Dubai: Students of a Dubai school literally found out what it is like to walk in someone else’s shoes as they recently undertook an exercise where they mixed footwear of different people.
Pupils at GEMS Wellington Academy — Silicon Oasis wore their friends’ or family member’s shoes to spark discussions on other people’s emotions and perspectives, as one novel way of practising empathy. The exercise was part of the initiatives for Empathy Day which is usually marked on June 10. Some students put on mixed pairs, with a sneaker on one foot and sandal on another, or a dress shoe and ankle-boot, for example.
Steps towards empathy
Jennifer Kilsby, head of house, GEMS Wellington Academy — Silicon Oasis, said: “[Last] Thursday, pupils were encouraged to come to school in different shoes as we grew our empathy muscles through discussing the thoughts and the feelings of the original owners of the shoes. Some people wore their mum’s shoes, some people wore their friend’s shoes and some even wore a mixture of shoes.”
The aim was to open up a discussion about other people’s emotions and perspectives — a core element of the ‘GEMS Jewels of Kindness’ programme.
Empathy Day was originally created by a UK-based organisation called Empathy Lab, to help children explore, experience and practise empathy. “As our feelings are put into action, empathy can be a powerful force for social change and many members of our school community felt moved to contribute towards the Dubai Cares appeal on Empathy Day,” Kilsby added.
‘Empathy makes us better’
Year 6 student Isabelle Booth said: “To me, empathy is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and in their perspective, especially during arguments and debates. It can also be feeling what he or she is feeling and seeing what they are seeing. Empathy may be hard, but it makes the world a better place.”
Families were encouraged to take the day as an opportunity to donate to Dubai Cares. The school has long supported the work of Dubai Cares and even though Empathy Day has passed, it continues to encourage families to support the work of the organisation. Dubai Cares, part of Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has been working towards providing children and young people in developing countries with access to quality education.