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Spreading smiles at Christmas



“It’s a child’s joy that keeps us going every year,” Durante said.



 When I first heard about the Tree of Hands, I was immediately enthralled.

Tree of Hands? What is this? Sounds kind of spooky too, was that a Halloween something? Being the kind who likes to satisfy my curiosity, I immediately called the number on the green piece of paper in front of me and set up an appointment.

I was going to see Alexander Durante who owns the Eastern Caribbean Soap Company at Wickhams Cay 11 to find out just what is this Tree of Hands initiative that she has taken under her wings.

Tree of Hands, I found out, is a wooden tree with red and green hands made from paper, bearing the gender and age of children who would otherwise be without a smile on Christmas, as their parents are unable to afford to give them presents. Members of the public are encouraged to pick one or more hands and purchase gifts for the age and gender of the child(ren) selected. Gifts are then returned to any participating business that has a displayed Tree of Hands and wrapped for distribution, before Christmas.

This twenty year plus initiative was undertaken by Alexander’s mother- Carol Durante, when she was still a very young girl attending the Cedar International School, to bring gifts to the underprivileged at her school and a few churches. That is until three years ago when Alexander decided to take up the mantle during which time she added the islands of Jost Van Dyke, Anegada, and Virgin Gorda.  The programme also includes distribution of food packages and assisting with reconnecting utilities for needy families.

Seeing the pure delight on the faces of close to one thousand children across the Virgin Islands and the relief on their parent’s faces was all the motivation that Alexander Durante needed to continue the work that her mother started.

“She started it small so we were not really hitting everybody in the BVI, so about three years ago I was talking to her and I said we should get this bigger and get the whole community involved,” Alexander explained.

The hands came out in November, at all of your favorite shopping stores, supermarkets, and other business entities, as they beseech passersby to join forces to make the lives of those in need better during the Christmas time through a gift.

Carol Durante has since taken a back seat but is still on board and Alexander sees her as a tower of strength and support on the mission that she intends to take to her grave.

Please remember the gifts must be unwrapped, Alexander noted, in order to give each child a suitable present.

“That day is very exciting for children and for children to wake up on Christmas morning and not see anything…, it is kind of touching, it pulls at the heart strings. And at that age children don’t think my parents can’t afford it, kids around that age think Santa missed me,” she said.

“It’s a child’s joy that keeps us going every year. It’s a great feeling, I can’t really put it into words. It’s satisfying but it’s not because we are saints why we are doing this, we are doing this to make the kids feel good. And that’s the greatest feeling in the world to wake up knowing that the kids have such a great morning and knowing that the parents can sit back, breathe easy knowing that they didn’t disappoint their kids,” she said with a warm smile spreading across her face.

Be sure to look out for these Tree of Hands and grab a hand or two!

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