For me Thanksgiving has little meaning. Being French, Thanksgiving is not something that I have grown up with. While I studied it at school, from a civilisation point of view, it really is not something that resonates with me. However, what we experienced as a community a few weeks ago and for the second year in a row, is powerful especially when we look at what it used to be until two years ago.
Before November 2017, thanksgiving at Academia Cotopaxi was the occasion for the whole school community to have a lovely meal together on a half day and then everyone would go home at midday. We would have a typical Thanksgiving meal at school with some turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes etc. Students, teachers, administrators, support, maintenance and security staff, we were all eating together. Administrators would serve food to the rest of the community, we were thanking one another and it was lovely indeed!
A team of educators starting questioning what we were doing. Eating turkey in the morning before sending people home to eat some more. So we used some critical thinking and applied it to this community practice. Did we really need this? Did our community need to dedicate a whole morning to have a giant meal together? Were there some other communities out there who could benefit from our support during Thanksgiving time?
In 2017, a National Honor Society student shacked things around. She started working with a local organisation to support families in need in Quito and Ibarra areas and then began a whole community effort. A school wide holiday drive to collect food and toys. All donations were centralised in the different divisional offices in the school and on Thanksgiving day, in the morning, students and teachers all worked together to organise the donations for each family. According to how many family members and how many children per family we made boxes with food, toys and added holiday cards that our younger students designed.
This year, we got even bigger as we supported some Venezuelan communities and an Ecuadorian community in the Andes. Several families took part in the delivery of the food and of the toys. On Saturday, my family and I took part in the delivery about 3 hours from Quito. The local, Italian priest and Olga welcomed us in the community center and explained to us that the truck that we finished loading with food and toys the day before had not arrived due to a technical issue. However, a previous toy and food delivery from our school had arrived the week before so we were able to give every child a gift. But what was the most amazing is when the children arrived at the community center, they all came to shake our hands and they even had prepared a dance and a couple of songs for us. It was beautiful and very touching indeed.
While Academia Cotopaxi will continue the Holiday drive for food and toys next year, I also hope that we can sustain some strong links with the communities that we are helping. That we can organise more trips like those. That we can also continue to reflect upon what we do. That we develop more meaningful service learning opportunities.
It really feels that we have gone from Thankshaving to Thanksgiving and that is Thanksgiving that resonates with me.
For what it’s worth…