When A Giving Project Yields Surprising Results

Putting values in action

By Vicky Ho | 6 December, 2019

It began as a small mother-son project over the weekend. While we knew the funds raised would not be huge, we wanted to put our values into action. Never did I imagine that it would have such a significant impact on our relationship.

My eight-year-old was seated across the table creating designs with his Perler beads as I worked on my laptop. We were engaged in random conversations as we usually would and I casually said to him that Focus on the Family Singapore (where I work) did not meet our fundraising target for the year. That prompted a brief discussion on why we needed to raise funds and what it meant for the organisation.

Before I knew it, I blurted, “Shall we raise funds for Focus?”

To which he replied enthusiastically, “Yes!”

I was silent for a while, contemplating the many things I would need to do to make this happen.

“What did I get myself into?” I thought. I was really looking forward to a relaxing, hassle-free weekend.

Parenting is about the small moments

I asked him for some time to think about it, hoping that giving it time would dull his enthusiasm and I could then conveniently forget about it. It was only after speaking to a friend who encouraged me to act on it that this giving project started to feel possible.

“He is going to remember this,” she said.

Not in a guilt-tripping manner, but she was simply making the observation that he is going to remember what I did or did not do with what I said. It was then that I realised what lay before me was an open invitation to do something meaningful with my son, an opportunity to create a collective memory. What memory do I want him to bank in of that moment?

These moments would add up in my child’s memory, giving him a picture of his growing up years. I knew it was a moment to put aside any inconveniences and be the mum I’ve always wanted to be.

I realised what lay before me was an open invitation to do something meaningful with my son, an opportunity to create a collective memory. What memory do I want him to bank in of that moment?

Giving doesn’t have to be perfect

As a self-professed “recovering perfectionist” who finds packing and organisation therapeutic, it is unthinkable to launch into any project without prior design and planning. I had to remind myself at several junctures that this is not my project; it is his as much as it is mine – it is our project.

It doesn’t have to be massive or elaborate but it needs to bear both our marks. So, without any fanciful visuals, creative copy or a sophisticated mechanism for friends to place orders and donate, we launched our humble giving project.

Using my private Instagram account as the sole marketing channel, we set out to raise $50 over three days through the sale of his 24 Perler beads creations.

Let them do the work

I had only wanted to sell what he already had in his collection but it turned out that our friends really like the guitar design and we received more than 10 orders for it. In addition, some friends even requested for customised designs such as a Hello Kitty and a Minion!

He was initially excited at the responses and was diligent in fulfilling the orders. But as he worked on his eighth guitar order, the enthusiasm started to wane significantly.

“Mum, I don’t want to do it anymore,” he said.

He asked if I could concurrently work on another piece so that it would be “faster and nicer”. While it was tempting to jump in and help, I knew it was more important to keep a healthy distance. I explained that our friends were giving because they wanted to support him and they would like the bead piece because it was handmade by him, not just because it would be “nice”.

So, I sat next to him as he laboured on, encouraged him with snacks, checked in when he was too tired to spot the mistakes and cheered for him when he put in that last bead.

It was a valuable lesson in perseverance and responsibility. When the novelty wears off and it is no longer fun, how can we encourage our children to dig deeper and press on?

He was understandably “beaded-out” after fulfilling his last order but I could see that he was very proud of himself. I was also very proud of him.

When the novelty wears off and it is no longer fun, how can we encourage our children to dig deeper and press on?

Talk about what this means to you and him

“What is your motivation for doing this?” a friend asked.

“Because I want to help families become bigger and stronger,” he replied.

My eight-year-old is a regular at my workplace. Having a family-friendly work culture, he “grew up” in the office. My colleagues have brought him out for lunches when I was at meetings, asked him about his day in school, helped him with spelling and introduced him to new hobbies. They have allowed him to hang around their desks, listening in to their conversations and watching them in action.

We have heard it said many times that values are caught, not taught. Somewhere somehow, through the interactions at my workplace and as values were modelled in our daily lives, he caught the vision.

His candid response meant a lot to me. Rarely do our children hear from us about what drives us at work or what we are passionate about in life. I am thankful that this little project gave me the opportunity to do just that and to affirm my child.

At the end of our three-day project, 14 friends gave and we raised $116 through his beads creations. $116 is not a big amount…until you have to earn it, and until you have to give it away. It definitely felt that way for my eight-year-old.

“Thank you for giving to Family!”

He wrote that on every package that went out that weekend. In the process of carrying this project to completion, we have created so many precious memories and our relationship is a lot richer.

What is one thing you can do with your child this holidays to give back? Would you consider a little Giving Project for Family? Sometimes, all that’s needed is one small step in the right direction.

Think about:

  • What can you do this holidays to practise the value of giving?

Vicky is a working mum who finds comfort and joy in a good chat with friends over coffee. Every day can be a juggling act as she strives to be fully present for her two young boys. While life can sometimes spin out of control, she is thankful for her husband's constant encouragement and humour.

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