Amid all the beautifully wrapped gifts, bright lights and lovely carols, it’s awfully easy to get lost in one side of Christmas and forget about the other. And when you have small children to entertain, it’s not just easy—it’s also fun!
But more than the toys and dresses, there is another gift that we parents can give our children, guaranteed to fit all sizes and ages, no batteries or assembly needed. This is none other than the gift of sharing.
Admittedly, it is a challenge to explain the concept of giving (without receiving something in exchange) to a young child. I tried a couple of times and so far, I think the only thing my preschooler gets is that she will be receiving something from us on Christmas, while she is under no obligation whatsoever to give us anything.
Going back to sharing, we live in a country where there are countless opportunities to share what we have been blessed with. In doing so, we can teach our kids that it’s not just about the joys of the season, but the spirit as well. Hopefully, the practice of sharing will stay with them all year round and, even better, all through their lives.
Whether we choose to teach our children how to share their own possessions, time and energy, or their own money, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that as they get older, they become increasingly aware of their responsibility to give back and help make this world a better place.
Here are some places your kids can start with. In the case of young children, it’s really still you who will be doing the work, but I guess little by little, through constant exposure, they’ll start to get the hang of it.
1. The Caritas Boxes in your parish church
It might hurt the first time around but, with practice, I think our children will learn to live with less toys and clothes. I guess we can “break in” the kids to the idea of giving some of their own things by starting with clothes and toys they have outgrown, but are still suitable for use.
Eventually, they may learn to give up even items that may still hold some value for them, upon realization that it would hold more value for others.
2. Makabata School Foundation Inc.
The Makabata School Foundation began as a feeding program with catechism and academic lessons by Edsa Shrine and Poveda Learning Center in 1994. Eventually, it evolved into a formal school providing quality education and Christian values to deserving street children.
It was founded and is headed by one of the most amazing and inspiring women I have ever had the honor of knowing, Maruxa Pita. Señorita Pita, as we fondly call her, is a Spanish lady who arrived in the Philippines in the ’50s and today is every bit as Filipino as you and me.
Though she may look delicate with her small frame and white hair, make no mistake—this woman is a ball of energy, forever on the go. She was recently awarded the prestigious Mother Teresa Award for her dedication to her students.
The students in Makabata are provided free uniforms, shoes, supplies and books for their P100 annual tuition. They are also given recess and lunch everyday as well as yearly medical and dental checkups.
Makabata School is at 6-B Medina St., Armel VI, Sta. Lucia, Pasig City. You can call 6568640 or 6561289 to see how your family can help other children get quality education.
3. Tahanan Santa Luisa
Perhaps it was fate, but it was just this morning that I first heard of Tahanan Santa Luisa, through an e-mail from the mom of my daughter’s BFF. When I read about Kat Donahue’s plans for her upcoming visit to TSL, I was immediately intrigued by the foundation and asked her about it.
She immediately e-mailed me everything I needed to know. TSL, a subsidiary of Child Hope Asia, is a temporary shelter for girls ages 8-18 suffering from abuse or taken from the streets. Its goal is to “facilitate recovery and reintegration” for traumatized girls, and give refuge to those who come to them in need of shelter and protection.
There are many ways to help as they invite you to share your time as a volunteer, your skills as a mentor, or support them through donations, monetary or otherwise. For instance, Kat has shown her support through organizing art projects, computer literacy programs and grocery-fund drives to help provide for the shelter’s needs.
To see how you and your children can help, call or visit http://www. tahananstaluisa.org; tel. 9319853. TSL is at 42 Berlin St., Capitol Park Homes Subd., Diliman, Quezon City.
4. Build homes
Whether you choose Gawad Kalinga or Habitat for Humanity, or any other organization out there that strives to put a roof above people’s heads, you can’t go wrong. Thousands of people get involved in many of the different organizations’ “build,” and you and your older children can, too!
In fact, Habitat for Humanity has a youth council composed of some very civic-minded teenagers who, through their efforts and projects, have managed to raise millions of pesos. One of their recent projects was “1k for 1 Day,” the aim of which is to have a thousand youth volunteers for a day’s build. Check out www.habitat.org.ph for more information or www.gk1world.com for more information on how to get involved.
5. Hands On Manila
Now here’s a unique find—a foundation that matches those willing to volunteer with the foundation or organization that can use their help the most. They have everything from volunteer programs and volunteer vacations, as well as its annual event, the Servathon. They also have a highly successful mentoring program. If there’s one group that can help you find the appropriate foundation for your child, it’s HOM.
For more information on the next volunteer orientation seminars or how you can help the organization help others, visit HOM at Unit 412 La Fuerza Plaza Bldg., 2241 Chino Roces Ave., Makati City; tel. 4737458, 3866521; e-mail info
6. Philippine National Red Cross
I was originally going to encourage blood-donating to the Red Cross but, right now, another more pressing need is a donation which they will use for the rescue efforts following the wake of Typhoon Sendong.
Sendong ravaged Mindanao in the middle of the night last Friday, when most people were asleep and unprepared, taking hundreds of lives with flash floods and landslides. As I type this, almost 500 lives have been claimed.
You can send your help by simply texting RED<space>AMOUNT to 2899 (Globe) or 4143 (Smart) or by visiting the nearest Cebuana Lhuillier branch, or visit http://www.redcross.org.ph/donatenow to donate online or get a complete list of bank account details.
You can also send emergency supplies, such as water, food, mosquito nets and medicines, if you have the ways and means to do so.
A tragedy is always a cruelty, whatever time of the year it may come. For some reason, one during Christmas feels even worse, as the sense of loss is heightened during the season where families come together in joy and celebration.
Hopefully, with your help, you can ease the burden of their suffering and bring a little light back into the lives of those who need it—and bring to life the real meaning of Christmas.