Today is Kindness Day SG, a reminder that even in the midst of everything that’s going on in our lives, it doesn’t take much to do a kind deed by helping or showing appreciation to someone. “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted,” goes a quote from Greek fabulist Aesop.
But let’s also think bigger. Can a simple act of generosity create a ripple effect of benefits? The answer is a resounding yes! One concrete way is through the social enterprise Gift-It-Forward.
A new way to give
Theresa Evanoff, mum of three, founded Gift-It-Forward in 2016 after a number of realisations from attending birthday parties. “I was tired of seeing presents piled high in a corner of a party room, parents lugging giant garbage bags of gifts from a play gym, and the aftermath of gift-wrap shrapnel strewn all over the living room,” she shared.
“I envisioned a way that I could teach my kids about being mindful of other people in the community and about the environmental waste that excessive gifts can produce,” mused Theresa. What was a lesson for the kids turned out to be a life-changing innovation in giving.
Gift-It-Forward is an online platform connecting people to charities through celebrations. If you are throwing a party, you can have your guests pool their money here, then a portion goes to a charity of your choice and the rest for your preferred gift.
It’s an all-win situation. “Gift-It-Forward can help you re-channel money from unwanted gifts to good causes, and provide charities access to donors and funds that they previously didn’t have access. We make you micro-philanthropists, whether you are the party host or party guest, and we help you eliminate the unsustainable waste from unwanted gifts and reduce the carbon footprint of celebrations,” she explained.
Though this was developed with kids’ parties in mind, Gift-It-Forward also works for all other kinds of occasions, including baby showers, weddings, or housewarming parties.
The beneficiaries are Singapore-based charities with an Institutions of a Public Character status. These organisations work with children, animals, foreign workers, poverty, women at risk, elderly, and the disabled.
“Kindness is an integral building block of human existence and coexistence. By helping others, we forge relationships, build bonds, and even help ourselves to make it fun and enjoyable to live in the communities we do,” said Theresa.
Even our own bodies respond positively to kindness. Evidence has been found that doing good makes the heart healthier, slows down ageing, and more.
Instilling kindness in kids
It’s no doubt that kindness is a behaviour best learned as a child, at home.
“By teaching children about giving and charity at a young age, we can help them develop into socially responsible, lifelong givers,” Theresa said. “We are building the foundation for the next generation of social entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and community builders.”
As a mum, Theresa also shares her own tips for raising kind kids:
- Set an example. Show them what it’s like to be kind by the way you speak or act around others. This could be anything from being patient when they are having a tantrum, or speaking kindly to a waiter at a restaurant or your spouse. Use the language of kindness at home, for example, “That was kind they way you helped your brother.” or “Can you use kinder words to say that?”
- Show them it’s easy. Kindness doesn’t have to be hard. It could mean sharing a snack with someone who forgot theirs, giving someone a turn at the playground, or simply smiling at someone who looks sad. Kids are already doing these things, and will be happy to know they’re already being kind.
- Get them involved in generosity. Give back, volunteer, and support causes that are greater than yourselves. Ask them what they are passionate about, and what causes they would like to support. They will be more likely to want to help ones they can relate to. We often hear from parents that they didn’t realise that their kids cared so much about animals or cancer research until they started planning an event with Gift-It-Forward.
- Highlight how good it feels. “It’s better to give than receive.” That might be a hard sell for kids, but remind them about the warm, fuzzy feeling when they’ve made someone really happy, and let them know the actual impact of what they are doing. For example, every S$5 they raise feeds a hungry child; or donating old blankets to the local animal shelter gives them a soft place to sleep.
- Praise them, celebrate kindness. While kindness and giving should happen from the heart and not purely for recognition, tell them how proud you are of them that they’ve done something kind and generous. Be specific and sincere with your praise. For example, “I’m so happy that you shared your toys with your friend.” At Gift-It-Forward, they have a wall of Superstars to showcase their heroes who’ve helped various charities so they can feel proud and appreciated for their contributions.
Have you made someone happy today with your kindness?
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