WATCH executive committee plans the final details for their Holiday Dinner at a weekly meeting. WATCH executive committee plans the final details for their Holiday Dinner at a weekly meeting. Amy Stupavsky

If you often wonder whether it is better to give than receive, the students who devote their time to Words Action Thoughts Character Heart (W.A.T.C.H.) would certainly have the answer.

A student-run registered charity with over 400 members, W.A.T.C.H. has become a major community service organization at U of T.

W.A.T.C.H. serves community centers and elementary schools, such as Lord Dufferin, in the Regent Park area through after school programs. They also organize blood-donor clinics at the St. George campus under the supervision of Canadian Blood Services, and volunteer at a soup kitchen.

“W.A.T.C.H. gives attention to the kids that fall behind and get lost,” said Caitlin Gale, Fundraising Coordinator. “Teachers have other kids to deal with, so they can't always focus on the ones who need it the most.”

Gale also recounted her own experience volunteering at a school, and how it has made a difference in the children’s lives and her own.

“The class visited the computer lab every Monday,” she explained. “This was one student's first experience on a computer. He was very discouraged when he saw me typing without looking at the keyboard. I talked him through it and really kept an eye on him. It was the only way to get him typing and it worked. The first day, he finished the period with a blank page. The second day, he typed three sentences. By the last day, he had a paragraph. I was so proud.”

But their altruism does not end there. W.A.T.C.H. holds its annual Holiday Dinner at Hart House, an event that brings together all of the children they work with during the year. The children, who come from marginalized backgrounds, celebrate the season with music, games, dinner, and gifts from Santa. Last year, over 200 guests attended the event with over 70 volunteers. W.A.T.C.H. begins preparations for the dinner during the summer, gathering donations and sponsorships. The volunteers collect gifts from eight different toy drives around Toronto.

“I think it's such a simple gesture to invite these children into our school, just as we are invited as volunteers to their schools,” Camille Sahula, Holiday Dinner Coordinator. “It’s really important to me that kids have happy memories of caring and abundance, especially with their peers and families.”

All the W.A.T.C.H. members agree that being a part of the organization has afforded them many benefits.

“I believe the experiences that students gain with W.A.T.C.H. will be invaluable to them in the future,” said William Sanh, Sponsorship Coordinator, who has been volunteering for two years. “They get the opportunity to make a difference in their community while building stronger communication and teamwork skills. Working with these kids is an indescribable experience.”

Simon Xie, who has been volunteering with W.A.T.C.H. since last year’s dinner, draws on the festive mood for his reason to get involved. “The experience may make you feel warm and fuzzy inside,” he said. “This is good for combating the cold weather in Toronto.”

W.A.T.C.H. is currently looking for volunteers to help out at the Holiday Dinner on Dec. 16. There are two volunteer shifts, 2:00-4:30 p.m. and 4:30-11:00 p.m. For more info, contact This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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