The holiday season is known as a time for exchanging presents, but it can also be a great time to give back to your community. Here are some ways to do that.
For many of us, the holiday season is a time for giving and receiving gifts, getting together for family gatherings and enjoying good food. But the season can mean more than that. It can be a chance to step outside your comfort zone and do a little bit of good in the world—no matter what age you are.
Last year, Simryn Singh and her sister, Jasmyn, ages 15 and 11, respectively, realized they could take their good-doing to a whole new level. As devout Sikhs, philanthropy has always been a big part of the Winnipeg sisters’ lives.
Their mom, Jyoti Singh, worked at End Homelessness, an anti-homelessness organization in Winnipeg, and they volunteered at Agape Table, a low-cost grocery and weekly breakfast program. They also helped with the langar, the free vegetarian meal served at their temple each week.
One morning, as they were helping to serve breakfast before school, they saw some kids who were around their age standing in line with their parents. Parents would take off their jackets and put them on their children to keep them warm or carry them on their shoulders if they were tired so that they wouldn’t have to walk.
“We could see all these adults there who were giving everything to their children—as much as they could,” remembered Jasmyn.
“I have younger siblings too, so imagining them or myself having to go through that—it's kind of hard,” said Simryn.
They decided they needed to do more.
The sisters took over making the weekly langars at their temple. They also reached out to Althea Guiboche, a coworker of their mother’s and founder of Got Bannock?, a charity that distributes Indigenous food to the city’s homeless twice a month. Every Sunday they would cook massive batches of traditional vegetarian Indian food, box them and then share them out for free. For one event with Got Bannock? in June, they made and distributed 400 meals.
In October 2017, the two sisters spoke at WE Day in Manitoba, one of the largest celebrations of youth activism in the country. There, they shared their story before a crowd of 16,000 young people just like them who were also looking to make a difference.
Here are some ways you too can take your doing good to new heights:
1. Reach out for support: When the sisters approached their parents with their idea, they were encouraged to immediately put it into action. Moving quickly helped focus their energy and enthusiasm for the project and kept them from getting distracted or losing momentum.
2. Partner with others: Joining up with the volunteers of Got Bannock? and getting help from their friends kept Simryn and Jasmyn from burning out or becoming overwhelmed. They also got support from members of their community who donated ingredients for the meals, which meant that doing good didn’t mean going broke at the same time.
3. Keep it local: All their efforts have been focused on the streets of their home city, Winnipeg. This has given them a chance to make connections and form relationships with the people they serve—and that, more than anything, has kept them going.
For those thinking of starting up their own charitable projects this winter, Simryn has this simple advice: “Just get involved and do your part.”