As we head into the month of December, many of us are eagerly anticipating the approaching Christmas holiday. Some of us will gather around the dining room table with family and friends to eat, we might enjoy a lazy afternoon in front of the fireplace as grandpa and dad bicker over who gets control over the remote, and some of us will guiltily sneak the last piece of pecan pie after the kids have gone to bed. On Christmas morning (or eve), some of us will pass around the collection of gifts we have spent weeks, or months, planning, buying, and wrapping. It is the most wonderful time of the year—full of warmth, love, and an opportunity to reflect on all that we have and are thankful for. It is also one of the best times of the year to show compassion to people outside of our family and SAS community.
It’s likely that you have heard of the Giving Tree program here in Shanghai, which was started by the Shanghai Community Center. They reach out to community organizations to help provide necessary items and gifts to migrant children in need during the holiday season. For many years SAS has partnered with this program, and this year was no exception. You have probably heard your children talking about it in years past or contributed to it yourself. But despite it being an annual event, each year our students bring with them a sense of excitement and eagerness that ensures this project does not just become another activity we are checking off a holiday to-do list. This year, between both campuses, over 1,000 gifts were given to young migrant children who live in Shanghai.
Every year, thousands of migrant families come to Shanghai looking for jobs and better educational opportunities for their children. No matter where you are in the world, living as a migrant family can be extremely difficult. Buying school items and winter clothing can be impossible at times, much less the occasional gift for your child. So our students dedicate their time, money, and talents to raising funds, purchasing gifts and much needed personal items (such as toothbrushes, pencils, etc…), organizing hundreds of bags, and delivering each one to a local migrant child. Each gift is personalized with a card and specific items that the child has personally wished for.
Last week, middle and high school students from our Pudong campus and elementary students from our Puxi campus visited a couple of local schools with the Giving Tree organization. For the elementary students, this was their first time to see a local school firsthand. Of course, all of our students had a great time visiting the local children and watching the performances that were put on in our honor, but it was our youngest students who felt the biggest impact.
“My favorite part of going was handing out the gift bags and watching them [the local students] perform for us. The reason I liked handing out the bags was because I loved to see how happy they looked when they untied the bag and saw what was inside. You’d think that they would just go for the gift when they opened the bag, but they actually went for the card that we had written to them. I also enjoyed watching the kids perform for us because it showed how important this day was to them. The other reason I liked seeing them perform was because that's when I really got a chance to look at my surroundings, and I realized how fortunate I was.” – Jocelyn
“I think the best time of the whole trip was when we gave out the gifts. I was proud of my class, because all the children were happy with the presents that they got (it was the things that they really wanted), and some were even crying because they were so happy about it. I also thought back on how I once got mad at my parents because they didn’t buy the one thing that I had really wanted that year, even though they had bought me other gifts. I also thought about how hard my parents work to send me to SAS. So, this trip taught me a lesson—that I am very lucky to have the chance to get things that I want and that I shouldn’t be greedy.” - Jodie
“My favorite part about going to the local school was when we delivered the bags. All the kids were extremely excited when they saw us. The fifth graders were jumping up and down, waving and clapping, and the smaller kids looked like they just saw Santa Claus. I also loved meeting the kids and learning cat’s cradle (a game that involves yarn) from them. When you go to the migrant schools you become more thankful for everything that you have.” -Liv
“It was a great experience for all the fifth graders to look at life in a different way. My favorite part is watching the kids smile and knowing that we made their day. What I think changed is that now I know how some people live in very poor conditions and are still happy, but we who have everything we need are not always happy in life. So, I learned how to be more thankful. It made me think how sometimes I can be so dumb in thinking and asking for more when you just have to look around and realize that some people are suffering for things that you already have.” - Agustina
“When I saw their faces when they received their gift, I felt good and proud of this difference we [SAS] had just made. Their faces were filled with happiness and many other feelings that can’t be described. On that day, I learned helping feels better than receiving.” -Chloe
“当我看到他们拿到礼物的笑脸，我感觉很好，我很骄傲我们 [上海美国学校] 发挥了自己的作用。他们脸上有着幸福和其他一些描述不出来的感情。就是在那一天我明白了付出比接受的感觉要好。”—— Chloe
Sometimes, the lessons we learn are not taught inside the classroom. The opportunity that many of our students had this past week with the Giving Tree program was life changing and we are so thankful that we have students who are committing to act with integrity and compassion, both inside the gates of SAS and beyond.
Founded in 1912, Shanghai American School (SAS) is the largest and oldest international school in China with two state-of-the-art campuses located in Puxi and Pudong.