The Star Early Edition - - LIFESTYLE VERVE -

ANY OF us take the op­por­tu­nity dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son to re­in­force to our chil­dren the con­cept of giv­ing. We ini­ti­ate con­ver­sa­tions about giv­ing back and try to in­volve our chil­dren in our char­i­ta­ble ef­forts, buy­ing presents for chil­dren in need, of­fer­ing a few coins to the col­lec­tions at the mall.

But are we do­ing enough to make sure this con­cept gets wo­ven into their ev­ery­day be­hav­iour? How do we raise char­i­ta­ble chil­dren who give be­cause they want to and not just be­cause mom and dad say they should? And how do we get them to think about do­ing this all year, not just dur­ing the hol­i­days? (Which many of us are guilty of as well.)

Some­times it’s tough to in­volve chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly young ones, in char­ity. But char­ity: Wa­ter, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion bring­ing clean and safe drink­ing wa­ter to peo­ple in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, has seen great suc­cess in in­volv­ing chil­dren in its mis­sion. In fact, more than 2 400 of char­ity: Wa­ter giv­ing cam­paigns have been run by kids, who have raised more than $5 mil­lion (R70m).

Scott Har­ri­son, the founder of the or­gan­i­sa­tion and a fa­therof-two, shares in­sight on how his or­gan­i­sa­tion in­spires chil­dren to give back and pro­vides tips on what par­ents can do to raise char­i­ta­ble chil­dren. What are your thoughts on in­still­ing so­cial good in our chil­dren? Do you have tips for par­ents who would like to raise char­i­ta­ble chil­dren and in­stil these val­ues at a young age?

I think con­tent is im­por­tant. Read­ing books about dif­fer­ent is­sues, show­ing them videos. Char­ity: wa­ter made a pretty long video se­ries for kids (The Jour­ney) as a way of talk­ing about the wa­ter cri­sis, talk­ing about some of the so­lu­tions, tak­ing them inside the cul­ture, re­ally try­ing to en­gage them and speak their lan­guage, try­ing to make it fun for kids and bring­ing it alive.

I think giv­ing at a young age is a great thing. I know sev­eral par­ents who will give their kids money at a young age to give away. They then tell their chil­dren to do re­search on dif­fer­ent char­i­ties and de­ter­mine where they would like to give.

And kids will find their in­ter­est through that. Are you in­ter­ested in ed­u­ca­tion, health, an is­sue like wa­ter? They be­come a stew­ard of their par­ents’ money ini­tially and then you hope that one day they will want to give their own money away. Can you talk about your birth­day and birth cam­paigns? How have par­ents been able to utilise their birth­days and their kids’ birth­days to raise money?

We have asked mil­lions of peo­ple around the world to give up gifts for their birth­day and in­stead we ask them to raise their age in mon­e­tary terms. So it oc­curred to me a cou­ple of years ago (when son Jack­son was born) that birth cam­paigns would also be a great idea. We are bring­ing kids into a world of priv­i­lege. We are bring­ing kids into a world where they will never drink dirty wa­ter, they will prob­a­bly never go hun­gry and they will prob­a­bly al­ways have a roof over their heads.

Yet so many kids are be­ing born into sit­u­a­tions where they have never had clean wa­ter, go­ing to bed hun­gry. So if we could cel­e­brate the life of our chil­dren and in­stead of get­ting… what if these births could ac­tu­ally help other kids? You have had sev­eral kids sup­port your or­gan­i­sa­tion through birth cam­paigns. These chil­dren have cho­sen to sac­ri­fice birth­day gifts and in­stead col­lect money to do­nate to those less for­tu­nate. How have you got kids in­volved in giv­ing back and sup­port­ing your mis­sion?

The birth­day is a great thing for kids but it is ac­tu­ally quite a feat if a par­ent can get their child to do­nate their birth­day. I will say that if you speak to kids the right way, and I think that is vis­ually, show­ing them pho­tos and video, kids are moved to tears. And in some way, they lack the cyn­i­cism that many older peo­ple would have around char­i­ties and bu­reau­cracy. Kids will say “Why isn’t every­one drink­ing clean wa­ter?” They can’t fathom why these in­jus­tices ex­ist in our world.

“I think it sparks some great con­ver­sa­tion. If I can get an hour with any kid, they are go­ing to give up their birth­day. If they see the pho­tos, they see the video, they un­der­stand the is­sue.

Ev­ery kid, if they re­ally un­der­stand, will pick good­ness, hap­pi­ness, health for oth­ers over ma­te­rial pos­ses­sions. I think it is the job of par­ents to give them the op­por­tu­nity. In­tro­duce them to these sto­ries, images, videos, these is­sues. You don’t know what is re­ally go­ing to res­onate with your kids, but some­thing will. It is in all of us.

We have had a seven-year-old kid go door to door ask­ing for a small do­na­tion and raised thou­sands of rand.

One story is this nine-yearold girl named Rachel who had do­nated her birth­day. She trag­i­cally passed away in a car ac­ci­dent right after her birth­day. But the story of her birth­day wish, re­ally her fi­nal wish, moved so many peo­ple through­out the world. Over 60 000 peo­ple, strangers that gave a few rand or more in her hon­our, ended up rais­ing over a mil­lion. From a very hum­ble dream of help­ing a few peo­ple she ended up help­ing 40 000 peo­ple re­ceive clean wa­ter.

So I think it is an idea for any­one, any­one read­ing this, that they could do­nate one birth­day. How do you plan to per­son­ally ex­pose your own chil­dren to char­i­ta­ble giv­ing?

When Jack­son was born, I did a birth cam­paign for him. I was re­ally sur­prised at how gen­er­ous peo­ple were. We raised $250 000 (more than R3 mil­lion) to help peo­ple in Niger get clean wa­ter. We helped 7 700 peo­ple get ac­cess to clean wa­ter. At some point I want him to go and meet those peo­ple, maybe six to seven years in, maybe even ear­lier, he would start to com­pre­hend. I hope to con­nect that loop, that you were born and your friends and fam­ily wel­comed you into the world. And just that act of be­ing born im­proved the lives of 7 700 peo­ple.

An­jali Varma is the owner of Kidville Bethesda, mother and free­lancer. She tweets

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