US & Canada

#ElPasochallenge: Boy responds to shooting to help community heal

Reuben Martinez holding a sign saying elpasoCHALLENGE Image copyright Rose Gandarillo

An 11-year old boy has begun a social media challenge to encourage strangers to be kind following a deadly shooting in El Paso, Texas, at the weekend.

Ruben Martinez is the youngster behind the #elpasoCHALLENGE.

He wants people to carry out 22 random acts of kindness, one for each victim killed in Saturday's attack.

His mother Rose Gandarillo told the BBC her son came up with the idea after struggling with what happened.

"On the day of the shootings we were driving passed the Walmart and saw all the emergency vehicles.

"Ruben was anxious after seeing that and hearing about what happened. He then asked me if there was a delivery service that could bring us groceries so we wouldn't have to go to the mall again.

"I told him you cannot live in fear and asked him if there was something he wanted to do to help. That's when he came to me with the note about the challenge," she said.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Firefighters clean the sidewalk following Sundays shooting

Rose posted her son's hand-written instructions on how to carry out the challenge on social media.

It starts by explaining that the purpose is to "honour the people who got killed in our city."

Ruben goes on to offer suggestions of the kinds of things people can do such as "mow someone's lawn, visit a nursing home, pay for someone's lunch or dinner, or comfort someone when they are sad or distressed".

Ruben ends the message with: "This will show the world that people from El Paso, Texas are kind and care for each other."

Image copyright Rose Gandarillo
Image caption Ruben's note on Sunday asked strangers to carry out 20 acts of kindness, one for each victim, but it has now increased to 22 after two more victims were named.

On Facebook and Twitter the post has been shared 7,000 times with people not just in El Paso but across the US inspired by Ruben's positive message.

"What a wonderful idea. Thank you for bringing positivity to this world. I will be participating in this challenge in Michigan! Love to El Paso" posted one Twitter user.

Others shared what they would be doing: "Count me in from California. I'll be knitting pillows and dropping them off at the local shelters and nursing homes."

"I decided to start picking up litter on my walks. Bringing a bag and gloves. Make your city a little cleaner and safer for the environment," read another comment.

Chris Castaneda, 20, was eating at a fast food restaurant with his motorcycle club when he learnt about the challenge.

Image copyright Chris Castaneda
Image caption Chris Castaneda (back right) was at a fast food restaurant with his motorcycle club when he learnt about the challenge.

"We had gone as a group to a vigil at a park near to the Walmart where the shootings took place.

"We were about halfway through eating and this little boy came up to our tables and asked if he could talk to us for a second.

"He began telling us how he wants to see El Paso as a better place and have the challenge," Chris told the BBC.

And he says he has already been inspired by Ruben's message.

"Mine have been minor things but I feel they make the biggest difference.

"I've held the door open for people, helped change a tyre, and bought food for a co worker who forgot their wallet."

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