One North Vancouver school is championing the gift of giving this Christmas, with more than 70 presents already wrapped, ribboned and ready to be delivered to the Elizabeth Fry Society.
It is the fifth year running that Ecole Boundary Elementary has teamed up with the charity to provide presents for mothers and children living in shelters, with this year’s demand greater than ever before following COVID and the recent level of inflation.
“This year is an extra struggle with the need being even greater than usual, ever since COVID it has quadrupled,” said Kirsty Gordon of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
“The past few months have been especially difficult with everything going up. By providing these gifts for the kids that are truly in need, these students aren’t only helping the child, but they are taking the pressure off the mom at an already stressful time of the year.”
With those in need including mothers of all ages and children ranging from babies to teenagers, gifts span everything from toys to toiletries.
“Many of these families have fled in the night with nothing but the clothes on their backs,” said the school’s Grade 6 teacher Alexis Fletcher.
“We talk with the students on what they would have wanted to take with them if they were in that kind of situation, so there are lots of things like Lego and soccer balls. Many of the younger girls would have asked for art supplies or crafty things, while for the older kids we tend to get gift cards so they can pick their own gift.”
Fletcher said comforting items that are often taken for granted – like warm pyjamas, socks, or simple beauty products for the mothers – are always well received.
Both Fletcher and Gordon said the drive is as beneficial for the gifters as the giftees, with students learning how to think about those less fortunate at this time of year alongside gaining a better understanding of homelessness and the situations around it.
“This really makes it real for them that this is a situation that can happen to anyone, you don’t have to do anything wrong in your life to be facing these problems,” said Fletcher. “It really removes the stigma.”
Eleven-year-old student Freja Klausen enjoyed the gift drive so much in 2022 she has taken on the role of Santa for the second year in a row, helping her school friends carefully procure the right gift for the babies, children, teenagers and mothers in need.
“I love the idea of being able to give back to the community,” she said.
Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.