Student-made care packages that give back.

In March, two months too soon, the majority of Rice undergraduate students found themselves having to pack up their dorm rooms and leave campus. In the chaos of an entirely new reality, McMurtry College sophomore Sarah Swackhamer wanted to find a way to help her classmates stay connected. So, in exchange for donations to the Houston Food Bank, she started creating care packages that Rice students can order for their friends.

“I knew I wanted to do something to share some positivity, to give back or at least make myself feel a little more in control of what was happening,” Swackhamer said. “I wanted to send stuff to my friends, so I thought I might as well see if other people want me to send them things, and I can raise money while I’m at it.”

Swackhamer isn’t taking any profit from this effort. Instead, she asks those who order a package to donate what they can to the Houston Food Bank. “It’s very easy to set up fundraisers with the food bank,” Swackhamer said.

The care packages include a handwritten note, heart-shaped pouches with essential oils, tea and candy, homemade coloring books with either pictures of dogs or scenes of Rice, and the option of lotion or a face mask — the spa version, not the N95 mask.

So far, Swackhamer has completed 13 package orders. She plans to reopen the order form after finals and will continue sending out more soon. “After the first round, I’ve worked out some issues and know the best process to get out orders,” said Swackhamer. “I’ll be able to do it a lot faster when classes are out, too.”

She said these packages are her way of doing what she can for the Rice community in these difficult times. “It’s nice to feel like I can be present in people’s lives by sharing kindness.”

“Tiny Acts of Kindness,” a project from Rice’s Office of Public Affairs, features stories about Rice Owls responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in kind, creative and effective ways. Read the Rice Magazine series here.