Sharing Christmas With Everyone … And We Mean Everyone

The trees. The carols. Maybe not quite the snow.

No matter where you are in the world, someone somewhere is celebrating Christmas. They are sharing presents, song and cheer.

As children, we remember sitting on the lap of the fat bearded man wearing the funny red clothes. We told him everything we wanted on Christmas morning, and then barely slept the rest of the month, hoping when he came down the chimney, he’d have those popular toys in tow.

Sadly, there are many kids who not only never get these presents, but don’t even have a chance to ask. Imagine growing up with people rarely asking you what you wanted for Christmas.

That is life in an orphanage, unfortunately. And one the Significant Others Organization wants to change this year at Queen Elizabeth Home for Children.

We are working closely with Girl Scout Troop 22141 located in the small Pennsylvania town of Johnsonburg. Why this remote place? Because it’s where one of our volunteer co-coordinators grew up, and his sister is a Girl Scout troop leader there.

The Scouts will be busy making ornaments next week that will go on an angel tree, graciously hosted by a local business. Each ornament will have the first name of a child here in Grenada, his or her age, and three gifts they would like to receive.

Generous people in and around Johnsonburg will then take an ornament, buy one of the three gifts, and either bring it back to the store, or call to have a Girl Scout come pick it up.

Once toys are collected, the Scouts will package it all up and ship it right here to Grenada, just in time for distribution at the beginning of December (yes, Christmas comes early here!)

We are so grateful to Girl Scout Troop 22141 and the local business, Jundzillo’s Yarn and Gifts. We will promote the toy drive in Pennsylvania, and hope for a great turnout.

But we still need your help! 

This coming Monday, we will put together wish lists for each and every one of the kids. Because we don’t want them all asking for the same thing (and being influenced by others), we need to take each one aside separately, and try to get their three gift requests in a short period of time.

And we still need volunteers to help the kids with homework and to spend time with them, which is part of our usual Monday trip.

So even if you have not participated in a trip to Queen Elizabeth Home before, this could be a great time to start! You can volunteer to help with homework and play, or to help build wish lists. Either way, we could really use your help this coming Monday!

We meet in front of Charter Hall at 2:45 p.m., with the bus leaving at 3. We might stay a tad bit later this week to ensure we get all the wish lists, so we’ll likely be heading back around 5:15 or so from Tempe.

Would you like to help us? We can certainly use it! Register for Monday’s trip right here, and you can help make a wonderful Christmas for the great kids at QEH!


Honoring a woman who made Grenada a true home

With our first official visit to the Dorothy Hopkin Centre for the Disabled this week, it was impossible to not think about the woman who brought it all together, and made it all happen: Dorothy Hopkin.

If you type Ms. Hopkin’s name into Google, you really don’t get a lot. In fact, Google thinks you’ve actually made a typo, and suggests you find someone else instead.

But that seems to be the kind of leader and innovator Ms. Hopkin was: working behind the scenes, and ensuring her actions spoke louder than she ever would.

Ms. Hopkin founded the home in 1963. Grenada was a much different island back then. In fact, it was still a British colony, more than a decade away from seeing independence.

But the need for a loving, caring home for residents who needed a little extra attention to their daily lives was greatly needed, and Ms. Hopkin looked to fill that void.

More than 50 years later, the Dorothy Hopkin Centre is one of the great pillars that lift Tempe and the surrounding neighborhoods in the parish. Each day, the people who staff the center not only work to make residents comfortable, but to also help each one grow every single day.

Ms. Hopkin passed away in 1995, but she would have to be excited to see how well the center — and its amazing residents — are doing 20 years later.

We are there every Wednesday, but all of us wish we could be there more often. When it’s time to go, you don’t want to leave. So thank goodness there’s always next week, and a chance to not only make a difference in the life of someone at the center, but for someone at the center to make a difference in yours.

Register today and join us for our next trip! Trust us, you’ll never want to miss a week going there again!

First day of school? Covered!

The Significant Others Organization volunteer group headed made its first official trip to Queen Elizabeth Home for Children this week, and the kids were very excited to see us!

It was the first day of school for most of them, so there already was plenty of homework — from math, to writing sentences, even a little Spanish thrown in just to keep everyone on their toes.

Although the rain almost limited everything indoors, the sun came out just in time during the last half hour, and we all were able to go outside, and play all kinds of games in and around the amazing pavilion on the campus. One of our volunteers headed straight to the bicycles, repair kit in hand, making sure each one was ridable and safe.

We make this trip every Monday, and will be doing it again next week. So if you’d like to join us, register here!

We provided 14 hours of volunteer service on this one trip, but we can help provide even more! We’d love for you to take part!

Deep down inside, we’re all just people

This past week, we made our first rather unofficial trip to the Dorothy Hopkin Centre for the Disabled. For the veterans among us, they walked in and felt like they were right at home. But for those of us visiting for the first time, there was obviously some trepidation and nervousness.

I mean, we know how to act around other adults, and we even know how to act around kids. But how do you act around people with disabilities? How do you communicate? How do you make your time there fun for them? And more importantly, how do you open your mouth without feeling you just put your foot in it?

The answer was much simpler than we had realized. We weren’t spending time with the disabled — we were spending time with people. And that’s it.

In fact, the Illinois Department of Human Services shared some guidelines in how to overcome that trepidation, that uncomfortable feeling, of not knowing what to say or do. The primary step? Remember that when you interact with people with disabilities, they are people.

“There disability is just one of the many characteristics they have,” the officials said. “People with disabilities have the same needs we all do: first and foremost among them is to be treated with dignity and respect.”

When interacting with people with disabilities, the first thing you want to do is focus on their abilities, not their disabilities. And while they might do things in different ways in people without those particular disabilities, they can still achieve the same results.

The state officials go on to provide some general rules of etiquette that should help you through just about any situation, removing any fear you might have that comes with not knowing how to act, or what to say.

Treat everyone as you would like to be treated. Think of the person first, not their disability. Don’t shy away from people with disabilities — relax and be yourself.

Just because a person has a disability, they don’t necessarily need or want your assistance. Never help someone without asking first.

Avoid using labels when you speak. Always use “people first” language — saying things like “person who is disabled” rather than “disabled person.”

People with disabilities aren’t victims. When you talk to a person with a disability, don’t use pet names, like “honey.” It’s also disrespectful to pat people with disabilities on the head, or talk down to them as though they were children.

Sure, these guidelines might look intimidating at first, but they aren’t. Because it all goes back to one primary idea: people are people. By always keeping that in mind, and treating all people like people, you have absolutely nothing to worry about.

So please join us on our next trip to Dorothy Hopkin. The residents there are such wonderful people, and I don’t think any of us have smiled so much — and had so much fun — in such a short period of time. But the more the merrier, and it would be great if you could join us on our next trip!


Volunteer … and live to be 100!

Why do you volunteer? Or, probably foremost on your mind, why bother to volunteer?

There are many reasons, particularly — what else are you going to do while your student is studying and learning? Few of us can actually work while here in Grenada, and believe it or not, the amount of television shows and movies on Netflix are actually quite finite.

Allen Omoto, a psychology professor at the California school Claremont Graduate University, says most of the drivers affecting someone volunteering are more about the benefits to yourself, not just how it benefits other people.

In volunteering, someone gains understanding, as in the desire to learn new things and acquire knowledge. They also have enhanced esteem, which allows them to feel better about themselves and find greater stability in life. And, of course, there’s personal development, where you acquire new skills, test your capabilities, and stretch yourself.

But it’s not all about me, me, me. Omoto also says primary drivers for volunteering are about other people, too. Primarily, it gives you a sense of community, where you make the world — or your piece of it — better. And then there are humanitarian values, where serving and helping others, is important.

“The ones that get the higher rates of endorsement are the ‘other focused’ ones,” Omoto says, according to the book, “How to Live to 100.” “But it’s the ‘self-focused’ ones that predict length of service.”

People who don’t volunteer often tend to think they don’t measure up to those who do.

“They put them up on a pedestal,” says Mark Snyder, a psychologist with the University of Minnesota.

But no matter how much you volunteer (or even how little), you do measure up. And if you want to feel like you do measure up, the experts say you should volunteer more, not less.

“It’s clear that more is better, at least up (to) a point,” says Jane Allyn Piliavin, a retired sociologist from the University of Wisconsin. “The more consistently you do it, the better your psychology benefits.”

So what do you say? Ready to volunteer yet?

balloons, lollipops and happy little smiles

Contributed by: Amber Gazo

I know I already wrote a post on here about visiting Queen Elizabeth but I felt it was high time for another one. Last week quite a few people came to the home with us and it was a wonderful time for the kids. Miss Heather and Miss Julia blew up tons of balloons for the children who oddly enough, all wanted to keep them untied. They enjoyed letting the air out and then blowing them back up themselves. It’s amazing to me how independent they can be. I find playing with them to generally be a very relaxing task. They usually just want to show you how they play and have you applaud them and smile while adding words of encouragement.

One boy in particular is extremely proud of the fact that he can now spell his name except he wishes there was an ‘a’ in it and keeps adding it between the letters. I’m not sure why he wants an ‘a’ in his name so badly but he does. I think it’s because it’s the first letter in the alphabet and probably what they’re learning to write at the moment. It’s just imprinted in his brain!

They also received lollipops ( or suckers or light bulbs ) from Miss Julia and couldn’t have been more excited about their tongues changing different colors. I have so many pictures of them sticking out their tongues from that day with gleeful little smiles plastered over their faces.

Some visiting parents tagged along and were treated to some Hannah Montana and Rihanna tunes, all sung beautifully by the kids. They proudly showed off the frangipani ( the local caterpillar ) which I’m completely grossed out by but they seem to love. Two were intertwined on one of the branches and one of the children screamed with delight, “Miss they’re kissing!”

Getting to know these kids will change your life. It’s already changing mine.

Loving and Caring

Contributed by: Sarah Dhillon

Each day at the Limes After School Program, we start with “Circle Time”… we ask the children to arrange their chairs in a big circle as they arrive and then everyone has a seat. We pass around a beach ball and when each child holds the ball they have the opportunity to stand up, tell everyone their name, and share something about themself. Usually, we pick a topic to get things going: What is your favourite food? What kind of sports do you like to play? How many brothers or sisters do you have? Circle Time gives the kids the chance to practice their public speaking skills but more importantly, to share something that is important to them and have the undivided attention of their peers and teachers.

The other day, instead of choosing the topic for Circle Time, we asked the kids for their ideas. We wanted to know what they would like to talk about. One little boy who comes to the program quite regularly, put his hand up in the air immediately to suggest a topic: “Miss, I’d like to talk about loving and caring!”. What a great idea! So we asked the children to tell us what they do to show someone that they care about them. It was very touching to hear each child talk about how they show someone that they care: “making pictures for them”, “doing work around the house”, “giving big hugs”… every kid had their own way of showing others that they care and they were all so very eager to share those ideas.

I usually go the Limes prepared with crafts or lesson plans. I view my role as that of a teacher. I am there to engage the kids in learning and thinking about the world around them. Quite often; however, I leave, having learned something from the kids. On that day, I was reminded of the power of listening. Just by taking the time to ask and to listen, we learned so much more about the Limes children and what is important to them. When it came to my turn to talk about what I do to show someone that I care about them, my answer came from the kids: “I can show someone that I care by listening to them”.

Making Birthday Party Hats