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Christmas means a little bit more

written by Aravind Kannan and Saniya Rao

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more.”  – Dr. Seuss

As children, all of us enjoyed our Christmas holidays. Our ideal Christmas included a giant green tree, a white-bearded man coming down the chimney and delicious Christmas cake. But as we grew up, somewhere along the way, we got busy with our lives and the magic of Christmas began to fade.

On the last Sunday of 2015, the U&I volunteers at the Government Home for Men were reminded that no matter how busy things get, there is always time for some Christmas cheer. Christmas has always been a special time for the boys at the Government Home and even they know something different is in store for them. This year, the volunteers went the extra mile to make sure the boys had a blast.

The success of any event is the result of meticulous planning. The same can be said for the Christmas celebrations at the Home. Volunteers invested their time to ensure that everything went according to plan. During the course of the Christmas week, volunteers hit the roads of Bengaluru in order to raise funds for the celebration. It was no easy task but it was made possible by the incredible motivation they received from U&I fellows.

No celebration is complete without decorations. So before the big day, the volunteers picked up gifts, decorations, chocolate, cake and food from the market. On the day of the celebration, the volunteers spent an hour and a half decorating the place, coordinating between four task groups, using every ounce of creative energy to make sure the place looked great. This set the tone for the rest of the spectacular day.

Usually, the boys at the Home are divided into groups and volunteers come up with specific activities for each group. Christmas, however, is a time for a collective celebration where all the kids enjoy activities together. So the volunteers came up with activities that everyone would love to participate in.

Colourful bowling pins were set up for an engaging bowling game. While others played 'Knock 'em down', trying to knock down a pyramid of paper cups with a softball. The boys discovered their inner Sachin Tendulkars, Kapil Devs or Anil Kumbles with a game of Cricket, shortly followed by a fun game of Football. The celebration was infused with colour – a combination of face painting done by our artistic volunteers and the bright red Christmas caps sported by each of the smiling kids.

After the games, we had a dance session with the all kids' favorite songs and their joy was boundless. Paul, a volunteer of G-Force (Group 4), dressed up as Santa spread the spirit of the festival by distributing gifts and chocolates to every kid at the Government Home. To see the happiness on each of their faces as they explored and played with their new belongings gave the volunteers a sense of accomplishment that will certainly keep them going through months to come.

While raising funds for the celebration, carolling was a great hit. So the volunteers decided to sing for the boys as well. They performed a sequence of songs, ranging from “Jingle Bells” to the Indian rendition of “Feliz Navidad” leaving the kids totally enthralled. After the performance, the kids cut cake and enjoyed a delicious dinner, bringing an end to one of the longest and most memorable days at the Government Home.

Overall, the Christmas celebration at the Government Home for Boys was undeniably one of the best evenings for every U&I volunteer that was involved. Success is only possible when people come together for the same cause. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank everyone at U&I, the full-time staff at the Government Home, the residents of Bengaluru and the volunteers who enabled and supported us at every step of preparing for and conducting the event. A number of people played an important role in our initiative to raise funds for this Christmas celebrations, sometimes even taking time out from their personal commitments and other times working very late into the night to make this event a success. Special thanks to Aishwarya, Dominic, Deepika, Satish, Rohan, Haneesha, Sana, Nitya, Phebe, Abhishek, Sam and Akki. Without you, all of this would not have been possible.

Days like this keep us grounded and make us realize that one does not have to go on a fantasy-filled journey to Hogwarts to experience magic. It is all around us, in every space that is touched by the living, and we are the ones who must open our eyes and embrace this real-life magic.

"Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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