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Chalk messages and drawing on streets are bringing hope during the caronavirus pandemic

Posted on July 19 2020

Chalk messages and drawing on streets are bringing hope during the caronavirus pandemic

Chalk messages and drawings on streets are bringing hope during the coronavirus pandemic

SHARED FROM: ABC New "LIVE BLOG"   Date: Thursday 2nd April 2020

By Yara Murray-Atfield

Two boys on the footpath, one drawing with chalk, the other skipping by.Max and Lenny Turner joined hundreds of families in drawing messages of kindness on their footpath.(Supplied: Dian Turner)
Still dressed in their pyjamas, Dian Turner's kids couldn't wait to get outside.

But they didn't go far — they stopped at the footpath outside their Melbourne home, armed with a bucket of chalk.

Max, seven, and Lenny, four, have been away from their friends since coronavirus physical-distancing restrictions came into force and the Victorian school holidays were brought forward a week.

They're just two of the many children who have been spending their shutdown time drawing rainbows and encouraging messages like "we're all in this together" across Australian suburbs.

"It was something for the kids to make them feel connected to other people, because obviously they're feeling a little bit uncertain about staying at home and what this means, and not being able to go to the playground and the park," Ms Turner said.Two young children draw chalk messages like 'be happy' and 'we're all in this together'.Seven-year-old Max and four-year-old Lenny draw messages of encouragement in Essendon, Melbourne.(Supplied: Dian Turner)

Ms Turner first saw the idea when she was added to a Facebook group called the Rainbow Trail, which documents children and their parents drawing rainbows for others to spot.

Ms Turner, a lawyer who has been spending much of her time working from home amid the shutdown measures, said it was "something positive to be able to talk about" with the family.

"You're not breaching any of the social-distancing rules but it's something that you can do and you can be happy and show that there's a connection."A laminated picture of a rainbow, with the words 'keep smiling' printed above it.A message to "keep smiling" tied to a tree in Clifton Hill in Melbourne.(ABC News: Nicole Asher)

How writing messages of hope can help children

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, many states and territories have urged parents to keep their children home from school where possible.

University of Melbourne public health researcher Lisa Gibbs said it was important to provide children with age-appropriate ways to make them feel active and capable during the pandemic.The words "corona virus sucks" in big chalk letters on a suburban street.While Susan Philippou's daughter was drawing love hearts, her son James wrote a message of his own: "Coronavirus sucks."(Supplied: Susan Philippou)

"It's easy in times of danger, which essentially this is, to be so concerned with protecting the child which obviously is of utmost importance," Professor Gibbs said.

"But in protecting the child we can sometimes treat them as passive and vulnerable, which doesn't make them feel safe.

"So these sorts of activities are really helpful in providing a sense of agency in children, that they can cope with what's happening and they're making a contribution to others as well."Colourful chalk shapes on a suburban footpath.Melbourne rain washed away drawings by Lisa Batson's family, but she said they had plans for more.(Supplied: Lisa Batson)You are not alone with a red heart written in chalk on a wall.Deb Sawyer and her daughter drew messages near a Melbourne primary school.(Supplied: Deb Sawyer)

Professor Gibbs said in times of disaster, two patterns were very common — community mobilisation, where people banded together, and community deterioration, where social supports fell apart.

"So what these initiatives from children are doing is really contributing to social mobilisation," she said.

"And people respond really positively to children's messages, because they spread joy. And we need that at a time like this."

Why adults are joining in, too

But it's not just children picking up the chalk during the COVID-19 pandemic.The words 'I hope to hug you in a better world soon' written in chalk on a footpath.Melbourne artist Suse Scholem has been coming up with new quotes every day to share in her area.(Supplied: Suse Scholem)

Artist Suse Scholem has been curating different quotes for the streets around her Melbourne suburb.

"It's cathartic, joyful and empowering for me, and beautiful to feel a sense of the connection and hope that it might bring others," she said.

"Sometimes I see people engaging [with] them, and the joy is palpable."

Centrelink staff in Melbourne and teachers at Tasmania's Lauderdale Primary School have also arrived to work to chalky messages of thanks.A colourful chalk message saying 'thank u Centrelink staff'.A message left for staff at a Centrelink office in Preston, as record numbers of people lost their jobs.(Community & Public Sector Union)A chalk message saying 'thanks, stay safe, see you soon' around a love heart.A stranger armed with chalk told Lauderdale Primary School staff thanks.(Facebook: Lauderdale Primary School)

Sharon Bailey, from Kalbeeba near South Australia's Barossa Valley, has been trying to solve the mystery of who has been leaving chalk trivia questions along the route of her morning walk.

They first popped up a fortnight ago, with questions ranging from how many horses there were in an adjacent paddock, what to do with your dog poo (the answer: an arrow pointing to the bin), and who won the 2000 grand final.The words 'footpath trivia!' written on a bike path.Trivia questions have been changing almost daily along this South Australian walking track.(Supplied: Sharon Bailey)

"It's just really good, and all positive, and cheers everybody's walk up," Ms Bailey said.

She said the only clue as to who wrote the messages are two initials — E and D.

"I'd like to thank whoever they are … it's a real positive thing," she said.A man jumps on chalk-drawn hopscotch at sunrise.Children and adults, like Ian Bailey, have joined in on the fun.(Supplied: Sharon Bailey)

How chalk is binding together communities across Australia

Research shows if people feel part of their communities, that can be protective of their mental health outcomes during times of disaster.

"So they're not small measures, they're actually really important," Professor Gibbs said.

"Anything like that can make a contribution, not only for the person who is doing it, but also for the person who encounters it."Two boys with their arms around each other sit in front of a chalk drawing saying be kind.Kristen Pavez said her sons Cruze and Hugo had been feeling overwhelmed by the crisis.(Supplied: Kristen Pavez)

Healthy cooking teacher Kristen Pavez said it had been empowering for her two boys to add rainbow pictures and a message to "be kind" to their Perth street.

Schools are closed to most children in Western Australia, so with much more time at home on the horizon, Ms Pavez said "there'll be a lot more driveway art".Children smile next to chalk drawings on a footpath.Melbourne children Chloe, Millie and Harry with their colourful hopscotch creation.(Supplied: Meagan Baker)

Just south of Cairns, relief teacher Maria Holt and her three-year-old Leonardo used homemade chalk to brighten up their street.

Ms Holt has been out of work as a casual relief teacher and her son stopped going to daycare more than a week ago.A small child sits on a concrete footpath, using homemade chalk to paint rainbows.Three-year-old Leo painted rainbows with homemade chalk.(Supplied: Maria Holt)

"It's a weird season in our collective experience and a tough time for many," Ms Holt said.

"So I just wanted to do something small that might make someone smile, whether they're on their way to work as an essential worker or a kid out on a family walk with their parents after being cooped up inside for a week."

She said while she hadn't had any comments from her neighbours yet, "I did see the postie slow down to have a good look".

Some of the temporary street art, like this in Melbourne's Hoppers Crossing, is interactive.A speech bubble written in chalk on a footpath walking sign saying 'smile, we're all in this together'.A message to smile on a shared footpath in West Footscray in Melbourne.(ABC News: Dan Harrison)

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