Want to raise kids who know what it means to care for others? Don’t we all! Here’s how we can encourage kids to make a difference.
In today’s world, many of us – especially parents in an international setting like Singapore – have become far more conscious of life beyond our own backyards, and actively look for ways to help people in need, or to support causes we’re passionate about. We try to volunteer, donate, and educate ourselves on the serious issues facing many communities around the world. We want to make a difference, but what better way to create a lasting impact than to teach our kids how to be compassionate, to fight for what’s right, and to serve others? Here we take a look at how UWCSEA does this with its student-led service program, and how we as parents can build kind and empathetic young people at home.
The UWCSEA service program
Many international schools have a service program, and we say a big ‘three cheers’ for that! Some schools link their students into high profile causes or focus solely on fundraising. The approach at UWCSEA is a little different, as they actively allow the students take the lead, while embedding the idea of service in their daily life at school. Even four-year-olds participate!
The view at UWCSEA is this: young children have a well-developed sense of social justice, and with the right encouragement they’ll be empowered to act on it throughout their lives. We’ve all had that moment when a little person’s empathy melts the heart. When a child says “it’s not fair” that some children in the world don’t get to go to school, or have toys, or even a meal and clothing, it leaves us wondering, how can we harness that natural sense of compassion? There are so many ‘big’ causes in the world it can be hard to know where to start. It can be tempting to write a cheque and think we’re doing well by asking our child to clean out their toy cupboard for ‘those less fortunate’. But does that help kids develop a set of values where they consider it natural to put themselves into the service of others? The service program at UWCSEA allows students to connect more deeply with the initiatives they support, because they lead it themselves.
Meet 14-year veteran of the service program, Samay Bansal
Samay Bansal is a shining example of the UWCSEA service program in action. He started at the school when he was four, graduated in the Class of 2016, and has been involved in the service program throughout those 14 years. Samay says the most striking thing about the program is that “everyone is willing to do a lot more than they think they are because they know that the impact is very positive for someone other than themselves.” Samay is currently on a gap year and will spend some of his time volunteering – again – at Lavalla in Cambodia, before going to university.
Advice from an expert: How we can instill a sense of compassion and empathy in our kids
Alice Whitehead is a Grade 1 teacher at UWCSEA’s Dover Campus, the Global Concerns Service coordinator, and a UWCSEA alumna to boot. This lady walks the walk! We asked Alice to give us some tips on how to point our kids in the right direction when it comes to their sense of the need for social justice (and let’s be honest, it’s often about justice for themselves!).
Alice’s top tips for parents:
- Children respond when they are presented with contexts that are meaningful to them. Ask them what matters to them. For example, if they are passionate about animals, connect them with a local animal shelter or wildlife protection organisation.
- Tell them they are needed.
- Support them to build relationships. Children, like adults, find purpose when they are helping others that they care about. This can be accentuated by giving children opportunities to form relationships over time.
- Be a role model. Children learn from their environment. If they see the influential adults around them taking responsibility for creating a better world, it will help them learn to want to do the same.
- Give children responsibility and encourage them to take ownership. A child’s sense of purpose will flourish when they are able to make decisions and take action on the things that matter to them.
- Talk about all of the above often! Embed it in their day-to-day lives.
- Celebrate! As your child’s sense of purpose grows and they begin to engage in activities that are meaningful, celebrate their successes.
If you’d like to find out more about UWCSEA’s unique service program, visit the campuses on their upcoming open days in September, and see the experts in action.
Applications for August 2017 open on 1 September. This year, there are new classes being created in all age groups from four to 16 years, including a new K2 set for five-year-olds on the East Campus.
This post is sponsored by UWCSEA.