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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 19, Number 3, Nov./Dec. 2006

Students can reach out to others during the holiday season

by Virginia Brucker

Children make great volunteers—they are full of enthusiasm, energy, and optimism. There are many good reasons why kids should volunteer. Studies show that people who help others are healthier and happier. When children volunteer, their self-esteem is enhanced as they learn new skills and make new friends. They see themselves as kind people capable of making a difference, and they learn to live more hopefully. They develop a stronger, richer sense of self and often have greater empathy and compassion. Volunteer activities help build character and teach social responsibility. The holiday season provides many opportunities for elementary and secondary school students to reach out to others.

Your students can:

  • make tray favours or cards for Meals-on-Wheels clients.
  • sort food at a food bank.
  • invite an elderly neighbour or relative to attend their holiday concert or band performance.
  • make a pillow, quilt, or stockings for a shelter. This is a great project for home ec classes.
  • organize a pet food drive for the local SPCA.
  • organize a party for the local special olympics participants. Or better still, volunteer to help with special olympics throughout the year.
  • donate items their family has outgrown such as a crib, bedding, baby clothes, or baby toys to a local shelter or program for teen parents.
  • visit a seniors’ centre. Organize a craft or baking session for seniors or help write and address their seasonal cards.
  • set up a wrapping station in a local mall to raise money for a charity that has special meaning for them.
  • donate gently used books to a family shelter or a daycare that needs them.
  • organize a warm coat collection and donate the coats to an organization that needs them.
  • collect used eyes glasses for the Lions’ Club eyeglass-recycling program, which are sent to developing countries. (Visit www.clerc.ca to find where to send glasses.)
  • read stories to younger students. And later on, consider organizing a big-buddy tutoring program where children regularly help younger children with reading.
  • help little buddies write thank you letters to Santa for last year’s gift.

"Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves..." – James Matthew Barrie

Virginia Brucker is a Vancouver Island teacher-librarian who wrote Gifts from the Heart: Simple Ways to Make Your Family’s Christmas More Meaningful.

A newly revised and expanded edition is available at bookstores across Canada. Royalties support research for the Canadian Cancer Society. To date, book sales have raised $98,500 for research. Published by Insomniac Press, 2006, 336 pages, ISBN 1897178301, $19.95.

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