In our vested efforts to grow our commitment to Service Learning at Berkshire Country Day School, as a community, we chose to participate in Make a Difference Day, 2017. One of the largest annual single-days of service national wide, Make a Difference Day seemed like a wonderful way for BCD to come together in action toward a cause.

Initially, we contemplated encouraging our families to collectively volunteer in a local agency/issue. Being that Make a Difference Day is on a Saturday, we even considered the idea of families choosing how to be of service in their own neighborhoods, not necessarily toward one communal cause but toward an effort that they as a family connected with. However, as we began to flesh out our ideas together in a Parents’ Association meeting, our direction for action for Make A Difference Day 2017 was brought to light before our eyes. 

Hurricane Maria had just recently ravaged the island of Puerto Rico and while the island itself may be an ocean away from our physical community, Mayra Rodriguez, parent of Alex in grade 8, had much to share about the impact on many, including her friends and family, since the hurricane hit. Mayra, a Puerto Rican American who trained as a teacher in Puerto Rico, brought Puerto Rico and her plea for their dire need for our service to us in illustrative emotion.

Coincidentally, and simultaneously, our caring and intelligent Upper School Student Council, under the guidance of faculty member Sarah Pitcher, had also been concerned about Puerto Rico and wondered what they could do to help to show that they care and to provide service toward a solution.

So, we rallied! As a community, we decided that rather than go through a large national relief organization we would organize to collect items needed by the people of Puerto Rico. Mayra collated a needs list based on her knowledge of how the people of Puerto Rico live and what they were in the greatest need of.

Items included beans, rice, flashlights, batteries, mosquito repellent, and pillar candles. We created a detailed donation, collected the items, and on Saturday, October 28, 2017, volunteers from our community, which included students, teachers, parents, alumni, neighbors, and administration, came together to create an active and energized assembly line, packing boxes to be sent off to people in Puerto Rico.

Seventy-eight boxes were packed and sent to Puerto Rico from the BCD community! Inside each box, we included lovely cards, letters, drawings, and even tissue paper flowers made by the students of BCD. We also included a self-addressed, stamped envelope with paper inside and a letter inviting the recipients to send us some mail back.

The letters from the people of Puerto Rico have been pouring in! Drawings, poems, photos, letters, videos, and even a handmade doll from our grateful new friends who continue to struggle to live life as they knew it before the hurricane hit. The gratitude, appreciation, and human-to-human connection are palpable from each piece of mail written by children, teenagers, adults and the elderly.

And, our own students have been moved and delighted to read the mail, see the drawings and photos, and feel the full circle of love from the action our community took. Thank you to the BCD community for coming together to show we care.