During the challenging times we have faced these past few months, it has been hard to stay positive, however UCD Psychology student Mikayla Morton has decided to help brighten the days of many frontline workers who were working tirelessly during the Covid-19 pandemic.

On 13 April, Morton and her family received the news that her grandmother tested positive for Covid-19. After fighting the virus for a few days, she tragically passed. Morton spoke to the College Tribune about this heart-breaking experience.

“We couldn’t believe it. We stayed by her side for many hours, talking to her, laughing at memories, and just being there for her. And unfortunately, she passed later that day”.

This grief felt by Morton and her family was also being experienced by the carers who took care of her nan.

“But what really caught me, what really made my heart hurt was when we were talking to two carers who regularly looked after nan. Two of the nicest men I’ve met, and basically, they said they hate it. They hate that they get to hold her hand and be in the room with her and that we had to be outside. They wanted to trade places so so much and they said they feel so much constant guilt and grief and so many negative emotions and I could hear it in their voices; the pain they were going through”.

Positivity Packs Letters
A hand-written note that is included in many of the ‘Positivity Packs’ given to frontline workers. Photo: Supplied

While the wound of her nan’s passing was still fresh, this did not stop her from wanting to show her thanks to the kind-hearted staff of the care home who had supported them and her nan. She decided to put together some hampers, which are called ‘Positivity Packs’, to gift the carers in her nan’s home.

Morton was encouraged by friends to continue creating these hampers to help add a bit of happiness to the days of the healthcare staff in various nursing homes. She proceeded to set up a Gofundme page to allow her to continue to create the ‘Positivity Packs’.

“Then I was encouraged to make a Go Fund Me,” said Morton. “I was so sceptical, because Feed the Heroes and lots of other amazing charities were asking for donations then, so I was like ‘ah nothing will come of it’. But I eventually did set it up. I think in the first hour we raised 400 and then in four hours a grand? And in a day or two we’d raised 2,000 – I was so shocked.”

Positivity Packs Soaps
A selection of soaps, hand creams and other beauty and skin care products that are included in the ‘Positivity Packs’ for frontline workers. Photo: Supplied

Working alongside her parents and a group of 35 volunteers, Morton works to ensure that they can make as many hampers as possible. They are particularly focused on including mementos to bring some positivity to the amazing frontline staff during physically and emotionally tiring days.

“We typed up 200 quotes to put into these hampers, Jigsaw (I’m on the youth advisory panel for Jigsaw) and they helped me compile a list of mental health resources for the staff to avail of if they needed help,” said Morton. “We gathered pictures of friends, animals and ‘puppers’ and asked the young scouts and other kids to draw pictures to put a smile on the staff’s face.”

Positivity Packs Hamper
One of the ‘Positivity Packs’ that Mikayla Morton and the group of volunteers have put together for the frontline workers. Photo: Supplied

Some of Morton’s friends who were interested in supporting her project donated items to be included in the hampers. As well this, various companies and people donated products to Morton and her team to fill up the lovingly crafted ‘Positivity Packs’, such as The Dublin Herbalist, Palm free Irish soap, Anner beauty, More candles, Keoghs, Follain, The Donegal natural soap company, Gosia Nocen and many more.

As well as the pictures and quotes, a typical ‘Positivity Pack’ includes a candle of remembrance, hand creams, face and body moisturisers, lip balms, soap, face masks, colouring pencils and colouring pages to help staff relax and practice mindfulness. A letter from the ‘Positivity Pack’ team is also included in each hamper and if sometimes a baked good or two might be found.

“The main idea was that the hamper could stay in the nursing home in the break room so that if someone was having a bad day they could colour or if their skin was sore, they could use the creams,” Morton explained. “It was too much to try get something for everyone so instead we tried to make something they could all use when having a rough day in the homes. We also had a team baking baked goods to go out with the hampers, but as we got more and more stuff we realised we wouldn’t be able to make them for every hamper so we’re doing it as we can!”

Positivity Packs Masks
Some of the face masks that are placed in the ‘Positivity Packs’, in order to support the frontline workers. Photo: Supplied

Those working in healthcare during the pandemic were exhausted after long days, grieving from losing patients and worried for their own lives and families, yet continue to do what they can to help. In return, Morton and the team wanted to help in a way they could and tried to put a smile on the faces of those who protected the public.

Morton’s project, which began small, ended up being appreciated by frontline workers nationwide. Over 3,000 Euro has been donated to ‘Positivity Packs’, as well as 1000+ products, resulting in roughly 450 hampers created to gift carers.

Leah Commandeur – Features Writer