[Scroll to the end of the article to find out details on how to win a complimentary event from Gift-It-Forward. To enter the contest, simply share an experience on our FB page. The content ends 22 June, 2017]
Do you live in Singapore and have kids?
I do. I also wake up every morning grateful for what we have, aware that many others do not have the life we have- either because they are differently-abled, or because they live in a less developed country, or because they belong to a different social strata- myriad reasons. However when I look around I feel that the younger generation is largely missing this- not entirely but to a large extent, yes! Most of them honestly do not have time to pause and be thankful for all that they have…they are way too busy. Is there something that we as parents can do then? Can we do our bit by making ‘giving back’ to the world we live in a part of our family routine- where ‘giving back’ evokes a sense of responsibility and appreciation in our kids?
“Absolutely! But how does one do community service with kids in Singapore”, would be the obvious question that you would have, if you are still reading :). We anticipated this (honestly many times I wonder the same), so we spoke to a few mothers who live in Singapore and have kids of varying ages. We asked them to recount their personal experiences of doing community service with their kids. What we got back were some very thought provoking responses and ideas.
Over to the mothers. Each one a hero in her own right!
Volunteering Experience #1 by Tania Nagpaul, mother of two boys aged 6 and 8 years old
As a mother, I share the same vision that many moms have for their children in seeing them become kind, compassionate, humble and humane individuals. I sincerely believe that this can only happen if they are given opportunities to give back to society in their own little way. Fortunately, my husband works for a company that takes its social responsibility fairly seriously and thus we have had the opportunity to voluntarily participate in a few events that have left us and the children enriched.
While many may dismiss the idea that beach clean ups are not for kids, it was heartening for us to see our boys (then 7 and 4 years old) spending an entire Saturday morning picking up debris from the beach. The collection of sea-shells they gathered in the process was an added perk for their personal collection!
The next experience we had was one of the most profound one. We spent 3 hours on a Saturday morning assisting adolescents and adults with Down Syndrome in a weekly art lesson they attended at YMCA Singapore. Here, we started with helping their art teacher re-arrange the tables and chairs in the room such that each student would have their own set of art and craft supplies before they come in for the class. As the class commenced, the regular volunteers paired us with a pupil who we then had to assist in following the teacher’s instructions. My kids were taken aback with the resistance of some of the students there but something in them changed that day. They were able to accept those who were different and less fortunate than themselves and have a ‘go’ at really showing it too! If you would like to head over to YMCA to help with your little ones, get in touch with Ms. Florence at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone on +65 65862350.
In the most recent event, we went as a family to a nearby HDB estate where we spent 2 hours on a Sunday morning sorting household waste collected from the neighborhood into paper, plastic and metal. The volunteers on location helped us to understand the value of separating our waste diligently so that we can play our part in the process of recycling. Several tips on how to reduce water usage were given and the children were much more fervent in following them once we returned home. We connected with the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation to find the right activity for us. In case you are interested too, please connect with Mr. Wong Sin Hwa at email@example.com or via telephone on 65829958, EXT- 116. [Or keep a look out on the Secondsguru calendar – next meet up is on July 9th, various locations]
The next time you feel that you should do something for the community as a family, go ahead and do it. Singapore has a lot of opportunities where you can involve your kids- young and old.
Volunteering Experience #2 by Aditi Goel, mother of two girls aged 2 and 5 years old
As a family we often talk at home about recycling and how recycling things in the right way can help. We also talk about keeping the environment clean.
My daughters are diligent members of Secondsguru’s Piggy Bank Club – the quarterly meet is very useful as it explains kids about how to live green. In the last Piggy Bank Club event in early May 2017, they brought back cardboard bins created by National Environment Agency(NEA) for collection of recyclables.
On the 27th of May 2017, we went as a family for a clean up of trash and recyclables thrown along the road in the Tanjong Rhu area. I found out about the initiative through the Facebook page of Tanjong Rhu neighbourhood committee. It was organised by the residents of Tanjong Rhu Road with 3 meeting points- The Waterside, the bridge behind Pebble Bay and Costa Rhu. When I told my older daughter about the clean up, her initial reaction was that it is already clean every where in Singapore. I had to explain her about all the waste items we can pick up along the road to clean our neighbourhood – and fix the doings of some people who were not very considerate.
Thereon, it was smooth. Armed with tongs, plastic bags and gloves we set off on the d-day. I am glad we participated in this initiative. Our kids have started to notice the environment more. Our older daughter also spoke about the cleanup in show and tell at school and was proud about being part of a community that thinks about others.
Volunteering Experience #3 by Akshi Sarin, mother of two kids aged 9 and 14 years old
I can never thank God enough for everything we’ve got- my two kids in particular. Living in Singapore, we have an admittedly privileged life. Given this, I have realised that as a parent it is important for me to inculcate empathy and the spirit of giving in my children. Though the school my kids go to does a tremendous job of giving them opportunities to engage in community service as a way of school life, I too like to expose them to some form of service to give back to the society.
I am a regular volunteer for the “meals on wheels’ program with the TOUCH Community Services in Toa Payoh. It’s a meal delivery program for the home bound elderly and the centre needs drivers as well as runners for the meal delivery. I volunteer on Thursdays and whenever the kids have Thursday off from school, I try and take them along with me for the same. The first time I took my 13 year old son, I could actually see him hold back tears because he was so overwhelmed with the experience. Many times the doors are shut and you just hang the food outside but if the door is open there is nothing more satisfying than handing the packet of food over to the elderly person and receiving a toothless smile back or a grateful Xie Xie Ni. There are two meal deliveries in the day and volunteer timings are 9.30 am -12.30 pm and 3.30 pm – 6.30 pm. In reality, it has never taken me longer than 1.30 hours. Unfortunately I have been unable to volunteer on weekends but the centre is always looking for volunteers for weekends which may be easier to fit in with your kids’ schedules. If your kids are 12 or older they can easily be the runners for food delivery. It is a truly enriching experience. In case you wish to volunteer with your children call the TOUCH Community services at 6804 6565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch out for the cats in block 150 😉
As parents, we have a tendency to remind our kids of ‘how lucky they are’ and that ’there are so many poor and starving children in the world’. We do this in the hope that they will appreciate what they have access to so easily simply by virtue of being born into a family which would be affluent by any standards and unimaginably rich in the eyes of those poor and starving children we often refer to. Unfortunately, we found the above didn’t really help in sensitising our boys. They would tune out if we even started on the topic. Visits to India and an exposure to the environment there would temporarily open their eyes to inequity that exists in the world – until they returned to the safe haven of Singapore and the fairly homogenous society that existed within their limited international school and expat condo bubble.
On our part, we tried to get our children involved and interested in any effort we participated in – whether it be a Goonj collection drive, Hair for Hope which my husband has been supporting for almost a decade now or trying to improve recycling habits within our own household and our condo. There were also many opportunities to get involved in such efforts at the school level.
Finally, we realised the boys had to find their own connect and motivation with the cause and also decide how they wanted to make a difference. For my younger son, it happened in 2011 when we participated one regular Saturday afternoon at an event organised by the Handcycling Association of Singapore (HAS) which provides opportunities for the differently abled to participate in handcycling as a recreational, rehabilitative and competitive sport. Something within him changed that afternoon. Thereon, he went on to organise a talent show fundraiser in our condo involving children of different ages. These talent shows – which were held over 3 consecutive years- became a community effort and also a creative outlet for children. The organising team on their part learned to organise an event, publicise it, get participants as well as an audience. As parent we realised that kids, particularly when they are older, have to find the best way they want to get involved and contribute to a cause.
Giveaway details: Enjoy a complimentary event from Gift-It-Forward– a social enterprise that facilitates giving back to the community with your kids! Simply like and then comment on the Facebook post of this article with a memorable experience doing charity with your kids in Singapore. If you are the participant with the maximum LIKES, you get a waiver of all admin fees from Gift-It-Forward when you use their online party invitation and donation platform for your child’s next birthday party (or even other events they offer online)! Contest ends: 22 June 2017. How does it work? Gift-It-Forward lets your friends and family pool in their gift money so you can use part of it for a dream present that you actually want, and the rest towards a charity of your choice. Plus, you can use their portal to send invites, see the guest list, and more! See full contest T&C here.