One of the parenting challenges my husband and I face is to teach our children to be grateful for all we have. We want our children to be aware of international issues and think of themselves as global citizens and not merely be focused on their next Leapad game. Neither my husband nor I came from a wealthy family and certainly never experienced the things our children have unfortunately become too accustomed to- from the overloaded playroom to vacations around the world with stamps that have filled their passports at such a young age. So on a recent family vacation to India my husband and I took the opportunity to show our kids the power and gift of giving back.
Before taking this trip we began discussing with the kids what an orphanage is, who lives there and why. My children are 6 and 3 years old and the concept was certainly foreign, as they questioned why the orphans’ families couldn’t pick them up. A few days prior to the end of our visit, we took our children to the Vatsalya Shiksha Niketan Orphanage and School near Jaipur. When we contacted the orphanage manager, she shared that the children were lacking cold weather gear and she was concerned as winter was approaching. So we took our kids to shop at a local market in Jaipur and had them assist us in picking out shoes, scarves, gloves, hats, socks and blankets. Involving the kids in this process was essential because initially they wanted to buy toys and games for the orphans, however as we explained that it was getting cold and they didn’t have winter items I could see the wheels turning in their head as they digested the problem and assisted in purchasing the essentials the orphans needed to make it through the winter.
The Valtsalya Orphanage is the home for boys and girls from the age of 5 and up. We were surprised to learn that there were young volunteers from Australia and England assisting in the cooking and small projects to enhance their facilities. Additionally, they had an elementary school on site to accommodate the children. One of the impressive programs this orphanage boasts is that they’ve incorporated a “Skill Building” curriculum that educates the teenagers on trades in textile, handicraft, and jewelry making in order to be competitive in the workforce as an adult. The staff was extremely kind and helpful and certainly were special souls for the work they were doing.
Now I have to admit I had high and frankly unrealistic expectations of my children during this visit to the orphanage. I wanted them to see how blessed our family was and have that “Aha” moment. The Aha moment didn’t happen the way I imagined it in my head. Instead my kids, who normally are social butterflies, latched on to me and were afraid to interact with the other children. They were willing to assist in cooking or other projects but did not want to leave my side. At that point I realized they may be afraid of this new situation and I decided to back off and show them how we give back in hopes that next time they will follow suit.
My kids enjoyed giving out the clothing to the children and showed empathy for the living situation and asked tons of questions. That Aha moment may have not occurred but there’s no doubt in my mind that this visit did have a huge impact on them now as children and will continue to impact them as adults.
If you’re interested in donating to Vatsalya Orphanage, please visit their website www.vatsalya.org.