In today's fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle, the act of giving back to society may seem only a quaint idea. While many of us think about giving or volunteering our time, few actually translate them into action.
Considering the fact that one-fifth of Singaporean households employ domestic helpers, it may be an uphill task to combat the trend of children growing up with a sense of entitlement.
How can entitlement be nipped in the bud and more selflessness instilled in our young?
Jeannie, mother of three young children and owner of online bookstore Tiny Seeds Bookshop, may have some answers. She recently launched a family cookbook project to raise funds for her helper who was returning home for good to get married . We caught up with her to find out how this has helped to inculcate the value of giving in her children.
Here are the highlights of the interview.
Q: Hi Jeannie, can you share with us how this cookbook idea started?
Well, our helper Lyn has worked for us for the past five years and is like family to us. She saw our family grow from having one kid to three kids! And now that she is leaving us to start a family of her own, I wanted to honour and bless her with a gift, and also share some of her best recipes with other families.
So Lyn has always been very resourceful. She would research on the Internet or check out YouTube to find out how to cook certain dishes that we’ve tried in restaurants. After that she would adapt those recipes and tweak it according to our tastes and our children’s preferences.
So this cookbook is really done in honour of her love and sacrifice for our family. A compilation of 26 of our family's favourite dishes, the cookbook is written in English and Tagalog so that other families with Filipino helpers can benefit from it.
Q: That is such an inspiring story. Was that something you hoped to achieve through the project, apart from raising funds for Lyn’s new chapter?
I guess I had also hoped to show my children that everybody has value, even if it is a domestic helper who has left her own home and family to come and live with us for a season.
As an employer, I always tried to show Lyn the respect and kindness that I think she deserves, and to make her feel welcome and valued in small ways.
She wasn't the first helper that we ever had, but right from the start I knew that I wanted to be a good employer because my children will learn from me how to treat other people.
Q: Can you also share some examples of how your family has shown appreciation to Lyn?
For example, we would celebrate special occasions with her. For her birthday, we will all go out for a nice meal at a restaurant. We take the opportunity to express our thanks to her and encourage her for the work she’s done. And because we are a Christian family, we also pray a blessing over her life.
Q: It’s quite a rare sight to see a family showing such love and respect to their domestic helper, so you’ve done a great job in this regard. So…what did your children think of this cookbook project? Did they contribute to it too?
They did! When we first started on this cookbook idea, I made a list of all the dishes that we enjoy eating, so the children would help to select their favourites.
You know, they were also very patient because we had to take photographs of the food that's supposed to be their lunch or dinner. And because we had to make sure the photographs were nice enough to publish, it often took a while and so even when they were hungry, they learnt to wait before finally being able to tuck in.
Q: Were there other people who came along to help contribute to this project?
We needed a designer for the book, and my friend Melissa Sim very kindly said yes and gave up a lot of her free time to help with this. Our friends Cookie and Ian also generously gave of their time to help us translate the recipes into Tagalog. They would debate over the terms and phrases to use, for example, how do you say “to season” in Tagalog? So yes we are really thankful for our friends who played a part and didn’t expect anything in return. I think this is also the beauty of this project.
Q: For families who want to appreciate and honour their helpers, but don't know where to start. What can they do?
They can start by saying thank you for simple things like when they have washed off a tough stain on your clothes or when they relieve you of your screaming kids so that you can take a work call.
We would do that for our friends or even our co-workers when we see them do something good and well. So, what more our helpers?
Other small ways might be including their share when you buy bubble tea or coffee or dessert.
Q: With all the effort that you’ve put into this project, as well as in the other ways you’ve shown appreciation for your helper, do you see your kids doing the same?
Yes! I think the kids have learned to appreciate the foreign workers in our midst. For example, when being served by the helper of our friends, my kids would say thank you to them. Or when they meet the uncles who work around our neighbourhood, whether it is building a shelter or fixing our lifts, the kids would chat with them about what they are doing. And I feel really glad to see them interacting in such a way.
© 2021 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Hear more from Jeannie on the Parented podcast, also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can also check out the cookbook at Simple Home Cooking: 26 kid-approved dishes for everyday meals!
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