ACTIVITIES RELATED TO GENEROSITY FOR MUTIPLE AGE RANGES
The definition of generosity is the quality of being kind and generous.This developmental need and social value is directly linked to a deep sense of being needed and valuable, together with a desire to contribute positively to the lives of those with whom you come into contact every day.Generosity can also be referred to as pro social behaviour – those actions that tend to benefit other people without the prospect of an external personal benefit. (Roche et al.)Every child, youth and family needs a deep sense of generosity appropriate to their age and capacity.But before we can focus on the how and what of being generous we have to look at the Circle of Courage. Brendtro, Bokenleg and Van Bockern’s Circle of Courage model indicates belonging, mastery, independence and generosity as the four values or needs for self esteem and according to this model the 4 areas are related and influence each other.
Belonging and generosity have a direct influence on each other and therefore I would like to focus first on belonging before we move on to generosity.
This developmental need has to do with a deep sense of relationship or attachment with other human beings and is reflected in a sense of relatedness, of care, of love, of community, of Ubuntu, of respect for each other and for nature.The first level of attachment is within a family. A child needs to feel connected and loved within a family. Small things like sibling rivalry can influence a child’s sense of belonging. It is important that you connect with your child on a daily basis and makes sure he feels the attachment.The second level of attachment is within a group or with his peers. Children can very easily feel excluded especially with a lot of bullying going on in schools. Help your child to have friends and encourage healthy relationships between him and his peers. Even if it is a small child, they must learn to play together and share.The rest of the levels are: to belong to a group such as religion, culture or ethnicity and the last one is to fit in with society.The role that belonging plays when we focus on generosity can not be emphasised enough. Do simple things everyday that makes your child feel loved and appreciated. I’ve learned that girls open up to you when you spend enough time with them and boys start to share when you feed them. Don’t interrogate them but be available for them. I’ve learned that eye contact and communication are vital for your child’s developmental needs.As soon as a sense of belonging is established a person can start to give something of him/herself.
What a wonderful priviledge to be in a position to be able to give to others and what a privilidge to teach that to our children – big and small.When we look at generosity there are SO many things we can do or be, Roche et al (1996) says that there are 10 different categories of pro social behaviour and all of that count as being generous. You, as a family have to decide how involved you are prepared to be.The first thing that I would recommend is to start small. Usually when we work with disadvantaged children that did not form close attachments, we start generosity by giving them a plant to look after. When they water and care for the plant they feel a sense of achievement. After a while the child can be given a pet to care for. A pet can make the world of difference to children. I worked with a young boy whose mother died and he had a terrible time grieving. One day a stray dog came to there house and for the first time he could start to grief for his mother. After only a couple of weeks he made 10 times more progress than he did in the previous months.Another important aspect is communication. Through communication children (well all people) become aware. When you drive around and you see a homeless person somewhere – start a conversation with your children and start making them aware of the need in your town and in the country and then in the world. If you watch the news or you hear about Angelina Jolie adopting another baby – start a conversation with your children and talk about what they see as being generous and how involved they want to be. This is a wonderful opportunity to get them involved without pushing them into something they are not ready for. It is also an opportunity for you to steer them. If your children is still small, keep the conversation simple – you will know what level they are prepared for.The next wonderful tool helped my own family with the process of getting involved with people in need. We regularly (once a year) have a family meeting or a family group conference or whatever you would like to call it. At this meeting we discuss our goals and rules for the year but we also write our story.
In the first column we write the chapters of our year (or the time that you decide). For instance, in one year we lost our house. The heading of the chaper was: Lost Laing street house. In the second column we wrote (or rather the kids draw pictures because they were to small to write) what it meant for everyone to lose the house. In the last colums we wrote how it affected our bigger family circle and the community of support we found ourselves in.The reason for writing our story is in the first place te become aware of everything that we are thankful for and secondly to realise what we were prepared for to become involved in other peoples lives.
Another way your family can get involved in your own community is to build a relationship with an elderly person. Just start with one person and start by visiting this person once a week. Ask her if she needs anything and next time when you visit you can take something with. Next week when you go to visit you can ask her if you can do the shopping for her. Help her paint the kitchen and let the children help. In a couple of months (or however long it will take) you ask her to visit your house and before you know it she becomes part of the family!We were devastated to lose our house and the children were still very small. Our oldest, Phillip was about 8 years old. A year or two later when we bought a new house, he organised a thanksgiving party (with our help) and invited the strangest people and at this thanksgiving party he made a speech about the house that we lost and what we learned from it. Afterwards 3 couples came to us and told us how much his speech meant to them because they were in similar situations.When children are ready the first place to become involved is your community. Places and people they will know. Become involved in an exsisting project such as a soup kitchen for homeless people. Let the children help to make the soup and when they are emotionally ready take them to the soup kitchen and let them help there. This will help them to realise that they are in no way better than other people and it will teach them empathy for those people.I’ve seen how old people become young again just because someone was involved in their lives and the beauty is that the elderly almost always have so much to give and the young people learn so much from them.One more way to show generosity in your community is by “adopting” a child in a care facility. But I must warn you that this is a very big step. Even if you only adopt a child for some weekends and holidays it is a very big responsibility. When you reach out to a needy child it will be a rough and difficult road for all of you and not something that you can take back if it isn’t working for you. That way you will do a lot of damage to yourselves and the child.Here I would suggest rather adopting a child in different country. Here in Africa we have a lot of needy children that would love sponsorship from families. We have different families from all over the world that support some of the children. One of the girls in a nearby township could attend a very upmarket university thanks to the sponsorship of an overseas family. It doesn’t have to be big. I wish I could show you pictures of their faces when the receive a soccer ball. Years ago I was in a priviledge situasion were I asked how to start a soccer club in one of our townships on the CYC-net (Child and Youth Care network). I received a lot of responses from all over the world and one of them was from a young man in the USA that got sponsers without me knowing and he sent 3 BIG boxes of soccer equipment to South Africa. Small things like a soccer ball can make a big difference in someone’s life.Generosity is not only shown to other people but also to nature and the earth. Start a project where your kids (or the kids in your community) can collect recycling material and sell it and use the money for a charitable cause. Through this project they will learn how important the earth is and they will teach other people about the importance. In Hermanus, a town in South Africa the Recycling Swop Shop was started in May 2003 at the Hou Moed shelter in Kwasa-Kwasa and it is the brainwave of local residents Marilyn van der Velden and Bulelwa Sam.The swop shop allows young children the opportunity of collecting recyclable material and exchanging the value for credit points. Once sufficient credits are achieved they can be redeemed for selected household goods, toiletries, toys, clothing and school stationary.Much of the goods available have been sponsored by local businesses and foreign visitors. Already 400 children have been registered at the Recycling Swop Shop and from May 2003, 24 000 kg of recyclable material has been collected.Teach your children from a young age to give a percentage of their pocket money to a charitable cause – one that you all decided on together. But take them to that place or the foundation so that they can see what their money is being used for. At a local NPO – Life community Services, I heard about a 13 year old girl that became involved in saving money to buy school shoes for the children. She started with one pair and after she delivered the shoes, she became inspired and started making money to buy more. She was so inspired when she saw and felt how her kindness changed another child’s life.Your whole family can start doing volunteering work at an organisation. Again it depends on the ages and emotional availability of your children. Volunteering may even be good for your health!
Something else to remember is donating blood and organ donation. This is also a very personal matter and children can be sensitive to the death topic but I feel that opening communication is a very good idea.Research shows that children who live with parents or caregivers who show pro social behaviour will most likely show pro social behaviour. Therefore your actions and what and how you perceive generosity will be the determining factor to your children’s generosity.The most important thing to remember is never to force your children to be generous. You can steer them and encourage them and make them aware but you can never force them. The other thing that you can never do is to reward them with money or any other material thing. Altruism cannot be bought. It is something that children have to learn and experience.Generosity or pro social behaviour is life changing for yourself and the other people you are being generous to. You can decide how much you are able to give. For me true generosity is when you give something of yourself and true change happens through relationships. Anyone can give money or presents or second hand clothes but not a lot of people give themselves. Human beings need human beings. We need support, love and physical touch.I hope that you and your family will decide to become involved somewhere and that this will help you grow as a family and as a society as a whole.
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