HUGS Stories

Stories 1130x325 JG 16Mar16-01


HUGS Stories allow the schools, classroom teachers, and students we work with to share their personal experience with Give More HUGS (GMH).  These stories are dedicated to share inspiring and positive experiences that promote learning, creativity and more, worldwide. We hope that these stories provide you with the inspiration to join GMH to help those in need of the basic school supplies and resources that can foster and promote learning around the world.

CALLS. A second chance school in Portsmouth, Dominica where local adolescents with a desire for learning develop life skills in self-awareness, self-confidence, and communication. Students can also participate in vocational training, building maintenance, home care, hospitality arts, craft, & computer basics.
(Image: School supply donations being delivered to the CALLS entrance in 2014.)

“The children were excited to receive all of the supplies generously donated by Give More HUGS. Many of the children were able to get to work creating, growing, and learning with the tools provided. I was very excited, as well, to receive high quality materials that we will use to help provide for future endeavors, and aid in educating these children who might otherwise be forgotten. We certainly do agree with the Give More HUGS mission statement of unity and education, and do suggest others unite with Give More HUGS in order to educate the future generation.”  – Sandra Vivas Guerrero

Backpack Essay Contest and Winner
Dominique is a young girl from Portsmouth, Dominica who attended the CALLS school. She wrote a moving essay for our Backpack Essay Contest and won! Her essay talked about how she can work to help make a difference in her community. One of Dominique’s goals was to share the knowledge she gained at CALLS with those in need in her community, and particularly, the disabled. She has a good heart and shares in our desire help further the educational opportunities of those less privileged than herself. We commend Dominique for her ambitious goals and to show her that, we donated a Give More HUGS Duffel Bag.

(Image: Founder, Chris McGilvery and friend/volunteer Megan Keator deliver supplies to students at CALLS for the first time. This was the beginning of what will be a long partnership.)

GMH is happy to have been able to work with CALLS and offer our support for their educational pursuits. This center is an essential educational opportunity for many students on the island and without this instrumental program, many would be unable to finish their education. We are proud to have helped and are able to continue uniting with CALLS to ensure a better, brighter future for those students.

IN.LIGHT.IN. A community ministry located in Portsmouth, Dominica organized by Ross University School of Medicine students, faculty, and spouses. Every Friday afternoon volunteers join local children in the park to play games, make a craft, and share a meal. They also help with buying groceries and donating clothing, toys, and school supplies to those families and students in need.

(Image: In.Light.In volunteers and GMH leaders Christy Wallace (left) and Tara Jorski (right) work with the children to create crafts and encourage learning.)

Give More HUGS has had the privilege of providing school supplies, extracurricular sporting equipment, food, and basic hygiene products to the In.Light.In. on several occasions and provided much happiness to those children in the park.

“When we had the kids make thank you notes for the donors they were VERY enthusiastic to share their excitement and gratitude.” -Rebecca Aaron, former leader, In.Light.In.

(Image: Children and leaders of In.Light.In show their support by holding GMH banners in Benjamin Park, Portsmouth, Dominica.)

Give More HUGS is excited to be able to make an impact with In.Light.In. and looks forward to many more opportunities to give back to this beautiful community.

HUGS4DOMINICA. Give More HUGS began in 2013 as a thought in Dominica by our founder Chris McGilvery and with the encouragement of friends and family, blossomed into a full functioning 501C3 nonprofit organization. It had been nearly 3 years since GMH held a structured event on the island and in November 2015 dreams came true. The first GMH #HUGS4Dominica Service Trip was originally scheduled for September 2015, but was postponed due to Tropical Storm Erika. 9 local villages were declared disaster zones, nearly a dozen schools were displaced due to damages (some of them permanently closed), and many families lost everything. The local airport was rendered unsafe and roads were badly damaged due to sinkholes and landslides. During the recovery period of nearly 2 months Dominica was only accessible by boat or helicopter, while surrounding islands and other countries worked to lend a helping hand to make transportation possible.

"The extent of the devastation is monumental. We have, in essence, to rebuild Dominica."
-Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit

(Image: Children of Petite Savanne Primary School whose village was declared a national disaster zone and therefore displaced into a vacant building to continue school in the capital city, Roseau. Teachers, students, and GMH Leadership wear “Dominica Strong” t-shirts to signify strength in rebuilding and continuing their education.)

The trips focus was to strengthen existing relationships with school programs, local business, and educational leaders in Dominica and provide encouragement to students and families. GMH packed 12 barrels with school supplies, extracurricular sporting equipment, books, art supplies, gardening equipment, and so much more (collected from local businesses including Walmart, Target, and Lowes). The barrels were shipped via Tropical Shipping and made their way to the island to be sorted and organized by the many Ross University School of Medicine volunteers. Among the many school supplies there were also medical relief items put together by an amazing medical supply company, AFYA Foundation. 2 compact wheelchairs, 4 bedside commodes, 6 walkers, hundreds of adult diapers, medical kits, and much more were delivered to clinics, hospitals, elderly care centers, and individual family homes on the island.

The schedule consisted of multiple fundraising activities and 8 school visits. At each school program GMH leadership met with the principal, teaching staff, and individual classrooms to engage with students. Classrooms participated in our #words2motivateyou campaign, leadership activities, and a wall mural which was left to inspire students to keep learning and working towards a bright future. The words for each mural were chosen by the 6th grade class at Sineku Primary School to represent what it means to be “Dominica Strong”. Children, teaching staff, volunteers, and business leaders received their very own Dominica Strong T-shirt to express their commitment in building a better future.

(Image: Children of the Salybia Primary School located in the Kalinago Territory show their strength by painting a mural for their school.)

We hope that individuals, communities, and businesses of Dominica (including Ross University School of Medicine) will continue to support us. Our team is motivated to go above and beyond to help rebuild the island with hope and encouragement. We also hope through this trip the families of Dominica are able to see that their resilience and strength, inspire, and motivate not only our team members, but those that support our cause day in and day out. DOMINICA is a FOREVER plan for GMH and we hope to continue organizing #HUGS4Dominica trips in the future!

GENIUS HOUR. Activity conducted in a classroom by Dr. Michele Haiken at Rye Middle School in Rye, NY. Dr. Haiken hosts an event each semester that allows students to imagine the change they want to see in their community, collaborate with one another, and present their business/social change model to a panel of judges. Judges are asked to critique the plan and advise the students on an improvement plan so they may carry out their dream of implementing change.

(Image: GMH Board of Directors, left to right, Michele Haiken, Chris McGilvery, and Nikki Josephs standing beside the many books donated to the #HUGSBookshare Program.)

The Genius Hour project promotes students’ ownership of their own learning and allows for them to explore and create meaningful, insightful, and creative ideas. The students are asked to implement the change they want to see and formulate ways to overcome any difficulties that arise. Leadership is a process and teaching students to begin the process early in their development is crucial. Having young leaders begin this type of learning is exactly what Give More HUGS is about.

(Image: Students from Rye Middle School after showcasing their #geniushour ideas to our GMH Leaders for #sharktank.)

Members of the GMH Leadership Team have been asked to be on the panel of judges for 2 years and hope to continue this partnership. Encouraging students to work hard, be social change makers, and add detail to their project ideas to bring them to life is always exciting.

S.P.A.R.K. Which stands for Spreading Passion and Reading Knowledge, was an initiative that began as a school assignment for two 8th Grade middle school students participating in Dr. Haiken’s “Genius Hour” at Rye Middle School in NY. HUGS Ambassador Simone and friend Remi not only hosted a book drive that received over 1,000 donated books, but also designed and launched a successful T-shirt booster that raised over $600 for their campaign and for the #HUGSBookshare Program.

(Image: Powerful image created by the GMH Graphics Team and designed by HUGS Ambassador Simone and friend Remi to raise funds and awareness for GMH Programs.)

We encourage students to bring their social change ideas to life by guiding them through every process of event planning, fundraising, graphic design, and marketing. We also encourage individuals to build partnerships within their community to boost support.

“We united with Give More HUGS to help students in need and to not only inspire kids to like learning, but to value it and take their learning to new places.” -Simone, HUGS Ambassador

(Image: HUGS Ambassador Simone (left) and friend Remi (right) organize materials collected for the #HUGSBookshare Program. These two young leaders are committed to creating change in their community.)

Genius Hour gives students the opportunity to reach out to the community and help out people around the world. This project was chosen because these young students believe that books are a key learning tool and everyone should have access to these basic tools. There are many students in the U.S. that don't have access to books and school supplies, but it only takes one SPARK to ignite change. We commend these two young ladies for their hard work and look forward to seeing more greatness to come!

DISASTER RELIEF. May 20, 2013, the city of Moore, Oklahoma and the surrounding area was struck by a deadly tornado killing dozens and injuring hundreds. The EF4 tornado (the second largest strength on the Fujita Scale used used by the National Weather Service to determine severity) produced a wall of destruction that engulfed whole subdivisions, a hospital, and two schools, Plaza Towers Elementary and Briarwood Elementary. Seven children were found dead inside the more than 40 foot pile of rubble that was left behind at Plaza Towers. This tornado struck as the school was ending which forced teachers, staff, and children covering themselves in hallways listening to the damage occur around them with little time to prepare themselves for the destruction around them.

“Almost immediately, we heard a horrible rumble… I looked up and saw open sky… [the] roof was gone.  I looked around further and saw a car dangling over my teacher desk…It then started raining and what I thought was hail, was really debris flying around.”
-Sheryl Johnson, Briarwood Elementary Teacher

Most schools in Oklahoma do not contain tornado shelters, but rather hallways and lower level basement rooms.  Most schools rebuilt after the 58 tornadoes ripped through the Great Plains on May 3, 1999 now contain a designated tornado shelter to keep the children safe. May 3rd is a historic date for Oklahomans as they watched an EF5 mile wide tornado rip through nearly the same location as the schools in Moore 13 years later. The Plaza Towers School located in what is commonly known as “tornado alley” did not contain a shelter, but rather teachers were found hovered over their students protecting them from falling debris. All supplies were lost, but hope was not. Oklahoma began the rebuilding process quickly.

(Image: Interior classroom at Plaza Towers where many teachers covered their students to protect them from flying debris. Many exterior classrooms were left unrecognizable or completely collapsed.)

Students at Manhattanville College in Purchase, New York hosted a bake sale to raise funds for Give More HUGS to support Plaza Tower Elementary. During this fundraiser 100 scholastic books were signed with inspirational messages by students and teachers which were then sent to The Plaza Towers Elementary School.

(Image: GMH volunteer, Liz (Midland, TX), sorting and preparing books and school supply donations for the Plaza Towers Elementary School.)

As rebuilding occurred GMH reached out to the many teachers at the schools to get feedback on what they needed the most. They requested several schools supplies, resources, and more to help restock their classrooms. GMH partnered with several organizations (Angelo State University’s Educator Preparation Information Center, Teacher Store, University of Texas at Permian Basin, and Energy Fabrication) to host school supplies drives to collect the much needed items. All donations were presented the teachers and were received just in time for the new school year. The excitement from the teachers and students is what makes our work so powerful.

Want to share your HUGS Story? E-mail today!