Assalamu’aliakum & Marhaba!
Last month, as we were shopping for Eid presents and new clothes, my daughter who normally does not ask for anything when we are out, wanted everything “for Eid.” I realized she was missing the true meaning of Ramadan; a time of worship, increasing in good deeds, and most of all giving. I decided to organize a toy drive with some of the other moms for a local orphanage. It was an act of charity my children could actively participate in despite their young ages.
Preparing the Kids
I would have little chats with the kids every couple of days to help prepare them. Some things we discussed:
- To share with those who do not have as much as we do
- To show gratitude to everyone around us and most of all to Allah (swt)
- Children who do not have mothers or fathers or both (orphans)
- Children who live in a group home (orphanage)
- Children who do not have toys, clothes, or are hungry
- To say and do good and kind things for others (thank you, you’re welcome, please, share, etc.)
Practice Kindness and Giving Daily
We all teach our children to be good to one another and share (I hope hehe) throughout our normal routines. However, I made even more of a conscious effort to draw attention to the acts of kindness and giving we practice throughout the day that sometimes go unnoticed. When one wanted a snack, I would ask the other to bring it to them and eat together and consistently repeated “thank you for sharing and being kind.” When my daughter clears the table, I simply say, “Thank you for helping me clear the table.” Soon enough, she was thanking me for a delicious meal herself. If anyone forgot their manners, she was also ready to remind us…kindly of course.
Books about Giving/Charitable Actions
We used the Alhamdulillah for Series to spark discussions about the various things we were grateful to have and made corresponding crafts to represent those ideas in a concrete form. This series really helped us appreciate everything around us while also teaching the kids not everyone has the same blessings. We read our collection of Ramadan books which developed the concept of charity further. The books, Ramadan Moon, Ilyas & Duck and the Fantastic Festival of Eid al Fitr, and It’s Ramadan Curious George, were our favorites.
Shopping for Gifts
Truthfully, I was a bit nervous before we set out to buy gifts for our assigned children. I thought it would be really hard for my daughter, who was doing the actual toy picking, to do it for another child. She kept repeating, “These presents are for the children who do not have mommies and daddies.” Before we began, I explained that as Muslims when we give to others, we give what we would want for ourself or better, so to pick out things that she would like to have herself. Luckily, our assigned kids were near her age so it was easy. She picked out a large set of blocks, legos, play-doh, and a set of pre-school balls and cones. She was ridiculously excited and surprisingly did not ask me for one thing for herself.
Wrapping & Making Cards
Both of the kids had a great time helping me make personalized cards. Layaan wanted to make sure it was beautiful and special. We had a great time wrapping the presents and talking about how happy the kids will be once they see them. Her genuine excitement and interest made this the highlight of our Ramadan.
Visiting the Orphanage and Distributing the Gifts
When we arrived, Muhammad instantly was drawn to all of the children. I did not have to worry about him one bit. Layaan did not budge from my side and had a pretty serious look for most of our visit. The kids at the orphanage seemed as though they were used to visitors which made me a bit sad. It felt as if they were trained to greet donors in a specific way that was not very personal, so I tried my best to get to know them a little more than the lines they were forced to repeat.
The best part was handing out the presents to these incredibly sweet children. I could tell Layaan was a little anxious, but once she saw the huge grins on the kids’ faces, her anxiety turned into excitement. I, on the other hand, was totally thrown off by Muhammad! I was shocked that my 23-month old was handing out these presents with such a mature attitude, Masha’Allah! Some of the other moms also came with their own kids and were elated their kids were able to take part in this.
One of the moms present even made goody bags for each of them with her children. Another mom sent these beautiful flower lollipops along with me since she could not make it herself. These little acts were so greatly appreciated by the kids, that I definitely underestimated their value.
These children had nothing that they could call their own except for a small amount of clothes, their beds, and their schoolwork. They could not believe we got each of them their own personal gifts. It was touching and unforgettable for us all. Layaan and Muhammad got so much more out of this experience than I thought they would. Towards the end, all of our kids joined in with the children as they were playing with their new gifts forming new friendships.