Earn Service Hours Wrapping Gifts for Expanding Lives

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Earn Service Hours Wrapping Gifts for Expanding Lives

By Divitya Vakil

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The local organization Expanding Lives has organized multiple opportunities throughout December for students to volunteer as a gift wrappers at area malls. The proceeds will go to the organization, which is dedicated to providing leadership opportunities to West African girls.

Expanding Lives has been beneficial to a multitude of underprivileged young women hailing from West Africa; they can apply for the six-week summer program in the United States that aims to instill important lessons and leadership skills that are necessary to improve their futures and communities. After the girls are sent back home, they are expected to lead workshops for younger girls in their villages.

Niles West French teacher and Expanding Lives founder Leslie Natzke understands the powerful impact that the program can have on these girls.

“These girls have overcome the odds. Some of their parents haven’t even completed junior high, yet the girls end up in amazing places. One of my girls is now a doctor and I just can’t believe it,” Natzke said. “However, in order for the girls to come here, we need the money, so this [gift-wrapping] should help a lot.”

The organization has a junior board that is made up of college students and graduates who also organize fundraisers. Senior Sarah Flynn is their high school intern; she was involved with the annual conference last year and saw a difference in both herself and the participants.

“One of the members of the junior board, Juliana Liscio, teaches a theater/public speaking class every summer when the girls come, and Madame Natzke was wondering if I would like to help her out. I helped her teach the class and it was such an amazing experience,” Flynn said. “Working with the girls was so much fun, and it’s amazing to see how much they learn and grow throughout the time that they’re here. At the end of their six weeks [conference], the girls all said that they wanted to go back home and teach their sisters, friends and other girls in their communities the things they had learned. For me, knowing that I was part of that was the best part, and that’s what made me want to get more involved with Expanding Lives.”

Part of Flynn’s job is to recruit new volunteers as well as plan fundraisers. She specifically chose to do gift wrapping because of the feeling of doing a good deed in the holiday spirit.

“It’s a really good way to get service hours in, but the main reason people should sign up is that the money raised does so much good,” Flynn said. “The money raised through this, and all of Expanding Live’s fundraisers, goes towards funding the summer conference and supporting the education of girls who have participated in the program in years past.”

Sophomore Sidra Khatoon is planning on wrapping with Expanding Lives at the Lincolnwood Mall.

“When Ms. Natzke introduced it to us, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” Khatoon said. “It feels good to make a difference and know that it benefits more than just a couple of people.”

Gift wrapping will take place at various times at the Lincolnwood Mall and Golf Mill mall; the sign up sheet can be found here.

Divitya Vakil, Editor in Chief

When she's not writing for the NWN, Divitya can probably be found on the nearest couch taking a nap or binge-watching movies on Netflix. She loves playing...

1 Comment

One Response to “Earn Service Hours Wrapping Gifts for Expanding Lives”

  1. Refah Zabin on December 16th, 2016 8:33 pm

    I’ve been involved in this activity for 2 years now and its actually kind of fun! You really get to meet some people who are doing the holiday shopping for various reasons. I remember last year meeting a male nurse who bought gifts for his patients!! He was really sweet and donated money for each gift we wrapt for him! He was really sweet! I also remember meeting a group of young kids performing in the mall beside our wrapping station to help us raise more money!! It’s a great experience and I really recommend everyone to try it!

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