Gluttonous brunches (we’re guilty), wardrobes bursting with unworn clothes (can’t resist a bargain), playrooms with more LEGO than LEGOLAND itself (it’s educational, right?)... The waste we accumulate is bordering on criminal and all of us are guilty in one way or another. So perhaps it’s with grateful enthusiasm that we should embrace the UAE’s Year of Giving in 2017. And we’ve already discovered one Dubai family setting the trend.
Twins Evelyn and Tom Kane just turned five and enjoyed a fun-filled birthday party in their local park. But there was something distinctly different about the gift table at this particular party – it was stacked with a variety of brightly coloured shoeboxes that didn’t contain the latest Shopkins range or Star Wars figures. Instead, they were filled with basic toiletries, hand towels, teabags, dates and sweets, which, after the festivities, would go straight to labourers working on the construction of a high school adjacent to the Kanes’ primary school.
“My twins wanted to invite all their classmates to their birthday party which, given that they are in separate classes, would amount to more than 40 kids,” says mum Katherine. “I was immediately concerned about the potential number of presents we’d receive. With their birthday being just 13 days after Christmas, I didn’t think it would be healthy.”
But, instead of instating a no-gifts policy, Katherine had a brilliant brainwave – direct the generosity of Evelyn and Tom’s friends towards those who actually need it.
Katherine and her husband Greg, like many parents, regularly talk to their children about the importance of kindness and generosity, and so they explained the idea to the twins, who readily agreed. They understood their friends would be giving away gifts to people who need them more.
“It doesn’t take long for children to understand the concept of giving in the home, so it isn’t too much of a stretch for them to understand the concept of sharing with others on a wider scale,” Katherine smiles. “And I truly believe that people who give to others gain as much, if not more, from the experience as those on the receiving end.”
With the twins on board, Katherine contacted Stephanie Sutherland, fellow school mum and founder of Dubai Mums Helping Hands, a charity that supports the city’s labour community, who happily agreed to collect the donated care packages once the celebrations were over.
As the festivities went on, the gifts piled up, and by the end of the day, the Kanes were left with a total of 40 donated boxes. But they also started a whole new trend.
“The response from other parents has been amazing,” Katherine tells us.
“So many [parents] have told me how much they loved the idea as it gave them the opportunity to introduce the concept of charity to their kids.
“Others have already told me they would like to do something similar for their child’s birthday, which is just fantastic!”
Sutherland adds: “I was overjoyed when Katherine asked us for our thoughts on her idea and about how she could distribute her care packages through our organisation. And we want to highlight Katherine’s work because we know how these ideas have a trickle-down effect on others.”
It was also easy for the family to decide to donate the boxes to the labourers working right next to where the twins play and learn every day. It not only kept the charitable act really close to home, but also meant the twins could experience the joy of giving themselves, by personally handing over the care packages.
So, forget oversized cakes and mega piñatas, as this is one heart-warming trend we hope to see taking Dubai’s birthday parties by storm this year.
www.facebook.com/groups/DMHelpingHands. Dubai Mums Helping Hands projects are executed under the umbrella of the Smartlife Foundation. www.smartlifefoundation.org.