There’s no better time of year than Christmas for schools to instil the spirit of generosity and altruism in their students.
With that in mind, several schools within the Greater Victoria School District are focusing on “supporting our own” by building Christmas hampers, complete with food and toys, for less fortunate families within the school system.
“Every Christmas I wake up and I know there’s going to be presents, I know we’re going to have a turkey dinner.
“It’s really hard to imagine hearing about all this great stuff your friends are doing, and waking up on Christmas morning with next to nothing,” said Jonah Heyman, a Grade 8 student at Gordon Head middle school.
Students at the Saanich middle school created dozens of hampers that were delivered late last week by Esquimalt firefighters to 14 families at a Greater Victoria elementary school.
Down the street at Mount Douglas secondary, students filled hampers to help 35 families within the district.
Both schools work with youth and family counsellors to get a better sense of the families they’re assisting, to tailor the donations to that family’s needs and wants.
“We find out about these families, in confidence, for the ages and genders of the kids, and the family dynamic. And those kids come up with lists for Santa: ‘If I could get this for Christmas.’ And we were able to fulfill that for 35 families,” said Shawn Boulding, principal at Mount Doug.
“It’s really cool for our kids to see their act of giving, and see the effect it has on other kids.”
John Gaiptman, superintendent of SD61, says all schools in the school district – even those where less fortunate families were the recipients of food and gift hampers – did their part to give this holiday season.
“It is important that every child, regardless of their circumstances, understands what a good feeling it is to give, to be involved in a charitable event,” he said.
“It’s very much a community spirit. Our students understand that they’re part a community in Greater Victoria, and there’s always going to be people and families either across town or down the street that are less fortunate.”
Nadine Naughton, vice-principal at Gordon Head middle, says it’s a thrill getting to witness her students helping other students in the region.
“We’re becoming increasingly aware of what it means to educate the whole person – it’s not just about the literacy and the numeracy. There’s an aboriginal belief that wealth is not what you have, but it’s what you give away, and that’s what we’re trying to instil,” she said.
“We want them to be fortified as human beings, and that teaching starts right away in kindergarten.”
“In kindergarten you’re taught ‘sharing is caring’ and ‘love one another.’ But as you progress you tend to forget about that; you think more about yourself,” said 13-year-old Heyman. “Things like this bring back that kindergarten part of you – it’s good to share, good to give back. If we don’t do this through school, we’ll probably forget about being altruistic and generous as adults.”