Friday, 25 March 2011

How did you introduce 'charity'?

When I was little I wanted to change the world, a little Lisa Simpson in the flesh.
It was all so simple to me back then, why can’t everyone just share what they have? Then no one would be poor, no children would go hungry and everyone would have a house. Or, even easier, why don’t the banks just print more money? Simple, right? A humble solution in my infant mind.

My thoughts then turned into actions.

I stopped eating meat when I was 10, although mum made me eat chicken… ‘You need protein, you’re a growing girl’ she used to say. This was a radical decision after my brother insisted on singing ‘lamb chops, mmm mint sauce’ every time we drove passed a field of sheep, to my horror and annoyance.

I sent my football shirts to Africa (yes, I was a tom boy for a while, who’d of thought it?) and sent shoe boxes of presents to others at Christmas time.

But then you grow up, and realise that life isn’t so simple.

You get caught in your own world and ego and before you know it you’ve cancelled that £2 a month you’ve been giving to Oxfam since you started your first job, as you need it for beer money. You start eating meat again as it’s the easy (and cheaper) option when you move out of home. And Christmas becomes all about the presents (received, not given). This was me.

Then, in my early twenties I went travelling, (in a non-posh ‘gap year’ sort of way, I was 23).
I had been working full time for 5 years and decided that I had missed out and needed an adventure.

I wanted to go to Thailand, and whilst looking through the options of beaches, sunbathing and drinking tours I found a volunteering trip, the supressed Lisa Simpson from my youth was overjoyed.

So I went, on my own, and joined a group of other likeminded (mainly younger) volunteers.

We lived in an Echo house together in a province north of Bangkok called Sing Buri. There, we went on weekly assignments to help the local community. Including teaching at a primary school and building at an orphanage.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the beach bit too, went to the full moon party and had some selfish fun, but it is the 5 weeks I spent in Sing Buri that I will always treasure the most. Seeing the smiles, the politeness and the kindness of children who had no parents, no home and little else, will always stay with me.

Two years later and I’m now the proud owner of a beautiful baby girl, and since her arrival, I have pondered on how to impart morals, empathy and kindness as she grows.

With the recent earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan, and the Comic Relief campaign in full swing, it really brings home the need and importance of charity.

I do believe that charity starts at home, but it doesn’t have to end there.

I’m the first to admit that, other than my half selfish trip to Thailand, I haven’t done much for others since my Lisa Simpson days of past. Like everyone else, these are hard times. We’re saving for a wedding, days out and maybe even a holiday in the next few years.

I don’t think we should all give up on our day to day dreams and treats for our family. I will feel no shame in, one day, taking Belle to Disney World, but moving forward, I am going to start supporting a charity again, even if it is a few pounds a month.

I hope that Belle will grow up to appreciate what she has, be grateful, humble and charitable where she can. But how do we encourage this in our children?

At Christmas Belle was only 6 months old, but I ‘forfeited’ the cost of one of her presents and instead bought an Oxfam ‘unwrapped’ gift for the value of feeding a family on her behalf. I plan to do this every year, a small gesture, but I hope it’s benefits will be two fold. Helping a charity and teaching my lovely daughter to be grateful and giving.

I’d love to know what you do to encourage gratitude with your children and how you introduced the much needed action of ‘charity’.


  1. A great post and inspired me to write about my own experience of teaching how to be charitable

  2. I definitely think it's role modelling. It's easy to pop coins into a box - even the meanest people do that. It's another thing to show empathy and get off your butt once in a while.
    I quite often watch "tragedies" on TV with my three kids and we discuss what we can do to have a direct impact. Their school is great in that it encourages initiatives and the kids are required to do community service when they're older.
    It was watching Angela Jolie talking about her work (about 6 years ago) that led to the charity I founded to support a school in Ghana. Now we have a sponsored walk every year and my eldest and I are going to Ghana this summer for the first time. SO excited.

  3. Really interesting post - which made me wish I had been more adventurous in my year off!
    Also been to Ghana and supported a child through school there which had its ups and downs...
    YOu have also inspired me to write a post about it - as a women nicknamed Florence Nightingale - not entirely meant as a compliment- it's a subject close to my heart

  4. Well ended up writing a post that barely scratches the surface it is a very big issue, but here are my 10 ways of giving when you are skint which includes how you influence your kids. I have linked back to your post x

  5. Fabulous post & you are inspiring others to write too - that is great.

    For us we sponsor a child in Hiati & give each month and the children see the pictures, we pray for the child and they write letters/ send pictures.

    I watched some of Comic Relief with JJ and we were abel to talk about the different life that some people have to lead.

    We make the show boxes together at Xmas and talk about why we are doing it.

    JJ gets pocket money & has to choose how much out of it that he wishes to give to Church each week. (he gets more to do this, but it allows and teaches him about choice).

    Just general role modelling, when they saw Daddy go off to Idia on Mission or Mummy do the Race for life. All these little bits add up.

    Don't worry, your attitude of giving will rub off.

    Mich x