In our very privileged society, how can we teach children the benefits of giving rather than taking? 

Sunita Chadha: We’re very privileged living here in the UAE and sometimes, it can be a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we are in a position to give back to society but on the other, we have to constantly make an effort to ensure that our kids don’t grow up taking everything for granted. Here are some tips that I personally find helpful:

  1. Introduce children to the concept of charity around the age of three or four years old. At this age, children begin to realise that other people also have feelings, and they begin to develop a sense of empathy. For example, your children might have their favourite dolls, cars or books. Explain to them that not everyone is fortunate enough to have these things.
  2. Create an environment where giving is natural and encouraged. Lead by example. Take part in charitable initiatives and explain what you are doing to your children. Involve them in your decisions. Ask for their opinions.
  3. Remember that less is more. Buy only those books and toys that your children need. Encourage them to donate old toys or clothes that they have outgrown. Involve them in the decision process and take them to the donation box or charity organisation so that they can actually see where their contribution is going.
  4. Remind your little ones that donating time is just as vital as donating things or money. Make this a family activity. Take part in a beach cleanup or spend a couple of hours at an animal shelter. There are many activities in the city that happen for a cause – take your pick!
  5. In a country where we are quite fortunate to have help, teach your children to take responsibility and ownership from an early age. Whether it’s tidying up their bed in the morning, rinsing their plate after dinner or cleaning up after themselves after they’ve made a mess – a sense of gratitude can only be developed if all these things aren’t taken for granted!
  6. If you can, travel with your children and show them the world! When we see people who are a lot less fortunate, it really puts things into perspective.

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How can you make the impact of charity tangible for kids?

Rachel Higgins:  Wherever possible, use examples of charitable giving that are direct and concrete. Set up a little charity box for loose change in your house, talk about how an old favourite toy – that had served your child well – will now make another child happy, or take the whole family to serve food, for example, to labourers during the holy month of Ramadan. On a regular basis, the closer these philanthropic donations are to home, the easier it is for children to grasp the concept.

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What are the benefits of philanthropy for children?

Sunita Chadha: In the crazy hectic world that we live in, it is important to remember our values. Philanthropy reminds children about the importance of giving.  So many individual benefits stem from that – increased happiness, a sense of accomplishment and purpose in life, an improved sense of well-being, emotional health … With so many distractions, it is easy to neglect these important aspects of life. If they become the ‘norm’ from childhood, it is much more likely that the children will carry them throughout their lives.

Please explain about the partnership between JPS and Dubai Cares

Rachel Higgins: JPS is well known for its strong community spirit, with children and learning being at the heart of everything we do. Ten years ago, we launched the JPS Spring Fair, which allowed us to channel the power of our community to serve a greater purpose – charity. Over the years, this annual event grew in scope and size – the raised funds could actually help us make a difference. This is how, in 2016, we partnered with Dubai Cares, a UAE-based global philanthropic organisation. All the funds raised through the fair are donated to the charity’s ‘Adopt a School’ initiative that supports children’s education in developing countries. This partnership allows us to combine our passion for education with the ability to invest in real change in the lives of vulnerable children and their community.

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To what extent do the children understand where the money goes? How do you get the children engaged with the charity aspect?

Rachel Higgins: To get the maximum engagement levels, we always try to bring an element of fun into all of our charitable events and activities. For obvious reasons, the older children have a higher level of awareness of how one’s actions can impact others but we work closely with our parent community to promote involvement within the school and our various initiatives from the early years. We encourage the children to participate wherever they can – whether it’s spreading the message and raising awareness at our school assemblies, helping out with various tasks on the day of an event such as the JPS Spring Fair, or donating small gifts and tokens to those less fortunate. We strive to be very involved and hands-on – as educators and parents, it is important to demonstrate to the children that our actions are consistent with our words.

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Please explain the initiatives that the fair has helped with so far?

Sunita Chadha: Last year, we contributed towards the Early Childhood Development program that helps Syrian refugee children in Jordan gain access to safe and improved education. It is reported that Jordan hosts the second highest number of Syrian refugees in the world, with figures as high as eighty-nine refugees per one thousand inhabitants. Since this is a two-year program, we are expecting to receive a full update from Dubai Cares within the next few months.

 Prior to that, there were two other notable projects in Malawi and Nepal. The Malawi project, for example, took close to a year to complete. A two-classroom school was opened in September 2018 and today 160 children receive their classes there! In a village in Nepal, a three-classroom school block has been in operation since September 2016. Initially, 101 children enrolled, with plans for continual expansion.

Read more:

'The UAE's Entitlement Epidemic: It's all down to these avoidable parenting mistakes' 

'10 ways to raise a grateful child'