By identifying a need and working together to fill it, students can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of countless others.
By Lani Aquino
As the devastating floods from Hurricane Harvey have ravaged so many, the media has placed a spotlight on the relief efforts. While the world watches these events unfold, students are also a part of the viewing audience. Fred Rogers’ words come to mind, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things on the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” These helpers have come together to meet a need and make a difference. These helpers are part of collective humanitarian effort. These helpers have put kindness and empathy into action. What an impactful experience to find ways for students to become these helpers.
The recovery and rebuilding efforts in the affected areas will be long and arduous. The immediate needs in this process include monetary donations and the collection of non-perishable consumables with numerous channels for delivery. Finding reputable companies and foundations for giving should be the first priority when organizing a drive or event. Class, school, and/or district collection efforts need to also focus on what’s needed; not just what’s on hand. By preparing lists of accepted items for donation drives, time and money are saved when charitable organizations are not overwhelmed with generous yet unusable donations. As students become givers, doers, and helpers, they also become more empathetic, more mindful, and more self-assured as they take part in efforts for a greater good.
While there is a large need for immediate relief, there is also the long-term outlook for rebuilding communities. This is where teachers and students can work together to identify needs beyond food and shelter that could become part of an extended project or partnership. Once the initial needs are being met and the rebuild efforts begin, do some research and reach out to schools, classroom teachers, churches, mom groups, animal rescues, etc. in the affected areas. Go to a school website, find a teacher’s classroom link, and reach out directly. Contact a local mom group like MOPs or MOMs Club and see if they are doing any collecting for those in a crisis area or could set up a connection with one. There may be a specific need, or students and teachers could work together to select some items to offer such as these:
Activity Bags- Often referred to as busy bags, these small, portable, and easily storable ideas would be a great offering. Creating the bags would also be an excellent hands-on experience for students. Activity bags could be made for toddlers/preschoolers, math, language arts, science, and more. Students could even be the researchers to find a topic or game that interests them to create. Families could be asked to donate supplies, and the learning and giving can begin!
Book Drives- These could be for a library, classroom, shelter, etc. New or gently used books for any age or reading level could definitely fill a need.
Animal Toys- For classes filled with animal lovers, this could be a great service option. Students could create toys for dogs and cats to send to animal shelters.
Teacher Supplies- Think of all the money invested in a teacher’s classroom, and then think of having to reinvest those funds all over again? A teacher supply drive among staff to collect any extra posters, center supplies, learning games/activities, etc. would be an amazing way of showing support. Students could also collect and donate consumables or even work with teachers to create learning center activities and/or learning games to send to classrooms in need.
When students become the helpers, it has a lasting impact on those in need and on the helpers themselves. The ability to look back and know that at a young age they were able to make a difference can offer limitless benefits to students’ humanitarianism and self-worth in the years to come. As the helpers work together to transform communities, the internal transformation that carries over into all they do can be the greatest good that is accomplished.
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