20 June 2024

Woman on mission to ‘spread a little sunshine’

By Rebecca Hannant

A former happiness coach has set herself the challenge of tackling loneliness and isolation through her online platform and creating spaces for people to chat.

Kelly Williams, who is travelling around the UK in her Yellow Van of Love, has pledged to spread happiness among communities in several ways including happiness groups, going into schools and creating online content.

Her biggest challenge has seen her convert ordinary benches all over the world into Happy Benches. These are designed to get people talking and offer spaces where people can sit and chat to other people and make friends, combating feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Kelly, of Huddersfield, said: “On June 28, 2017, I started a lovely little campaign about kindness, called #spreadalittlesunshine. I want to remind people how easy it is and how good it feels to be kinder to one another. With everything that’s going on in the world right now we seem to have forgotten that we are good at this.

“Chat benches are nothing new but the idea with what we are doing is inviting people anywhere in the world to print off their own Happy Bench poster that we send them and make a bench in their local community into a Happy Bench.”

The benches have also made their way to Withernsea Promenade and Hornsea in the hope that local people will benefit from them. The unveiling of the Withernsea bench was met with residents looking to help spread happiness to passers-by, offering them flowers, cakes and chocolate.

Meanwhile, the Hornsea chat bench has been in place on the South Promenade since around 2020 and has become a well-loved space by locals.

June Greensmith, HUG (Hornsea Urban Gardeners) founder and volunteer, said: “I’m thrilled it’s caught on. The one here is very well used as it’s in a lovely, sheltered spot, which is south-facing. There are so many people who don’t have anyone to talk to for weeks at a time, maybe months. Social isolation is dreadful.”

To be able to go on her journey, Kelly sold her home and now lives in her van as she travels around the country. She is also calling on communities to help her with essentials as she travels.

To follow her journey please visit the SpreadALittleSunshine Facebook page. To donate, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kelly-williams-spreadalittlesunshinehappyu

To request a copy of the Happy bench poster, which can be attached to any bench in the community, email [email protected].