The Volunteer Family Award recognizes a family that volunteers together as a team; consisting of at least one parent and one child. Its purpose is to celebrate the important role of parents in inspiring their children to become lifelong volunteers with a strong sense of civic responsibility. The award is sponsored by Devon Canada to recognize a family that volunteers together as a team, inspiring one another to become lifelong volunteers.
They came with very little and knew that Christmas was not a financial option for them that first year. That first year, when then five-year-old Nicolas asked about Christmas, Carlos and Alexandra explained to him that since they had moved, Santa didn’t have their new address and would not be able to visit them that year.
“We arrived in Canada end of November 2003, we had 6 suitcases, our son, and lots of hope, you know, new country,” remembers Alexandra.
They decided that Nicolas would write a letter to Santa anyway, so that he would know where to find him for the next year. Nicolas was sure to write that he didn’t bring any toys because he had left them all for the poor kids in Colombia. They addressed the letter to Santa complete with the HOHOHO postal code, wrote their new address on the front and put the letter in the mailbox on their way to meet Santa at the mall.
The next Saturday, at 9 in the morning there was a knock at the door. Being new to Canada, they didn’t really know anyone, so Carlos and Alexandra were curious about who it could be – it was a gentleman asking for Nicolas. Alexandra was in the middle of asking ‘who are you,’ while Nicolas crept to the door.
The gentleman responded by saying, “please tell Nicolas that we are the friends of Santa, and we know that he is new to the country, and that he left all his toys behind for the poor kids in Colombia. Santa asked us to get together and bring him all these toys.” Before opening his trunk and taking out bags of toys and books. From December 1-31, someone they didn’t know would knock on their door and give them something.
The Christmas that wasn’t supposed to be, became a merry and memorable occasion.
“It was amazing to see the world helping and supporting us without knowing us, and we just had wonderful, unforgettable Christmas,” Alexandra says. “We said one day we will be able to do something similar to new people in Canada, so that’s how first Christmas in Canada started.”
First Christmas is a program that the family started after they got firmly on their feet in Canada. The goal of the program is to find families new to Calgary and help them with their first Christmas, the way someone else helped their family.
The Velosa-Herrera’s get the name or names of families in need, contact them for their wish list, and then do all they can to collect items for their Christmas wish-list. “We start with the fact that this is an unforgettable Christmas, it’s their first one, and it has to be the most special one,” explains Alexandra.
Eight years ago when the Velosa-Herrera’s started First Christmas they helped one family, this past Christmas they helped 10.
Carlos, Alexandra and Nicolas all pitch in every year. “Last year we wrapped 354 gifts and we put 40 stockings together, so it is a lot of work. It’s just basically the 3 of us, friends that come to help, and the girls that try to help here and there,” says Alexandra. The girls she refers to are their two toddlers, Nathalie and Valerie.
The Velosa-Herrera family are happy that they chose to immigrate to Calgary. “Calgary is all about giving, and we experienced that. We have experienced that from both sides, receiving, and also when we try to find help for others,” says Alexandra. “Everyone is willing to do it, sometimes they just need help to find the right way to do it, we put it together for you to just help us, and then together we can make families happy, that’s the idea.”
You can see the Velosa-Herrera family on our Youtube channel, or below.