Experimenting with kids to make them understand charity

Instead of dumping used items in the name of 'donating,' a mother decides to make her kids sell them and donate the amount to charity. What did the kids learn? Read on.

Once again, it was time to shift; once again, it was time to fret over the collection of used/unused/sparingly used but ‘not being used’ items at home. That we were moving to a smaller rented house, made it evidently clear that I do away with some of that stuff.

In the past I have been accomplishing this by donating the items to NGOs. During voluntary works, I have often noticed people adopting the easiest route to de-clogging their homes: they bundle all and sundry items together and dump at the nearest venue willing to accept their surplus. Concerned at this indiscriminate approach and realising that many of the items we dump may not be of value to the people to whom we donate, I thought of trying a different approach.

Now, most of the items belonged to our pre-teens kids and it was only obvious that they bear the onus of executing this approach. But of course, it was not so obvious to them. Nevertheless, they agreed after a little bit of ‘the talk’ on how it all costs money, on how it is a crime to hoard without actually using the items and how they could bring cheer to others through their little act of charity.

They were game for the regular charity- that is, donating money and things to NGOs. But my method required them to step out of their comfort zone. My husband and I had to engage in a bit of convincing before they said yes to ‘give the charity sale a try.’

Art of striking the right chord

This is how it went: It was a Saturday; shifting was on Sunday. Our daughter was busy at school that day. Our son prepared attractive posters with colour pens and put up on the apartment complex notice boards (he utilised one side used paper).

Charity Sale was announced for Sunday morning. I helped by sending out an email through the group email of our society. On Saturday evening, both my son and daughter took out each of the segregated items and priced and labelled. Our suggestion on pricing was to keep it minimum. They decided to keep the books and some other items as free. They also readied baskets/boxes to display items.

Next day morning, after breakfast, my husband helped them carry the items to the venue and then both of us got busy with the packers.

During the three hours their sale was on, I made two brief visits to them. Both the times, I came back wiser. On the first trip, I brought to them a pair of roller skates, I had come across while packing. They quickly decided the price and my son went ahead to show the skates to the two men already present there. The men did not show any reaction. Going by their appearance, I knew they won’t buy.

I tried to convey this wisdom to my son. But, busy in his pursuit that he was, he didn’t pay attention to me. He took out the skates from its case, and rolled them on the floor, at the same time trying to explain in an appropriate language and wording (simplified).

I watched in amusement as soon one of the men took out the money from his pocket and handed over to my son. Not still sure if the guy knew what he was buying, I asked him for whom he made that purchase and he told me it was for his son. I realised my own boxed thinking and my attempt at boxing my son as well!

The second time I went down with the pile of my daughter’s clips, bands, bangles, necklaces… “You may decide if you want to sell or retain these,” I told her. She opened the pile and carefully chose a few pieces she did not want to part with and kept those aside. She priced the rest at Rs 2 per piece/pair.

Just then we saw the drawing teacher come out of the club house and I pointed out the sale to him. He took a disinterested glance. My son cajoled him, “Sir, come take a look, it’s for charity”. The drawing teacher took one step closer, still unsure though, when and my son addresses him again, “Sir you have a child…” my daughter jumps in here, “yeah sir, buy some clips for Neha.” It was done; they had struck the right chord. All the clips and the paraphernalia was gone within no time!

Cherry on my Cake

In those three hours, they sold not only toys but stuff like floaters, skates, kids tent, hand bags, games, CD’s and other such items which had a better utility for the people who bought (kids, moms, house help, drivers from the apartment complex). The scope of the charity was doubled, with two sets of people benefitting – the ones buying items and the ones receiving the proceeds from the sale.

Being environment conscious, I was also happy of the recycling. My husband promised to reward our children with double the amount they made for charity. For me, the cherry on the cake moment was when they told me, “Mumma, one housekeeping aunty wanted the pink bag but she did not have the money. So, we just gave it off to her. Is it ok mumma?” Of course it is ok my darlings! The whole purpose of charity is, being sensitive to someone’s need and to experience the joy of giving it to that person.


  1. P Vidhyasagar Arya says:

    Hi Pratima

    This was a well-thought gesture. It has taught me a thing or two! Kudos to you and your tribe!

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