The modern world is rife with technological advancements that have been sold as solutions to loneliness and a lack of community. Conversations can be started with a click of a button or a swipe on the screen. Despite these opportunities, many parents are concerned that their kids are less interested in connecting with their offline worlds. As a result, some have made concentrated efforts to involve their children with their communities by encouraging them to do acts of kindness. Doha Family spoke to three long-term expat mums who have done just that.
Rafia firmly believes in the power of gift-giving and the responsibility of individuals to contribute to their communities. And according to her, living in Qatar has enabled her to enact those values. “Qatar is the land of serenity and divinity, with mosques at every corner and verses in the air, making us realise each moment the gratefulness [we feel] and blessings [around us]. With prayers, you are reminded of your duties and responsibilities, not just limited to you, but to everyone around you,” she says.
With this in mind, Rafia decided to take one of her children’s birthdays as an opportunity to teach them about the gift of giving back. It has been a few years since then, and she and her three children, Osaid, Labeeb, and Muntasib, are still organising small-scale donation drives.
The pandemic was a pivotal moment for the family. The loss Rafia witnessed in her community pushed her to get planning. “There were many in the community who had lost their jobs. [For] some, even the bread earner in the house [was] left in a devastating situation,” she says. As a result, she collected funds and household essentials to help those in need. Her elder sons, Osaid and Labeeb, helped out by collecting books, stationery, and clothing. These efforts have continued ever since. “There is a WhatsApp group where people post the requirements of theirs and others. I try to arrange [to give them] the same at the earliest,” she says.
Rafia believes that there is no shame in asking for help. “It’s just [that] we need someone to hold [our] hand at the time of crisis.” She also proudly shares that her youngest child, five-year-old Muntasib, has been getting involved. “Muntasib smiles with joy on receiving blessings and dua (prayers) as a complimentary gift.”
These experiences have taught Rafia’s children that they too can positively impact their communities in their own ways and that they don’t need to wait for others to take the lead. So, how does she recommend encouraging your child to give back? “Treat your child as an adult and make him realise that his contribution matters. Involvement is important.”
HEMA SATYA REKHA POSINA
Rekha recalls it very clearly—the moment she spotted her five-year-old daughter, Yakshita, making a mess while engrossed in separating her toys between two old, overflowing boxes. Naturally, she got curious and asked her daughter what was happening, but she was not prepared for the answer. “I don’t need these toys. You can pass it on to children who don’t have it, mama,” replied Yakshita. Rekha was stunned by the maturity in her daughter’s response and her awareness of how the toys that were just taking up space in her room could bring joy to someone else instead. She also described the moment Yakshita looked her in the eyes, smiling sweetly, as she thanked her for all the gifts she had received over the years. Yakshita then asked her to help with donating her items to charity. “I felt I was on the track of right parenting. I always wanted my children to help others in the community in whichever way they can,” shares Rekha. That day a new journey started for the whole family—one that took them to Qatar Charity’s TAYF Containers.
It has been four years since that conversation. These days, the family dedicates a day every three months to going through their possessions and giving away anything unused or no longer wanted. Panya, Rekha’s other daughter, and Yakshita also collect clothes, toys, books, and shoes from other apartments in their building and pack them in boxes to donate. Rekha, who has been a YouTuber for a few years now, documents the process on her channel to create awareness and inspire others to do the same. “It’s easier to cast an impact on tender minds,” she says.
Looking back on her transformative conversation with Yakshita, what, according to Rekha, inspired her daughter that day? “Sometimes it is just the calling from within, and in that very moment you grow mature, understanding there are important responsibilities for you to shoulder. And this can happen at any age.”
A mother to two and a teacher to hundreds, Neetu has made it a mission to teach the children in her life to be compassionate and loving. To her, instilling a sense of gratitude in them is essential, and involving them in acts of giving is an effective way to do that. “I encourage my students and children to be responsible citizens and have awareness about the environment in which we survive,” she says. Despite this, she acknowledges how challenging it can be to encourage them to get out of their comfort zones and give up their free time to do something different.
Neetu joyfully reflects on the day she participated in a beach clean up, pre-pandemic, with her son, Aryaman. The event was organised by the A Flower Each Spring programme, which was initiated and sponsored by Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser. She describes how she felt excited and adventurous as their journey took them from the FES camp in Ras Matbakh, Al Khor, to Purple Island. She also recalls the joyous smile on her son’s face as his gloved hands clutched garbage bags to collect and separate metal cans and plastic. Because this experience was overwhelmingly positive, Neetu and her son have since been keen to join more clean-ups. It also cemented her belief that children thrive through these activities and that they are integral to helping them become productive members of society.
These inspiring accounts show there are still ways for people of all ages to connect with others and spread kindness, no matter how digitalised the world becomes. And the effects of these acts are not just one-sided, as each family was left feeling enriched by their experiences. If you or your child feel the drive to do something positive, take a leaf out of these families’ books and go for it. There is so much to be gained from being kind.
Tips to Support Your Child Spreading Kindness
- Create awareness: explain to your child why charitable acts are needed in this world and how doing them improves their life skills, suggests Neetu.
- Appreciate their efforts: shower your child with kind words whenever they perform an act of kindness, whether that is giving to charity or taking up a volunteering role. This will help boost their morale and make them feel more confident, says Rekha.
- Allow them to take ownership: let your child decide what they want to do and only give guidance when required. Rafia believes this will help enhance their decision-making skills, promote responsibility, and teach them to own everything they do.
- Encourage consistency: children do their best when they understand why they serve others, take the lead when doing so, and do it consistently, according to Rekha. She believes that these steps will help them develop a deep-rooted interest in giving, prompting them to find other unique ways to support their communities.
- Be there for the ups and downs: selflessness is never easy, so your child will always need you by their side, admits Neetu. To her, this means that they will need you by their side to celebrate their little victories with them and when they are moved to tears from glimpsing into the lives of the less fortunate. Overall, be their support system by ensuring your presence keeps them determined to do good, she says.