WHAT is your Christmas wish? Everyone in the group responded, “Family!” Every Christmas, our family and relatives try to gather in one place to have fun and food and take photos. Always, we begin with a prayer thanking the Lord for the gifts and blessings we received and so that we would be guided in the incoming year.
Another activity that makes us busy during the yuletide season is OG or “open gathering” wherein we host new migrants. We give Christmas boxes, serve food, sing songs and play games. The highlight is the group hug, with everyone joining in one big circle of embrace. We started this activity 11 years ago, and we were just a handful then. Now, we are doing this in four different venues as the number of new migrants has increased through the years.
We tied up with other groups, and some have persisted while the others dropped out. But the core group, TawagAwit, has kept the spirit of giving, caring and sharing alive.
One of the challenges was looking for donors of gifts. We were fortunate to connect to Life Centre Trust, a charitable institution that started a grassroots local initiative of delivering Christmas gift-wrapped food boxes to neighboring families in need. Since 2001, the group has distributed nearly 100,000 Christmas boxes with each box containing food stuff for a family of four to six, helping supplement breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for over a week. Private institutions, as well as other charitable trusts, have contributed to this program where more than a thousand volunteers help in packing and distributing the boxes. TawagAwit was allotted boxes for new migrants.
Another group that has partnered with us is Migrant Action Trust, whose focus is assisting new migrants to assimilate into New Zealand. It has provided us the venue where we store the items as well as where we congregate for the distribution event. This year, we not only catered to Filipino migrants but also to other newcomers from Iran, Ethiopia and Thailand.
What made me happier this year was that I convinced my grandchildren to part with some of their toys so they could be given to children of new migrants. It was simply fascinating to see the smiling faces of the recipient kids as they were handed the play things. I guess I had imparted to my grandchildren the concept of generosity.
I am sure there are many individuals and institutions doing similar activities all over the world. And they will continue doing so not just during the season of giving but also throughout the year, so long as there are fellow human beings who are vulnerable and are in need. For in truth, despite the wars, the corruption and the exploitation, there are still many people who do good deeds for humanity.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.