To five-year-old Piper, the best parts of Christmas have always been presents and chocolate pudding.
Now a program at her kindergarten in far-west Victoria has helped her and her peers add giving to that list.
Heywood Kindergarten’s Adopt a Pensioner program has encouraged children to bring in gifts of food and practical items all term, to donate to elderly people doing it tough in their community.
Teacher Corinna Bell said the aim was to instil altruism in the children at a young age.
“We have a talk about why we do it,” Ms Bell said.
“I hope that they understand that there are people in our community who aren’t as lucky as us and who might not have much money, or who might not know anybody else and not have family to help look after them and care for them.
“This is a little bit of a way that we can make their life a little bit better.”
Packaged into boxes, the gifts are donated to an aged care service, which distributes them to the clients they have assessed as being most in need.
Sharing Christmas cheer
District nurse Luise Macklin said the gesture helped to brighten what could be a lonely time of year for some of the small community’s most vulnerable members, as well as providing them with items they may struggle to afford.
“It was originally for somebody who had a bit of time in hospital … something to cheer them up with,” she said.
“Some families live a long way away so they don’t get to see them very often.
“You see their faces light up. They think, why me? And [we say] it’s because you’re special.”
One recipient, 89-year-old Annie Lovell, was looking forward to sharing the food in her gift hamper with holiday visitors.
“I’ll be able to put a few pieces on the table for entertaining,” she said.
“It’s wonderful that the kids think of the older people. I think if there was more of that, it would be more peaceful in the world.”
The joy of giving
Encouraged to think about what would make the recipients happy, the children brought in some of their favourite foods to fill tinsel-covered boxes.
For Piper, that meant “some chocolate, some soup, some white pasta and some pudding”.
“I feel really happy and really, really proud,” she said.
Liliana, 5, said she wanted all the older people in her town to be able to eat her favourite dessert — pudding — this Christmas.
“It’s important to share things,” she said.
“When I give them a present they say thank you and I like that. They also care about us and our families.
“It’s like giving presents to my nanna.”