Inspiring our Children through Charity
'Inspirational' is quite an over-used word, but as my children have grown I often reflect on our duty as role models for them, to inspire them to be better people. Our children learn not only by what we overtly teach them but mostly by what they see and observe us doing on a subtle level.
In 2001 my lovely, funny and very much loved little brother, Sebastian, died. In fact this month marks the 16 year anniversary so it's a poignant time to be writing this, anniversaries are always tough. He was just 18 years old and our family were devastated. I was 21 and had recently finished university. My mum felt passionately that she wanted our family to do something positive in his memory. She wanted others less fortunate to benefit, and so The Sebastian Hunter Memorial Trust was born. The trust began by re-building a Primary School in Senji Mottur (South India) and quickly evolved to include four different schools of all educational levels, a leprosy hospital, and many more sustainable living programs.
The charity has been an incredibly personal and meaningful part of my life since it was started, and when my own children were born it seemed obvious that they should be involved. I always wanted them to know about their Uncle Seb, who my son bears an uncanny resemblance to.
From a young age we organised many fundraising events. Our first was a Jelly sale 'Jacob & Ellie's Jelly' - I think they were aged 3 and 6 and struggling to count money. But together we designed the poster (which they loved), made the jelly, set up the stand outside our house, and emailed all our friends and family to tell them to pop by. We sold out of all our stock within 2 hours and made a profit - the kids absolutely loved it - and it taught them about business, charity, putting in effort, having fun. A real win for everyone.
In the middle class, privileged world my children inhabit, I think it is important to keep them grounded, to give them a sense of giving something back to those less fortunate. Don't get me wrong, there are times when they've wanted to keep the profits for themselves - for the latest 'must-have' gadget - and I've had to spend time trying to explain to them why we are doing what we are.
Each of us can make a difference in a little way, if we all do a little we can make the world a better place. Teaching children English and maths is important, of course, but just as important is teaching them about kindness, empathy, seeing the world from another’s perspective, understanding and appreciating all they have. Through fundraising for charity I hope we have managed to impart these virtues upon our children, which will be vital in this ever-changing world.
When I asked the children how they felt about the charity and the fundraising events we have been involved in, my son Jacob said, ‘I am so proud to be able to help children who have less than I do, and have fun at the same time’. Comments like that have to make it all worthwhile.
My humble advice to parents, if I may, is to do something. Start somewhere, a little shop outside the house, something at school, a fun running event, mini Tough Mudder, a read-a-thon. Get involved, teach your children that they can make a difference, and make them proud to have raised some money for someone who is in more need than they are. Talk to them about charity. If we all do a little then perhaps, as Mother Teresa said ‘We ourselves may feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop’.
Laura Walford is a mummy to Jacob and Ellie, and has for the past 16 years been a director of Belgravia Gallery, an art gallery which was until recently based in Mayfair and founded on raising money for good causes. She has also been a trustee for The Sebastian Hunter Memorial Trust since it was started in 2001.