UBC Okanagan students help homeless connect at Christmas

Tom Alan Morris, a client of Kelowna's Gospel Mission, shows off the Christmas card that Amy Banerd, a second-year education student at UBC Okanagan, helped him pick out as part of the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange Connecting at Christmas project.

UBC Okanagan Education students have created Christmas cards for clients at Kelowna's Gospel Mission to share holiday greetings with family and friends.

Part of an Education course art portfolio, the Connecting at Christmas initiative is coordinated through the UBC Okanagan Learning Exchange program and builds on an idea sparked during a previous student-driven volunteer project with the homeless community.

Education student Blaine Jones with some of the Christmas cards he and classmates created to help clients of Kelowna's Gospel Mission share holiday greetings with family and friends.

"A student was asked if they had a pen and paper so that one of the people could write a letter home," says Lori Field, program coordinator of the Learning Exchange. "This request came as a surprise to the student because it was such a small thing. Yet, it is not something that homeless people have ready access to."

Throughout the week, student volunteers are visiting with people at Kelowna's Gospel Mission, distributing the holiday cards made by the Education students, and helping to get the cards delivered to family and friends in time for Christmas.

"This is an entirely new experience for me," says Blaine Jones, a second-year Education student involved with the project. "I don't know much about the challenges facing homeless people in our community, so I thought this was a good way to teach myself a few things and I'm so glad I came. It's just great -- this is community learning and service learning and my experience here has made me think that I'll definitely look for other ways to volunteer."

Tom Alan Morris, a client of Kelowna's Gospel Mission, says he appreciates the time and effort the students put into the cards, and he is looking forward to spreading a little of his own Christmas cheer this holiday season.

"I feel this is quite an honour to have people take time out of their day, come down here, and help me pick out a Christmas card," he says. "It's nice to have something like this to give."

"It's a wonderful thing - people from different backgrounds come together to create a connection at Christmas," says Veronica Cowan, casework manager at the Kelowna Gospel Mission. "Having something as simple as a Christmas card really makes a difference in the lives of people in need. It is a time of caring, and the feeling of respect and hope really shines through."

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