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Teaching our children to be philanthropic

Yvonne Ndungwa and her husband David Karianjahi have taught their kids to have a generous spirit—that it is better to give than to receive

Betty Muindi @BettyMuindi

During the holidays, there are endless opportunities to help children understand why and how to help people in need, with food drives coming up and countless organisations giving end-of year donations.

Yvonne Ndungwa and her husband are such parents. They have always been conscious about teaching their children how to give ever since they became parents five years ago.

A constant giver herself, Yvonne says she introduced her firstborn daughter, Zarya Zawadi Muthue to giving at six months old.

“I was introduced to charity at a young age by my grandmother. She used to take in needy children from relatives as well as strangers and she would see them through their education,” she recounts.

Yvonne never stopped helping those in need. And when her baby turned six months old, she started tagging her along.

“We did our first donation in Korogocho, where we had gone to visit an elderly woman known as shosho Kare who we had been informed was in dire need of food and other day-to-day essentials,” she remembers.

To date, her daughter, who will be turning six this Friday, January 4, has learnt the essence of giving. Zarya’s younger brother, Ziya, is also catching up.

So engraved is the generous spirit in her daughter that seeing street urchins looking hungry and wearing shaggy clothes breaks her heart.

“When she sees street children, she gets disturbed, asks why they are there and if there is anything we can do to help them. She then insists that we buy food for them,” she says.

Zarya knows that she cannot give what she cannot use or wear. “Just last week, when she was digging through her closet for clothes and shoes to donate, she told me, “Mama, you know I cannot give out something I can’t wear”, I smiled knowing that she has learnt important lessons about giving,” she beams.

Yvonne and her children have visited children homes in Kariobangi, Korogocho, Kayole, and Kenyatta National Hospital Ward 1E, among other places.

 “We always tell our children that if they do not give, they don’t receive. If you want more toys, then give out what you have outgrown, nobody ever became poor from giving,” she explains adding, “Talking to our children about how we give back everything from our money to our time and our energies and whom we give back to goes a long way in building a generous spirit in children.”

Zarya enjoys helping her mother prepare for children games ahead of a charity visit. When Zarya was just two years old, they did a charity walk to the top of Lukenya hills in Machakos to raise funds.

Last weekend, in the spirit of Christmas giving, they donated food, toys and clothes to Liberty Children’s Home in Kitengela.

“She personally handpicked stuff to donate one week to the visit, packed them and labelled them. It was such a proud moment for me as a parent to see that my daughter understands what giving means,” says a delighted Yvonne.

Her husband, David Karianjahi, has been supportive through organising transport and also rallying some of his friends for food donations. He also takes part in creating fun games during home visits.

Teaching her children how to give has motivated her friends to do the same. These days, whenever I call for any charity event, they always tag their children along,” she says noting that parents who talk and involve their children about charitable giving can positively impact their children’s philanthropic behaviour.

“I think one of the mistakes we make as parents is we give and give to the children all year, and then it is difficult for them to switch their minds and think it is time for them to also give. There is need to intentionally de-emphasise gift giving to each other not only during the holidays, but also throughout the year,” she says.

She says they have learnt that from the time they were born, they do not always expect gifts and they genuinely seem excited about giving to others. “The best way to encourage children to give back is to model it and make it part of everyday life, “ she advises.

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