As Christmas approached, I hosted a secret Santa gift exchange in hopes of reuniting the neighborhood and sending holiday wishes.

Handing out written letters and giving a brief overview of the event, I reached out to all my neighbors at the start of December. Within days, I was able to garner positive responses from many neighbors. Then, I went door-by-door for each household to draw their assigned neighbor. While everyone was preparing their gift as a secret Santa, I decorated my garage and prepared small takeaway gifts for the participants. The exchange event began on December 18, at 1:30 pm, consisting of ice breaker questions, gift exchanges, a prize draw, and plenty of opportunities for neighbors to chat and reconnect. Masks were worn and everyone was getting involved while staying safe. My neighbors left with smiles on their faces, gifts in their hands, and warm wishes in their hearts.

A challenge I encountered along the way was including another neighbor in the event. Due to reasons, the household couldn’t contact me beforehand. As a result, I had to improvise a way for them to join the event as I wanted as many neighbors joining and enjoying the event as possible. Eventually, I came up with the idea of adding a prize draw. This allowed the family to participate by preparing the gift for the prize draw and they’ll receive a gift from our household. In addition, it also added more fun to the gift exchange event, creating a win-win situation.

I learned and honed plenty of skills throughout this experience, such as communicating in a casual yet informative manner, keeping tabs on information, and hosting an event. Furthermore, I got the opportunity to learn more about my neighbors, which I believe is a meaningful takeaway for all the participating households.

Lastly, I would like to express my thanks to the Neighborhood Small Grants Program, Vancouver Foundation, and Richmond Cares, Richmond Gives! The project wouldn’t be possible without your generous funding and wonderful initiative.

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