When the pandemic hit, parents, students, and families faced what social scientists and medical experts commonly cite as a recipe for distress – isolation. In addition to the hardship of living in family shelters or “couch surfing,” our students now faced academic, social, and emotional separation from peers, teachers, and extracurricular stimuli. Most were not set up for virtual learning.
Our volunteer tutors and mentors, who help with homework, school projects and career options, were quarantined at home. Our once bustling community room, typically teeming with volunteers, fell silent. Technology challenges, computer access and the lack of internet connections abounded for students, family shelters and volunteers. Businesses and groups that once provided the bulk of our inventory through scheduled supply drives were forced to cancel.
Project Giving Kids swung open their own doors for our students by recruiting families and children to learn about the plight of peers facing homelessness amidst school closures. As PGK leaders cast a spotlight on the hardship and needs of these especially vulnerable children and youth, they encouraged what all of us know for sure; “We rise by lifting others.” Children grew to learn that peers facing homelessness were, well, just like them.
Families logged on to virtual PGK events and together got to work creating artwork, writing poems, and scripting notes of encouragement for our students. Children shared their own personal favorite books for our students to enjoy. Parents and neighborhoods began collecting school supplies in their own neighborhoods to keep our inventory healthy. Local schools and clubs learned of our mission through PGK and they too began getting involved. Children learned about homelessness and came to understand the perils of the soul-crushing stigma associated with not having a place to call home. The world grew warmer.
Although these new young volunteers and their families had struggles themselves, from online learning and a disconnect from their own teachers and friends, they felt proud of their contributions to less fortunate peers and met like-minded new friends in the process.
Our affiliation and partnership with PGK continues to grow as does the network of caring families we meet. There is nothing like watching the heartfelt expression of a child who learns that every small act of kindness resonates greatly.
We are so pleased to share our mission and our students with the staff, families, and children of PGK. Thank you!