Turning South Asian Festivals into a Conversation About Giving Back

Indian Lady Offering Money And Red Envelope

This summer we as a family talked a great deal about helping others in need. My kids’ school is great at instilling this message when it comes to giving items like canned goods, or toys or other things that families who aren’t as well off as them may need.

But it got me thinking. We as South Asians give and receive great denominations of $21, $51, $101, etc.… of cash when it comes to our own South Asian holidays and birthdays why not make that a conversation about giving back? I talked to my daughter about this tradition and told her that money especially that $1 is traditionally given as a blessing. When I was young we were told that gifts never ended in ‘0’ as the goal was to let the money not stop with what the person gifts but increase. ‘0’ signifies the end while ‘1’ signifies the beginning. That’s why cash is gifted in numbers such as 51, 101 etc.

raksha bandhan

After having this conversation we talked about what it means to ‘pass the blessing on.’ It was a great way to talk to her about how to help others and why it matters.

I had a conversation with my daughter about why I support The Walk for Sick Kids and what the walk does for families and kids who are in need of medical treatment.

So she was more than happy to think about ways we could give back. With Raksha Bandhan, birthdays and other festivals this past summer and even now with Diwali recently, we talked about taking some of our gift money and giving it to the Walk for Sick Kids as our family’s cause. It’s important to teach my kids the importance of philanthropy and instill in them the importance of giving back and caring for others. It’s something that can be fun for the whole family.

Photo credit: duckiemonster / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: duckiemonster / Foter / CC BY

So for every monetary gift our kids and we received for birthdays, we decided to give half the money from our birthday celebrations to our charity and added a $1 to every amount. The $1 is of course part of tradition☺. We also decided to use Raksha Bandhan and other South Asian gift giving holidays these past few months as times to give back…so that money from grandparents was part of our charitable giving. We’re happy to say we raised $400 with just a few birthdays and raksha bandhan.

Here are some ideas to get your charitable giving started:Indian family celebrating diwali festival or birthday by exchanging or showing gifts, two generations of indian family and gifts and sweets, diwali or festival or happiness concept

1. Decide on a percentage or amount you’d like to give. Talk to kids about whether what they would give and why.

2. Create a charity jar to be used by the family for South Asian festival gifts. Invite children to share some or all of their monetary gifts with others through donating to the jar. As the jar fills, decide as a family where to you think you’d like to donate. This could also be used for birthdays or allowances. Label the jar, ‘My giving back jar’ so that it reinforces that the money is for a purpose and reminds them why they’re putting money in.
3. Ask kids to share what they think giving back is all about – Why is it important and how it makes you feel. Your child may get an allowance or cash as birthday gifts. Consider having them set aside portions to save and donate.
4. Take Small steps: Your child might start putting a few of their coins into their collection jar. Eventually, she might decide to make a donation to a specific cause in lieu of birthday gifts.
5. Talk about interests, cultural values and make a commitment – Giving back comes in many forms: time (volunteering/walking), talent (skills/resources), treasure (monetary) and ties (relationships/connections)

Have a conversation about what works best for your family and decide on something specific.

Wondering why the Hospital for Sick Kids is a great place to give your festival money? Or why you should fundraise for the Walk for Sick Kids?

Walk for Sickkids

Here’s why:
• Funds raised from The Great Camp Adventure Walk support patient care, research discoveries, knowledge sharing among medical professionals and the hospital’s most urgent needs
About SickKids
• Sick Kids treats more than 100,000 patients every year
• It is Canada’s leading centre dedicated to improving children’s health and home to Canada’s largest, hospital-based child health research institute
• There are more than 10,000 staff and volunteers, and 2,000 of those people are dedicated to working in paediatric health research
• Sick Kids Foundation is the largest funder of child health research, learning and care in Canada, next to the government

Consider signing up for next year’s walk for a great way for your family to give back: web.sickkidsfoundation.com/walkforsickkids/register

Check out sickkidsfoundation.com/walkforsickkids For more information and get started thinking about giving back this holiday season!

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