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How to Teach Kids Compassion, Not Materialism, This Christmas
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  • When we think of presents, we almost always think it's in a box wrapped in fancy paper. Search Google though, and you will find that gift-giving represents something more complex than picking an item and putting a gift tag. It is symbolic of the giving of one's self to another to build a stronger bond, show appreciation, and express gratitude — it is the true essence of gift-giving.

    How many of us parents have wondered whether the act of giving gifts carries the right message? How many of us have felt that by focusing on the gift, rather than the thought behind it, that we are teaching our kids to be materialistic? If this has crossed your mind at one time or another, it may be a good opportunity to involve your family in a worthwhile and more lasting cause.

    Here are four projects you can undertake, not only this holiday season, but all year round. 

    1. Special Olympics for Special Children


    Special children live in a different reality — there are abilities and limitations to speak of that most of us could not even fathom. Yet, they have the desire to belong, to achieve, to make loved ones proud, and Special Olympics (SO) Philippines makes these possible. 

    Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968, Special Olympics is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, such as Down syndrome and autism. They undergo training in various sports, including basketball, badminton, bowling, powerlifting, bocce (lawn bowling), table tennis, and aquatics so they can compete internationally.

    “They learn to follow instructions, practice hand-eye coordination, and develop spatial reasoning,” says Christian Doroin, a member of the Board of Directors of SO Philippines. “There’s also the social interaction with parents and their fellow athletes.”

    These special-needs kids need the help of volunteers when it comes to their training. Christian, who has been volunteering for almost 20 years, always gets asked if vounteers need special training themselves to handle the athletes. His answer: The only requirement is time and a willingness to learn.

    "It would be nice, but truthfully you don’t need it ’cause you’re going to treat them like any other kid," Christian, who has accompanied the athletes to games in Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Greece, and the U.S., continues. "A lot of them naman are hesitant lang sa simula, then after a while, yayakapin ka na. Talagang you really get to be friends."

    He adds, “I’m perhaps one of the happiest people, and it’s not because I’m rich or I have a lot of friends. I have a constant source of happiness. This is it."

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    To volunteer, contact Christian Doroin at (0917) 866-8616, e-mail specialolympicsph@gmail.com, or send a message to Special Olympics Philippines on Facebook

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    2. Lahat Santa

    In the Philippines, one in three children suffers from stunted growth due to hunger and malnutrition. It is estimated that 1.5 million Filipino children go to sleep hungry every night, not having eaten a thing all day. Save the Children, an independent organization that provides emergency and long-term support to children, hopes to put a stop to this with "Lahat Santa," a Christmas campaign where everyone can contribute.

    The beauty of Lahat Santa is it encourages creativity and gives you the choice how you want to raise funds. Depending on your talent or ability, from putting up a bake sale or going around the neighborhood for good old Christmas caroling, it's up to you or your organization how to spread the cheer.

    When you sign up at www.lahatsanta.ph, you will receive a free fund-raising pack that includes a coin bank, Christmas poster, and a Santa hat, which you can use when you do your own fund-raising activity. Send your donations to Save the Children, then wear your Santa hat on December 15 and post a selfie on how you are being a Santa for the kids! Finally, join the Lahat Santa Christmas Charity Run on December 17 at SM by the Bay. 


    “With every Lahat Santa hat comes great responsibility. Your commitment to Lahat Santa campaign could mean life-saving support for a child. Your donation can provide treatment to babies suffering from malnutrition and help expand our programs that could impact their lives in the long run," Save the Children’s head of Strategic Partnerships, Riel Andaluz, reminds the public.

    To know more about the campaign, visit the Lahat Santa Facebook page.   

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    3. The Book Stop Project

    Digital books has become the norm, thanks to this age of mobile data that makes it possible to access information with the click of a button. Many book lovers lament, however, there is nothing like the experience of holding an actual book in your hands and hearing the sound it makes when you turn the pages. Architect William Ti Jr., founder of the WTA Architecture and Design Studio, wishes to give people that experience.


    “I’ve loved books ever since I can remember," says the architect, and this has inspired him to design a library — a physical place where people can interact over books. The finished product is a 12-square-meter geometric booth made of wire mesh, steel bars, and wood, without doors. His team complements the structure with cultural and social events like poetry readings, talks, and storytelling for kids, held wherever the booth goes, with the help of volunteers.

    The Book Stop Project was first installed at the Ayala Triangle Gardens in Makati, where it was launched on April 23, 2016 as part of the annual Dia del Libro (World Book Day). It has since gone to the San Sebastian Church in Quiapo, Molito in Alabang, the Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City, and in Plaza de Roma in Intramuros. They also have one currently installed in One Bonifacio High Street Park in Taguig where it will remain until January 30, 2018.

    This month, they have also been conferred the 2018 German Design Award for Excellent Communications Design Architecture by the German Design Council. 

    To volunteer or donate books, email thebookstop@wtadesignstudio.com or visit their Facebook page 

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    4. Kabataan Girls’ Club


    Those of us who grew up in comfort are often oblivious to the predicament of the less-privileged. The flipside is harsh and hopeless, as Opus Dei members Agnes Dayao and Nanette Corcuera found out. In public schools in their area, many high school girls came from dysfunctional homes and had financial problems. They didn’t need to be taught chores like doing the laundry—what they needed, but had little access to in school, were lessons about virtues and values.

    “They’re very young, and they cannot change the realities in their homes,” explains Agnes. “That’s why we teach them virtues and values, and how to have a stronger relationship with God. We want them to keep going with the knowledge that as long as they pray and as long as they keep studying well, all these bad things going on around them won’t last forever.”

    In 2006, they reached out to 120 students from four public high schools and held weekly classes with them, sometimes in a basketball court or campus sheds — wherever their mission took them. They began to see the fruits of their labor four years later, when most of the girls graduated in high school and pursued a degree in college, with some of them bagging partial scholarships. One of the students even graduated cum laude with a degree in accountancy, passed the board, and became employed at the prestigious SGV & Co. 

    Now with 35 members and growing, these "Titas," as their mentees call them, are fueled by the hope that the girls will continue to live better lives through their guidance.


    If you’d like to be a "Tita" and mentor girls once a week, or would like to sponsor a scholar, contact Agnes Dayao at 0917-625-0224. 

    * Interviews are excerpts from Good Housekeeping Philippines magazine

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