While an Advent calendar helps us count down the days until Christmas by receiving a chocolate or a little treat each day, students at St. Michael’s School here are doing the opposite—giving instead of receiving.
“We saw the idea online,” noted teacher Meghan Bourgeois.
“We decided to teach the children the true meaning of Christmas, so thinking about what Christmas means, what it means to us as a Catholic school, giving back,” she explained.
“So instead of the children getting something every day, they would give to an organization.”
Her Early Learning French Immersion class, as well as Debbie Jean’s Early Learning French Immersion class and Cheri Whatley’s Early Learning class, decided to take part in the initiative.
Bourgeois said they decided to donate the items collected to the Women’s Shelter of Hope in Atikokan.
“Many people from our communities utilize the organization in their time of need,” she reasoned.
“And it’s prominently mothers and children, so we wanted the children to be able to give back to other children in need.”
Bourgeois noted they created a calendar, with two children bringing in something each day.
“They were given a list of different things to bring, such as non-perishable food items, baby items, personal hygiene items, toys, books—anything that families could use,” she said.
“And even things that babies could use, so we even have kids who have brought in diapers and wipes and those kinds of things.”
Bourgeois also stressed all of the parents were on board.
“We’ve had every child participate thus far,” she enthused. “So the parents have thought it’s a great idea.
“They like that we’re teaching the children what we teach every day about being kind and good people, giving back, and just being helpful.”
Bourgeois added the children have been enjoying the activity, too.
“I’ve had parents coming up to me saying their child wants to bring more than one thing or my child really wants to help those in need,” she noted, adding the youngsters also are understanding what it is all about.
“They have no problem articulating or communicating the fact that there are people who don’t have as much as they do and who are not as fortunate as they are,” Bourgeois said.
“And they really understand the spirit of Christmas in terms of the wanting to give back and wanting to be helpful.
“It’s really been eye-opening for them, I think,” she remarked.
“They are developing compassion, which I think is really important for students at a young age,” Bourgeois added.
“They are really picking up on that, which is impressive for such a young age.”
With 75 students participating in the reverse Advent calendar, Bourgeois said they will have at least that many items to donate as everyone is bringing in one while some students have brought more than one.
Donna Kroocmo, executive director of the Women’s Shelter for Hope, will stop by the school to pick up the items collected next Wednesday (Dec. 21).
Bourgeois said Kroocmo also wants to thank the students in person for their donations.
“She told me it’s not often that she cries tears of joy in her job, but she did when I contacted her,” Bourgeois recalled.
“She was emotional and excited and just overjoyed that we’re teaching children about giving and being compassionate.”
Bourgeois added while the school often holds food drives, this is the first time it’s done something of this nature at this time of year.