When Selwyn House teachers and support staff took part in various charitable “Giving Back” activities before the holidays, many of them learned more from the experience than they expected.
Selwyn House Experiential Education Director Courtney Prieur describes it as “Teachers being students, which is something we don’t do often enough.”
Giving Back activities included: Christmas Carolling on Greene Avenue; cooking and baking for The Depot community food centre; delivering food and beverages to the homeless on the street and in the metro; gift wrapping at Alexis Nihon for Maison Nouvel Horizon; and visiting, sorting, cleaning and building shelves for Resilience Montreal, a homeless shelter in Westmount.
The act of feeding the homeless, in particular, was an eye-opener for many of the staff members.
“My own insecurities made me nervous about approaching people on the street and offering them food, but each person we approached was accepting and gracious,” recalls Middle School Assistant Valerie Beech. “They put me at ease. I wasn't expecting that experience, and I'm grateful for it.”
“The activity was a welcome opportunity to meet the people we see on the streets and in the metro every day,” says Admissions Officer Marsha Warmuth. “It opened my eyes to the difficult lives these people live.”
Visits with seniors had their emotional moments also. “My colleagues and I had a lovely time at Vista,” says Admissions DirectorNathalie Gervais. “The residents we met varied in their physical and or mental wellness, but they all seemed grateful for our visit.
“I met with one particularly sweet lady who had only moved in five days before. We played a game and every time I answered correctly, she punched me in the arm. Eventually, she told me about missing her dog and took my hand. We held hands for about 10 minutes.”
“Resilience Montreal is a great organization, and it was really nice to be doing something helpful with my colleagues,” says Senior Math Teacher Dan Elbling, “but the work was long and the progress slow. It really highlighted how patient and truly helpful the full-time workers at Resilience are.”