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In Pictures: Prisoners in Portlaoise make ‘Happy to Chat’ benches to be distributed throughout Laois

Happy to Chat Bench

Midlands Prison have brought the ‘Happy to Chat’ Bench initiative to Laois and Kildare.

The concept of this project came from the ‘Happy to Chat Benches’ in the UK in 2019 that started to spread around the world.

The benches are an invitation to engage with a stranger and benches all carry the same sign: ‘Happy to Chat’.

The Work Training Unit in the Midlands Prison made 20 ‘Happy to Chat’ benches for Local Tidy Towns groups.

Chief Officer Work Training Joyce Clarke said: “Over the last nine months, Work Training Officers (WTO’s) and prisoners engaged on this project, from design to production of these benches.

“I contacted the following Tidy Towns, Portlaoise, Durrow, Mountrath, Mountmellick, Abbeyleix, Portarlington, Vicarstown Stradbally Timahoe Fitness Hub, Monasterevin, Kildare, Athy and Rathangan.

“All local committees were delighted to engage with us on this project.

“We hope that these benches will help to reduce loneliness and isolation in our communities”.

On Friday June 10, these local Tidy Towns came into Midlands Prison for the launch of the ‘Happy to Chat’ bench.

John Scully, from SVT Activity and Wellness Hub, said: “We thank Midlands Prison most sincerely for their donation of the Happy to Chat benches.

“To complement the development of the Barrow Blueway by the Grand Canal in Vicarstown, we have been busy with parkrun, with the provision of the “Vicarstown Canal-side Community Recreation Area”, and also the provision of the new Canoeing and Kayaking Club facility.

“These benches further enhance the area.”

SEE ALSO – Laois athlete selected to represent Ireland at European U-18 championships in July

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.