture of Peace’ by setting out the values, attitudes and behaviours that they think, if established, will help promote friendship and prevent conflict. Many of these values have been adopted around the world. In the UK, we promote British Values in schools to ensure equality, respect and tolerance which are closely aligned to those in the UN’s Culture of Peace. 

UN actions to promote a Culture of Peace

  • foster a culture of peace through education
  • promote sustainable economic and social development
  • promote respect for all human rights
  • ensure equality between women and men
  • foster democratic participation
  • advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity
  • support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge
  • promote international peace and security

So International Friendship Day is not just about being good friends with people you already know. It’s also about positively reaching out to explore what friendships with others could be and could do. The recent G7 summit held in Cornwall highlighted some of the positive changes that can be achieved when nations come together in friendship and unity. By educating our pre-school children on the “positive ideals of friendship” and celebrating everything that is good about our friends, even at this early age, we can begin to learn to not just tolerate our differences, but to actively embrace and celebrate them. 

There are many ways to get involved: call a colleague, write to a long-lost friend, send some flowers, have a radio dedication – the list is endless, but we’ve chosen 3 ways below which we think are in the spirit of the UN’s aims, starting close to home and spreading out across the globe. 

3 ways to celebrate International Friendship Day

1. In your setting - run a ‘friendship workshop’

In order to have friends, you must first BE a friend, so why not proactively teach the children how to be a good friend? Discuss with them what they think a good friend should be –you may need to help them to define some words around friendships such as:

  • Kind
  • Caring
  • Loyal
  • Loving
  • Honest
  • A good play mate
  • Someone who takes turns
  • Someone who shares

Then go through the list with them and explain what that might mean in their world – so explain that they might be a friend to someone by being kind or when sharing something; or it might be when they help someone else with a task, such as picking up some toys, or fetching a book. Once you have defined some of the words associated with friendship, ask the children to practice being ‘friendly’ to everyone for that day, not just the people they know. You could make some suggestions and model things such as holding the door open for someone, smiling at people, or giving someone a hug and saying ‘thank you’ for being my friend. 

2. In your community - reach out to others in need

Being a friend to others in the community is a great way to extend the hand of friendship to those in your vicinity who may feel lonely, isolated of abandoned. After the last 18 months of coronavirus, there are many within our communities who have felt this way through no fault of their own. So why not use this as a way to establish or re-establish some links with a local care home or multigenerational group? The interaction of younger and older people has been shown to benefit both groups, and as we start to come out of lockdowns, this could be the ideal time to create a network close to home. You may not be able to visit in person, but you could write or draw some cards as an introduction saying, ‘Happy International Friendship Day’. You could also have a small collection of simple ‘treasures’ that you could send with them. This could be anything, from some cookies you baked to a daisy chain, or a drawing of a heart, sent with love. 

3. In the wider world - sponsor a child in another country

There are many children in other countries who don’t enjoy the same privileges as the children in the UK. We, at least, have running water, free schools, free nursery places and free healthcare. But there are many countries in the world where this is just a dream. Part of the UN’s ideas behind International Friendship Day is to promote social and economic parity, so why not decide to extend the hand of friendship far and wide and sponsor a child? There are many child sponsorship programmes through different charities and Parenta run a sponsorship programme of their own which provides free nursery places for pre-school children in Africa. You can find more details here. 

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