Many of us donate money, time, and belongings to good causes every year, and it is the least we can do for those who are less fortunate. However, acts of giving should not only be performed by adults, our children, too, should be taught about the importance of giving. It was only after my daughter started going to school that I realised how important it is to ingrain in a child the significance of helping those in need.
My three-year-old daughter goes to a pre-school in the United States, where they teach children about giving from the tender age of two. In her very first semester, my daughter's class teachers asked her and other students to bring loose change from home to donate.
Every day, for two weeks, the children dropped coins, brought from home, into a jar that was placed outside their classroom.
My daughter's school is relatively small but together they collected $386 last year, which they used to purchase treadle pumps, tree saplings, a goat and a clutch of chicks for communities in need. The school partnered with Heifer International, a global non-profit organisation that works to end world hunger and poverty, for this service project.
In the Heifer catalogue they sent home with my daughter this year, four Bangladeshi women were featured – there were stories about how their lives were changed by the donations sent to Heifer from different parts of the world. My daughter is three now and I see a big smile on her face when I send her to school with a handful of coins to donate to their winter service project - she now understands where this money goes.
Last spring, my child took a gently used book of hers to school for donation. Her books are her favourite possessions, and it was the first time she parted with something so dear to her. She was a little upset about giving the book away, but when I explained to her where this book would go and who would read it, she was quite happy about parting with it.
My daughter's little school also organised its annual harvest food drive last September. The children were asked to bring a non-perishable food item from home every day for two weeks. The food items were later given to the state food bank. This project was also part of teaching little children about helping and sharing food with people who are less fortunate.
In Bangladesh, where many people go to sleep with empty stomachs, finding people to share your food with is anything but difficult. Many houses have more food than they need. Instead of overeating or dumping your food, find people you can share your extra food with.
Children learn about kindness through acts of giving. If your child's school does not undertake community service projects, you yourself can teach your child empathy at home. As a matter of fact, children's first lesson on giving should begin at home.
When you donate clothes, shoes, food or anything else to someone less fortunate, let your child be around. It's even better if you let your child give away his or her own old toys, books, clothes, and shoes to other children. I myself never forget to take my daughter with me when I drop our old clothes and shoes in donation boxes.
You can be your child's role model by participating in community service at least once a month. If possible, take your child along with you so that s/he knows about the importance of voluntary work for the common good.
Together, we can create a generation of children who understand the significance of loving, giving and sharing in their daily life.