The Bishop’s Giving Tree: Behind the Scenes

How the program brings refugee families and the Bishop’s community together every year


Mrs. Jacqueline Gomez

Bishop’s students and families adopted 200 children through the Giving Tree.

After the Christmas Tree Lighting, you may have noticed gifts starting to appear under the tree on the terrace. If you happened to take a closer look, you would have noticed that these gifts were specially labeled—each one with an ornament that had a child’s picture, their name, and their Christmas wish list. By the Christmas Chapel 11 days later, there were over 300 of these gifts collected through the seventh annual Giving Tree Program.

Organized by Director of Service Learning Ms. Jacqueline Gomez and Director of Religion and Ethics/Global Education Initiative Dr. David Moseley, the Giving Tree program provides members of the Bishop’s community a chance to adopt a refugee child in need during the holiday season. 

Since 2013, Bishop’s has participated in this tradition, partnering with local organizations such as RefugeeNet, Kupanda, Haitian Ministry of San Diego, and Karen Organization of San Diego (KOSD) to collect wish lists from families and their children. Wish lists were also collected from Kid by Kid students, an on-campus student-run nonprofit organization that offers online tutoring for immigrant and refugee children. Having fled their native countries of Myanmar, South Sudan, Haiti, and the Congo to escape war, persecution, and poverty, many families are now facing unemployment and loss of income, which have been greatly exasperated by the pandemic. The chance for a parent to see their child’s face light up with joy as they unwrap a present is what the Giving Tree is all about. 

Preparation for the program started back in September when Mrs. Gomez and Reverend Nicole Simopoulos began collecting wish lists. Founder of Kid by Kid, Daxton Gutekunst (‘23), described his role in helping make the program possible. “I was able to coordinate with KOSD to get our learners’ photos and lists. For the Haitian Ministry, I thought it’d be fun to make an event out of getting the kids’ wish lists and photos,” he said. On Halloween, Dax arrived at the Haitian Ministry Church and surprised over 50 children with candy, pizza, and a stack of to-be-filled-out Christmas wish lists. 

In the days leading up to the Christmas Tree Lighting, members of Bishop’s Community Service Initiative (CSI) organized meetings to make the ornaments for each child during lunches and free periods. “We wanted the ornaments to be ready in time for the Lighting so Bishop’s families could adopt a refugee child from the Giving Tree on campus,” CSI member Karina Kadia (‘22) explained. 

“CSI members all took turns to stay at the main table by the flagpole to encourage families to sign up and also to explain how the Giving Tree Program works,” Dax elaborated. “We signed up many families that night and only had a few remaining children after the Christmas Tree Lighting event.”

CSI members then helped divide all the gifts into various piles to be delivered to each refugee group. On December 23 and 24, Dax plans to deliver the gifts to the children from KOSD and the Haitian Ministry. “I plan to take lots of pictures of the kids opening their gifts,” he said. “I’m really excited.” 

Despite not being able to do the Giving Tree last year due to the pandemic, it’s safe to say that this year’s program was a tremendous success.