Whether it is volunteering at a local soup kitchen, singing at a long-term care home, or helping to build a school in another country, experiences like these are arranged by some schools to ensure students have opportunities to practice what they are taught about the value and important of service.
“It’s fundamental to our vision for this school that students become engaged in community in very direct ways,” says Harry Meester, director of recruitment and advancement at Hamilton District Christian High School (HDCH). “We’ve got to put our vision into practice.”
HDCH has a number of annual service activities, one of which is its Non-Food Food Drive during the Thanksgiving season.
A fundraising competition takes place during which each homeroom brings in monetary donations in support of Neighbour to Neighbour, a local food pantry in Hamilton.
This year HDCH students and staff raised $9,000, which translated into more than 7,300 pounds of groceries.
HDCH also has an EcoServe Club, which takes time each fall to clean the Rockwood Conservation Authority grounds near Guelph, Ontario. In exchange, the Conservation Authority allows the club to camp there for the night.
Meester points out that if students are patterned to do service work when they are young they are much more likely to continue it into adulthood.
Linda Wolting is the development director at Chatham Christian Schools. She says community service is a direct application of the school’s mission, which is to provide Christ-like learning in all areas of schooling for Christ-like service in all areas of life.
“We want to teach our students that learning is also about what you can do for others around you,” says Wolting. “It’s not just about bringing in things for yourself.”
Both the elementary and secondary divisions of Chatham Christian Schools are involved in a wide range of community service activities each year. Generally the elementary grades each make their own decisions about what type of service they will do.
In the past one class has volunteered at a local soup kitchen.
Wolting says the response from the students was very positive about that experience. They had not only assisted with preparing the food but also talked with the people who came for the meal, including a number of homeless people.
“A number of (the students) said how it interesting it was to talk to these people and hear their life stories,” says Wolting. “So that was a real blessing for the students. I think they ended up taking away a lot from the experience, much more than they thought they would.”
The secondary school classes are usually involved in a number of mission trips, including one to Toronto and one to Detroit. For the last two years a group of Grade 11 and 12 students have also traveled overseas, once to the Dominican Republic and this last spring to Belize, to help build schools and do other charitable work.