26 December 2011

Christmas at Quakers

The holiday season has been a busy time filled with many festivities. Quaker Cottage celebrates Christmas in a number of ways. We took our afterschool groups to the Belfast Christmas Market, an international market with food, drinks, crafts, and more from around the world. The kids really enjoyed going, especially the hot chocolate and the surprise merry-go-round ride in which we treated them! We also had Christmas parties for our afterschool groups. I, out of all people, was recruited to play “Silly Santa,” an easily noticeable impostor Santa character. The afterschool'ers pointed out all of my flaws, that I was too thin (I had forgotten the pillows to stuff), that I couldn't see (Santa wears glasses?), that I had a nose piercing, and that I was wearing sneakers (didn't change into boots). The whole ride home was full of the kids telling me how they just KNEW I was the one in that suit and not Santa!

A big part of Christmas giving on the behalf of Quakers is our hampers we provide for our families. Not only do we gather food, toys, and toiletries for the 24 families that come to Quakers currently, but we also make hampers for nearly all families that have been through Quakers in the last 3 years! Our afterschool room was transformed into a TESCO grocery store, and our mom's relaxation room was turned into a Toy's R Us! Almost all of the supplies for the hampers were donated to us, the majority of donations came from the Friends (Quaker) school in Belfast. We worked hard building all the hampers and distributing them to all of the families.

Our last three days at Quakers before holiday break was hosting our Christmas dinners for our mothers and babies. Sarah, my supervisor, prepared three big Christmas dinners nearly on her own; she was amazing! Ham, turkey, mashed potatoes & gravy, brussel sprouts, peas & carrots, truffle, and a lovely Pavlova cake was served each day. After the dinners we had a time for singing and a visit from Santa Claus, whom I luckily did not play! Some of the families got some nice family shots with Santa, whereas some children were too scared of Santa to get a decent picture. Ah well.

In my recreational time, I performed two Christmas concerts with the community choir I joined, Grosvenor. The first was a traditional Christmas Lessons with Carols, pieced together like an Anglican worship service. The second was a live broadcast on the BBC Ulster radio station! As time drew nearer to Christmas, my roommates and I had a small Christmas dinner and exchanged gifts. Christmas eve was spent at a friend's flat enjoying cuisine from India and Poland. Christmas day I was lucky enough to receive an invitation to L'ARCHE Belfast for community time. L'ARCHE is a community living organization for persons with learning disabilities. L'ARCHE is another BVS placement in Belfast, and I was able to connect with the two BVSers I knew there. We had a lovely day together, starting with an afternoon walk in Belvoir Park, tea and biscuits at Scott and Megan's (former BVS'er), and a delicious and wholesome dinner back at the L'ARCHE house. I am gracious for the opportunity I had to spend Christmas in community, getting to know the L'ARCHE team.

So, I've been busy! I think it's fair to say I've exhausted the ways to celebrate Christmas this year, yet thankfully I haven't exhausted myself! I deeply look forward to the new year, and to see what Quaker Cottage has up its sleeve for 2012!

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