Thursday, 14 December 2017 14:01

Caribbean Christmas

[Photo provided]

BALLSTON SPA — Milton Terrace Elementary School students are in the giving spirit this holiday season. Each year the students participate in at least one community service project, usually focusing on providing community assistance to those in the local community. This year, the students decided to go a little beyond the community at large. In conjunction with The Giving Circle, Milton Terrance Elementary School students will be working on Operation: A Caribbean Christmas. This project asked students in grades K-5 to make homemade Christmas cards for kids in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas who were affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

The work is done through the library instruction class taught by Sheila McIntyre, point-person at the school for Operation: A Caribbean Christmas.

“As a Building Leadership Team (BLT), we have always looked for opportunities to help that reach far beyond Ballston Spa. A friend of mine who works with The Giving Circle approached me a while ago and asked if our school would be interested in helping them out with their Operation: A Caribbean Christmas project. I brought the idea to our BLT, and it was unanimously agreed upon that the students would love this,” said McIntyre.

The Giving Circle, an all-volunteer 501(C)(3) non-profit, contacted McIntyre to work on the project. This organization was founded in 2005 in response to the destruction left behind by Hurricane’s Rita and Katrina. Since their beginning, they have responded to nine natural disasters throughout the U.S., including local and international projects. This project is the perfect opportunity for the students to learn about children their own age who live differently than them; learn about different cultures; to show empathy for others struggles; and to feel like they can lend a helping hand. Before beginning with their cards, the students researched the islands and learned about their holiday celebrations, what languages they speak, what school is like, and what their homes and communities look like.

“It is always rewarding to see young children get excited about learning about different communities and cultures and helping others. The best part occurred during our discussions about what would be important for the students to know about Puerto Rico and St. Thomas before we could make the cards. The first question one fourth grader came up with was ‘what words of comfort could we send them?’” said McIntyre.

This question resulted in a discussion between the students which helped them to come up with the phrases they would put on their cards. Some phrases include, “we are all in this together,” and “I hope you can rebuild soon.” The Giving Circle will use the cards to accompany gifts and gift cards that will go to families in need in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas.

“We have local partners on each island, we send the cards directly to them and they do the distribution,” Donna Olson, who works at The Giving Circle, clarified.

“Interestingly, there were several students from grades K-5 who had a personal connection to Puerto Rico, whether they have relatives that live there, or their parents were born there. This provided a connection for the students themselves and gave them an opportunity to share their relative experiences with their fellow students,” McIntyre explained.

Lake Avenue Elementary School also created greeting cards and had a hurricane relief committee contribute $400.

The Giving Circle is still collecting donations, visit www. to see how you can help.

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