Many mamas are eager to show their children how lucky they are compared to many less fortunate children in the region, but think twice before taking your kids to visit an orphanage
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.
So you want to host your child’s birthday party at an orphanage in Singapore or Batam, or give a party to kids in Cambodia? You’re imagining happy kids playing party games, faces smeared with cake, and your child learning an important lesson about charity and suffering.
Let’s take a few minutes to reflect on the consequences of hosting this party and what good or bad outcomes might happen.
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?
I’d like to propose that these parties do more harm than good. As parents we should be focusing on ensuring our children grow up to be responsible citizens and making the world a better place. The way I see it, these parties neither build responsibility nor improve the world.
Children who are in an orphanage or institutionalized 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 must 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 victimizes the child again.
True altruism is anonymous. Isn’t it self-serving to be present and have your child become center of a celebration that’s supposedly about bringing joy to others. If the party is about the neglected children, there are many ways to work with charity support groups to provide supplies and services.
Similarly, 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 antisocial behavior. Hard work and the thrill of accomplishment are the foundations of building a person of strong character.
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.
Please take some time to read the site Think Child Safe about what we CAN do to improve the lives of needy children.
The core advice of the experts is to support groups that protect children and help keep families together. Your visit to an orphanage on holiday OR for a child’s birthday does nothing to make the world a better place.
Please consider anonymously supporting these local Singapore children’s charities instead:
Sanctuary Care is a non-profit organisation that provides foster care for children and support for families.
Babes Crisis Pregnancy Support supports pregnant teenagers and accepts donations for baby gear and supplies.
Touch Community Services is a local charity that supports at-risk children and the elderly
Just as with tiger sanctuaries, elephant rides, and dolphin swims let’s all be mindful of our actions and make the world a better place by NOT visiting orphanages for our own entertainment. Please be charitable, but do it anonymously for the love of your child and all those around the world who are less fortunate.
Read more: Where to volunteer with kids in Singapore
Note: This article was originally published in 2016
Lead image sourced via Damnok Toek.