By Sean McEwen, Youth & Integration Coordinator
It is hard to believe that Christmas was so long ago and that we find ourselves in a lockdown. At the time we were able to see our family and friends and re-connect after what felt like years being apart. While we got to enjoy a bit of normality there were still so many that didn’t. Frontline workers were still working in difficult situations while pandemic numbers were still rising, elderly in nursing homes and care facilities were unable to see their loved ones, and some were still in their own lockdowns unable to leave their rooms. It was during this time the young people of Ireland participating in Localise programmes became a beacon of hope for those that needed it.
In late 2019, the Transition Year group in Presentation College Secondary School, Tuam completed the Volunteering For All Award programme as they showcased their dedication to volunteering in their local community and for being a school that celebrates its community’s diversity.
In November 2020 the school and Localise partnered together – this time in a virtual capacity to bring Christmas cheer to Greenpark Nursing Home. Together, the transition year students and Localise brainstormed ideas as to how they can bring Christmas joy to the residents in a safe and socially distanced way with Localise supporting the group from Dublin. After a few Zoom meetings with the Ms. Quirke (the coordinating teacher) and students, the group began their project.
The group began making individualised handmade Christmas cards, keychains and other treats for 46 residents and 57 members of staff. Further, the students took the extra time to record what would have been their Christmas Choir so that the staff and residents had some extra entertainment, and recorded a personalised Merry Christmas wishes to each resident.
When restrictions eased, 40+ students, Ms. Quirke delivered the Christmas treats to staff representatives of Greenpark Nursing Home. The girls adorning Santa hats brought handmade signs wishing residents Merry Christmas to the residents who watched from their bedroom windows.
The empathy and care put into each gift and videos highlighted the remarkable power of young people when provided the opportunity to make a positive difference in their local community.
The Localise Classroom to Community is a seed programme that awakens the spirit of volunteerism and helps develop key skills necessary to respond to real needs within the local community. It is designed for all ages and learner types and easily fits with existing curriculum components or can be implemented as a stand-alone volunteering programme.
The Localise Classroom to Community programme is available free of charge to all schools and can be accessed online via www.localise.ie.
Localise Youth Volunteering has been working in partnership with schools to implement student led volunteering programmes since 2007.