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Hand-painted messages of Hope and Healing are shining bright in the UK

Hand-painted messages of Hope and Healing are shining bright in the UK

Over the past week, nearly a thousand brightly painted wooden stars with messages of hope, solidarity and compassion appeared around Manchester and London.

The New York Says Thank You Foundation, an international disaster relief organization that runs the Stars of HOPE® community arts program, sent a team to Manchester, including a survivor of the 2016 Pulse Nightclub terror attack in Orlando, Florida and a survivor of the 2007 Greensburg, Kansas tornado to show solidarity and compassion with the people of Manchester following the deadly bombing at the Arianna Grande concert in May.

They brought with them hundreds of hand-painted Stars of HOPE painted at the Pulse Nightclub on the one-year anniversary of the June 12 terror attack that took the lives of 49 people. Each Star of HOPE contained personal messages and designs of hope and healing created to strengthen bonds between survivors of tragedy while demonstrating to the world that LOVE is stronger than hate. In addition to the 800 Stars of HOPE painted for Manchester by the Orlando community, Stars also came from Canada, California, Philadelphia and New York.

At KRTS International, we were honoured to be asked to coordinate the UK side of this operation. Society is now much more aware of the wider psychological impact of events such as the Manchester Arena attack. The mental health needs of the community can be greatly helped by providing the basic need for hope when all around is despair. Seeing the Stars of HOPE and knowing they are painted by people who really understand this despair connects us with the best values of humanity when we have been faced with the worst.

Although the initiative was aimed primarily at Manchester, other tragic events meant the team was compelled to visit London. Stars were placed at the scenes of other recent acts of terror and we paid a very moving visit to Grenfell Tower. Although it was a “flying visit” the quiet appreciation received from members of the public and the emergency services made it worthwhile.

The power of this programme lies in its survivor to survivor message. Communities and first responders are often flooded by well wishes and offers of support. Whilst these are very important, to have someone who has been through the same devastation and is offering a message of strength and connection is on another level. We were incredibly proud to be part of this.

It was also important for us to be able to show off the city of which we are so proud to our visitors and many people contributed towards this. The team went home with many memories of what is wonderful about Manchester and its people. Our Facebook page has all the pictures and news from what was an incredible and moving 4 days.

Stars of HOPE® empowers people of all ages to transform individuals and communities through the power of art and personal messages of hope and healing. Since 2007, over 68,000 hand-painted Stars of HOPE have lifted the spirits of millions of disaster survivors in 147 communities and 24 countries.

Stars of HOPE® is a registered trademark of New York Says Thank You Foundation. For more information and photos, please visit www.starsofhopeusa.org