Gifts from the Heart — Students Help Local Family in Need

Mr. Harb’s 5th grade class at the Fairmont North Tustin Campus recently worked with Connecting Hands OC to adopt a family and ensure it was able to have gifts and necessary provisions during the holiday season.

Harb said that it’s been his goal since the beginning of the school year to find a way to do something different for class parties, particularly the annual holiday party. Rather than having the students buy gifts for one another and exchange them as part of the Secret Santa tradition, he wanted them to be part of a gift-giving experience that was a bit more meaningful.

“I wanted it to be about more than the kids,” Harb said. “At this age, they’re able to do more, they’re able to understand more, and they’re ready to see beyond our class and beyond our campus and to know that there’s a community out there that can benefit from these types of activities and from coming together and thinking about other people who maybe aren’t as fortunate as they are.”

Students decorated a special Christmas tree to deliver to their adopted family.

When a representative from Connecting Hands OC spoke at a North Tustin Fairmont Parent Association meeting this fall, Sheila Pirzadeh, mother of a student in Harb’s class, knew that the opportunity to work with this particular organization was exactly what they were looking for.

“We’ve always been looking for ways for the kids to get involved, and this seemed like an ideal one,” she said. “With the small list of things they were asking for and being able to give them the tree, too, I think the kids could identify with it all. It taught them to think about others rather than themselves.”

Harb said the immediate responses he received from his students’ parents were full of enthusiasm to pitch in — and Harb’s students were equally as excited to be able to help others rather than focus on receiving gifts for themselves during the holiday party.

“My mom and I watch Ellen a lot, so we’ve always wanted to do something like this,” Sofia V. said. “I feel like I’m doing something good, and instead of giving back to myself, I get to give back to the community.”

After placing their many heartfelt gifts in the front of the room, the students spent their time during the party decorating the tree and creating crafts with which to adorn it. On Wednesday, December 20, Harb, Pirzadeh, and some of the students were able to deliver the gifts to the local family, who was beyond grateful to receive them from the joyous crew.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Pirzadeh said. “It’s about giving and being generous and compassionate and empathetic to the situations of others, and it’s nice to give back to the community. That’s what we’re here for — to help others and make the world better — and this is a little tiny way that we can do that as a class.”

And this experience is one that Harb wishes the students will remember in years to come.

“Anything we can do to help others, especially during the holidays, is a great experience for them to learn at a young age,” he said. “The hope is that this carries with them so that every holiday season, they’re thinking about more than themselves.”

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