What began as a holiday seasonal community project has evolved into a larger, new schoolwide outreach program called HarKare (Harker Cares).
HarKare launched with its first project, making ornaments to accompany Christmas trees already slated to be donated from the lower, middle and upper school campuses to underprivileged families. During the holiday season Harker has Christmas trees or wreaths in nearly all of its 200 classrooms. This year, some 45 teachers volunteered to preserve their trees so they could be given out as part of the donation program.
To that end, about 40 Harker parents and children of varying ages took time out on a Sunday in December to gather for the ornament-making event, which had been earlier promoted by grade level coordinators. Using recycled paper, students in Pat Walsh’s grade 5 math class also contributed to the HarKare project by making paper hut ornaments.
“HarKare will create opportunities for kids and whole families to participate in all sorts of community projects going on all year, not just during the holiday season,” enthused Tere Aceves, lower school volunteer program director at Harker.
“This is not going to be another drive at our school but is going to be an ongoing program,” she elaborated, adding that the goal of HarKare is to create family involvement for community service projects, teach kids the value of giving and helping others and “use our creativity, elbow grease and spirits to make a difference.”
Already, HarKare members have tossed around a number of ideas for future projects including collecting clothes and household goods for those in need, preparing meals for the homeless, and helping local neighborhoods in a myriad of other ways.
“These are all very easy and really rewarding projects,” noted Aceves. “We are striving to involve our kids and teach them values coming from the heart.”
In February there will be two HarKare initiatives running nearly simultaneously: a book exchange on Feb. 8 and a volunteer effort with the organization Sea Scavenger the following day.
Harker News Online (HNO) has previously written about grade 7 student Dolan Dworak’s volunteer involvement with Sea Scavenger (http://skylark.harker.org/hno/backups/environmentally-aware-middle-school-student-spends-summer-fighting-plastic-pollution/), which seeks to rid the world’s waterways of marine debris and create awareness about the dangers of plastic contamination. Now HarKare participants will join in that mission by leading a shoreline clean-up effort on the morning of Feb. 9.
“Not only will Harker students give back to their community by cleaning up local waterways, but they will give back to the world by preventing plastic pollution from reaching the oceans,” said Aceves, adding that students may subsequently take on leadership roles to help create such awareness, shifting cultural values away from a disposable plastic society.
Sea Scavenger has been named the official shoreline restoration and clean-up partner of the 34th annual America’s Cup, which takes place in San Francisco this year. Together, with Sea Scavenger volunteers, HarKare participants will work collaboratively with sailors and staff from the America’s Cup teams in support of marine ecosystems.
Those interested in becoming involved with the upcoming book exchange, shoreline clean-up, and other future activities of the new HarKare program are urged to contact Aceves at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.