It’s the time of the year that you might hear, “it’s better to give than to receive.” This could not be more true for Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots groups around the holidays. Service learning, a core component of the Roots & Shoots program, is about giving your knowledge and time to make your community a better place. For my Roots & Shoots group, the holiday season is always a busy time as we try to squeeze a whole bunch of exciting (and festive!) volunteer opportunities into our schedule.
I’ve compiled a list of my personal top 5 holiday projects, and always remember that if you have changed one life for the better, then you have made a difference.
Wrap presents at a local children’s hospital.
For the past few years, my group has visited Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Brighton, Massachusetts and wrapped presents. Many of the kids at the hospital are not able to go home for the holidays, so we’re in charge of making sure that Santa has his presents wrapped and ready to go for December 25th. Get in touch with a children’s hospital near you to see if they need this service. If you can’t get into the hospital, making cards is always a great idea too.
Celebrate with those who are less fortunate.
My school is located a few doors down from a homeless shelter. Each year, the shelter encourages families to pick a child and purchase everything on their wishlist. There are programs like this established at most shelters, so see how you can get involved.
Make cards for a nursing home, or even better, go visit!
Our Roots & Shoots group has a relationship with a local nursing home, and visiting them during the holidays has become one of our favorite activities. We’ve sung carols, decorated cookies, played cards, lost at playing pool, and talked about anything and everything under the sun. It is so rewarding to spend a few hours brightening someone’s day (and they brighten ours.) We try to visit all year round, but the holidays are a perfect time to visit or to make cards — a simple act of kindness can truly go a long way.
Fundraise for a charity that is special to you.
The holidays are a perfect time to fundraise for a charity. One way to do this is asking for donations in lieu of presents from your family. Pick an animal rights, cancer research, education, or an environmental organization whose mission you believe in and want to support. If you’re reading this, I bet you’re passionate about the work done by Dr. Jane and the Jane Goodall Institute. Did you know you can start your own fundraiser for JGI and Roots & Shoots?
Join Team Jane to start a holiday fundraiser or support someone else’s.
Get started with Operation Christmas Child.
Although this year’s collection just ended in mid-November, this has to be one of my absolute favorite projects, and it’s never too early to start for next year! Operation Christmas Child is an international organization that requests shoeboxes filled with toys, toiletries, and school supplies, and ships them to millions of children in need. There are amazing testimonies from adults who received boxes as children who said that the boxes changed their life, and they saw items, like dental floss and colored pencils, that they had never seen before! When I was younger, my elementary parish school packed hundreds of boxes. This year, I started Operation Christmas Child at my high school and parish, and I was able to donate 24 boxes!
The holidays can be a very exciting, service-packed and fun-filled time for Roots & Shoots, so help yourselves to some of my favorite projects and get out and make a difference. What are you going to do to make the holidays merry for all?