As the holiday season approaches, it is a happy season for most, but for others, it serves as a reminder for the troubles that surround them. Holidays are for Helping is a program at WCI that brings students together to help the less fortunate. This year, donations and fundraising is as important as ever. With many Syrian refugees set to arrive in Waterloo in the coming weeks, the collection of not only food and money, but winter clothing, too, is vital to giving these refugees a warm welcome into our community.
Holidays are for Helping, which used to be called Christmas is for Caring, used to be a region-wide initiative that was controlled mostly by WCI. Over time, however, schools started to separate and now each school runs its own charity events within each community. WCI takes pride in the fact that, according to Mr. Nickel, the Student Activities director at WCI, it is one of the most charitable schools in the region.
In past years, the donations brought in have been steady, but rarely did the students get to see first hand the difference they make. This year, however, the results of their donations will be seen first hand. The school has focused a lot on bringing in supplies to help out Syrian refugees, who will soon be our peers. In the new year our school will be welcoming many refugees who are being supported by the generous donations of the WCI community as a whole. The difference is much more tangible this year than what the school is previously used to, thus making this years Holidays are for Helping one of the most successful yet.
Each homeroom at WCI sets its own goals, whether it be money to buy toys, food for the food bank, or clothing for the new refugees. This approach is supposed to make it easier for homerooms since each class sets a small goal that can hopefully be achieved.
The toy drive started 10 years ago under the name Give a Little Bit, and every year since, students donate money to put toys under the angel tree for children whose parents/guardians cannot afford gifts. The food drive collects non perishable food items to donate to the local food bank. Finally, the winter clothing drive was introduced this year in hopes of accumulating warm clothes for incoming Syrian refugees in the region who may not be used to the colder winters.
Mr Nickel emphasized that teachers’ encouragement of students’ participation in these efforts leads to the most amount of goods being donated. He explained, “It really helps when teachers support Holidays are for Helping. We have teachers that have matched the entire amount [of donations] and some teachers and classes that have competitions with each other.”
The variety of different charities is intended to address a variety of needs in the community. Ollie D., a grade 12 student at WCI said, “I think it’s really good that Holidays are for Helping helps local charities like the food bank but then also some of the items we collected, like the coats, are going to the Syrian refugees.”
The ABCD representative responsible for the toy drive, Mark C., shared some results of this year’s Holidays are for Helping campaign. According to Mark, the goal was to raise $1100 for the angel tree toys and WCI surpassed that goal by raising $1800. The additional $700 was donated to the Syrian refugee fund. The food drive also brought in 40 full boxes weighing 20 pounds each.
As the season for giving comes to an end at WCI, it is clear that the tradition of giving is still strong.
Article: Haley Sherbourne and Mark Munro
Photography: Mr. Nickel