You may be eager to show your children how lucky they are compared to many less fortunate children in Singapore, but here’s what you should consider before visiting an orphanage with your kids
A mama who was concerned about discussions that she saw on a parenting forum asked if she could share her thoughts on the practice of “orphanage birthday parties”. Please note that she has asked to remain anonymous.
Yes, orphanage birthday parties (or ‘holiday visits’ to orphanages in developing countries) were once a thing. Luckily though, it seems the general public has become woke enough for this practice to be phased out – but that’s not to say that its moral implications aren’t still being debated! Mamas who are for it would imagine happy kids playing party games, faces smeared with cake, and the child (whose birthday it is) learning an important lesson about charity and suffering. But what good does this birthday party actually accomplish? Is the reason for the orphanage party to provide joy in the life of those in tragic circumstances OR to teach an affluent child the reality of poverty?
Children who are in an orphanage or institutionalised care facility are emotionally fragile and have experienced neglect, abandonment, or loss. A family with enough wealth to host a birthday party swooping in and splashing out with gifts and treats is confusing at best. It may make the child ask themselves, “Why not me? Why have I never had a birthday party?” Additionally, for a child who has been abandoned, to begin bonding emotionally with a visitor and then have that person quickly leave just repeats a cycle and victimises the child again. Isn’t it a little self-serving to be present and have this wealthy child become center of a celebration that’s supposedly about bringing joy to others? So let’s bid goodbye to this awful trend.
Stop with all the stuff
Instead, there are many ways to teach a child the value of money and about suffering in the modern world. When I first became a mother a wise nurse told me, “You can never spoil a child with the gift of your time, but you can spoil a child with things and food.” Never have wiser words been spoken to me and I keep coming back to this advice.
To spoil-proof your child, the first step is to stop with all the stuff. We all know affluent children with no ambition and others with addiction or anti-social behaviour. Hard work and the thrill of accomplishment are the foundations of building a person of strong character.
True altruism is anonymous. Charity is certainly something we should teach our children, and of course they should be part of the discussion about giving to the needy. But please, let’s not make it about a party to celebrate your child. Instead, why not locate a charity and partner with them to anonymously support their mission? There may be things they desperately need to meet the basic needs of the children, and a party would be frivolous for them compared to a pantry stocked with food or well-fitting shoes for every child.
How to help orphans in Singapore
The core advice of the experts is to support groups that protect children and help keep families together. Do consider supporting these local Singapore children’s charities or volunteering with them instead:
Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support
Babes Pregnancy Crisis Support supports pregnant teenagers and accepts donations for baby gear and supplies.
New Life Stories
New Life Stories supports preschool education for the children of incarcerated mothers. Volunteers will help provide children with essential educational skills namely reading and pro‐social skills to ensure they are not left behind in the crucial early years of their development.
Sanctuary Care is a non-profit organisation that provides foster care for children and support for families.
Singapore Children’s Society
Singapore Children’s Society protects and nurtures children and youth of all races and religions. In 2019, the Society reached out to 66,966 children, youth and families in need. Today, Children’s Society operates 12 service centres islandwide, offering services in the four categories: Vulnerable Children and Youth, Children and Youth Services, Family Services, and Research and Advocacy.
Touch Community Services
Touch Community Services is a local charity that supports at-risk children and the elderly. You can view the available volunteer services and register to fill a need on the website.
Read more: Where to volunteer with kids in Singapore
Note: This article was originally published in 2016