Local Impact

Teaching Children Values through Child Sponsorship Programs

Posted by Staff Writer on May 6, 2016 12:26:12 PM

There is a lot of discussion these days of the importance of teaching values to our children. It is not something they can learn at school or from a textbook, but rather they must see it in action.

Our children may be attending church or religious classes but how can we as parents help to bring more of the important messages of our faith, such as compassion, empathy, and sharing into our children’s lives? How can these values which are too often lost in the “noise” of today’s instant gratification society become a part of their lives?

Unfortunately we don’t always have time to do the good parenting or to set the best example for our children. Time always seems to be an issue and often we find ourselves constantly running around, impatient, rushed, with very little time to think about the effects our busy life may be having on our kids. Children watch, and they take it all in. A scary thought!

Asha_and_sandra.jpgParticipating in child sponsorship programs is a way of forming global friendships.

With these concerns in mind I had decided several years ago to become involved in the child sponsorship program with CARITAS For Children. I thought it would be a good way to help nurture those values of compassion, sharing and empathy in my own children aged 7 and 11 at the time. As a teacher as well as a mom I have always believed that children learn best by involving them in activities. They learn by doing.

In my office I have posted on the wall a wonderful Chinese proverb:

"I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand."

This is my reminder when working with children; they must be involved in order to understand.

Sandras_piggy_2.jpgThe piggy bank my children painted to save their money to sponsor Sandra, their involvement in learning values.

Sandra's piggy is my kid’s involvement in learning values. Sandra’s piggy, as my son fondly refers to it, is a brightly colored piggy bank which sits on our kitchen window sill. This very unique piggy bank, acts as a daily reminder to our household of a very special girl living in Uganda named Sandra.

The origin of Sandra’s piggy was a craft set I had found by accident while I was shopping for a gift for a birthday party my son was attending. When I saw it I thought it would be a wonderful way to get my children more concretely involved with the CARITAS child with whom we were about to begin our relationship. Sandra was living in Uganda and just shy of the age of seven.

The kit was very easy and included paint with a white ceramic piggy bank. It was a great activity, engaging. While painting we talked about many issues related to Sandra, who she was, her circumstances, where she lived, and why we were sponsoring her. My children were interested and involved.

sandra_first_meeting-1.jpgThe first time I met Sandra in Uganda through my work with CARITAS' child sponsorship programs. She was seven years old.

I laminated a picture I had of Sandra, much easier for children to relate to a face, so they could see that she was a real child. I placed the picture next to the bank, and my son, roughly the same age as Sandra, remarked that she had a nice smile and it looked as if it would be fun to play together. I was happy to hear that comment, they were beginning to relate to her and this project was becoming ours, not just Mom’s idea anymore.

In the beginning I had to model the behavior for my kids. I would drop my spare change in and so too my children would add a few cents from their allowance money. It was always a fun time for them to count our savings at the end of each week. 

Honestly I did have to remind my son and daughter about making choices in order to meet our weekly goal; but after a while the choices were starting to be made more frequently by them. More often my older daughter would decide to do something for Sandra and then my son would follow her example.

I was pleasantly surprised one day when my daughter came home from the pool and put three dollars into the bank saying that she had decided she didn’t have to buy the snack after her swimming lesson and thought Sandra could use the money more. That was a nice surprise!

“Mom, for Sandra’s piggy,” my son said, as he proudly told me he had decided against having a second ice cream and thought he should give it to Sandra. Another nice surprise! Maybe they were learning something!

kids_and_Sandra.jpgChildren make connections with one another no matter where they are from.Sandra and my kids met for the first time in 2014.   

We do write three times a year to Sandra, not a lot, but it is a realistic goal. We love receiving letters from her. If my children start to grumble a bit about writing back, I remind them how much we enjoy hearing from Sandra and that we have to write to her too. As hard as it might be to get them started on the task they do it and are happy when it is accomplished. That is another important lesson they have learned from Sandra; the importance of commitment to a relationship.

Yes, it takes a certain consistent effort on my part to remind them about Sandra, but she is with us, we see her, she is a part of our lives and gives back to us in ways she does not even realize. So many positive things have come out of our relationship with her.

Looking at Sandra’s picture and her lovely, innocent, smiling face, I now realize how much she has contributed to our family. That is something I never expected when I became involved in CARITAS' child sponsorship programs. Initially I think you become involved in a child sponsorship program because you want to help a child. Yet you never realize until you begin a relationship with the child, that the child also helps you in so many ways.

sandra_and_family.jpgOur global family, Sandra and my son are about the same age. 

our family it has made our faith come alive. Unwittingly, Sandra reminds us of the truly important things in life. We have learned that indeed, less is often more and going without an extra cup of coffee, or deciding to eat at home rather than ordering another take away meal, is often a better choice for the family – saves money and we eat healthier!

It is important to remember that it is not about denying my children things, for that would not encourage them for the long term to stay involved with Sandra. It is more about helping them see the excess we have in our lives and how easy it is to share the extra with Sandra.

For me this wonderful opportunity to sponsor a child has taught us to make different choices. Ultimately in making those choices we have come to a greater and deeper understanding of Catholic social teaching.

As it is written in John 3:18: “Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” We are sharing in God’s love by sharing in each other’s lives, our life and Sandra’s.

CTA for information on child sponsorship programs

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