In our household we seem to accumulate kids’ stuff at an exponential rate. With two children in the house we try to limit the amount of clutter, but toys and trinkets apparently procreate and multiply overnight. So when my daughter Lizzie told my husband and I that she didn’t want presents at her sixth birthday party, there was a celebration dance happening inside my head.
But beyond the joy of not bringing more stuff into our home, there was a much sweeter, deeper lesson we learned from Lizzie.
It all began when we were making the guest list for Lizzie’s gymnastics-themed party. A friend of hers had collected donations for a charity at a recent birthday and Lizzie really liked the idea of helping other people. I also knew how much she liked opening presents, so I wanted to make sure she truly understood that she wouldn’t have any gifts to open on the day of her party. “I know, Mom. I don’t really need any more stuff,” she explained. Enough said.
We began to discuss what type of charity she would choose. Her school is involved with a number of charity drives, and my husband and I donate to certain foundations on a regular basis, but I suggested that we sit down and research which charity or charities she felt a strong connection to.
We read the mission statements of a number of different organizations, and the one that drew her attention the most was Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl initiative. In particular, she was struck by how unfair it is that girls in developing countries are among the most disadvantaged people on the planet. One of the quotes on the site reads: “Invest in girls and change the world.” Lizzie read these words and said, “This is the one, Mummy. This is the charity I want to choose. Because girls really can change the world.” She loved the idea that she could contribute in some small way to improving the lives of girls she’d never even met.
Since then we, as a family, have learned that there are many ways to contribute if you’re requesting donations to a charity in lieu of gifts. One that stands out is the Plan Canada Gifts of Hope: Birthday Registry. You can choose a number of meaningful gifts—such as girls’ take home rations, girls-only latrines, literacy training for women — or you can register for a specific initiative, like helping to equip a school, that friends and family to can contribute to.
I wondered at the time whether Lizzie would miss receiving gifts at her party, but she didn’t at all.
She received lots of homemade cards, and savoured each one of them. And she was excited to learn each time someone made a donation to her charity of choice. It was a real learning experience for the whole family, and became the start of a tradition that we cherish. It gave us a chance to talk about how fortunate we are, and how we can help others and create positive change. What it also reinforced in me was the belief that kids are inherently givers.
If provided with the opportunity, and shown the effect that their contribution can have, they are more inclined to choose helping others over taking home a bunch of quickly-forgotten toys.
Do you love the idea of throwing a birthday party that gives back? Read these articles and learn how you can throw a birthday party that will make a difference in the life of a child.
Then make your next birthday one to remember by registering for Plan Canada’s Gifts of Hope: Birthday Registry.
Simply invite your friends to purchase that are meaningful to you, then enjoy your special day knowing that your birthday gifts will make a lasting difference in the lives of children.