How My Son Taught Me the Meaning of Charity
Recently, my 7-year-old son, Ben, approached me with the idea of starting a charity.
“I want to help poor kids in Bali.”
Not quite sure if he knew what he was saying, I asked him what his idea of a charity was.
“It’s taking money from rich people and giving it to poor people,” he responded with a Robin Hood-like swagger.
I didn’t have the heart to tell my son that starting a charity isn’t that simple. Instead, I decided to show him. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would learn more from him than he ever would from me.
Ben wanted to reach out to local Bali children in need; specifically, to help them realize that different cultures and income segments have drastically different life experiences. He wanted
kids to believe in their ability to make a difference through helping others. As it happened, raising money for this venture turned out to be the easy part. I suggested we create a crowd-funding page and link it to Facebook. Within 48 hours, “Ben’s Boxes” had raised US$1,200.
Ben was excited to see such a positive response to his appeal. He decided to ask his older schoolmates for ideas on how to put the money to good use. They suggested he invest in the Bali Life School, a local center that serves as a refuge for women and children who work on the garbage tip. While mothers at the center participate in skills training, their children are encouraged to attend informal classes. The school would greatly benefit from Ben’s monetary donation, and in turn, my son would see how his money would be used to help other children his age.
As a psychologist working in the customer experience field, I’m always reminding business professionals to consider their audience; their product solutions should speak intuitively to their consumers. When we visited the Bali Life School, I spent hours speaking with teachers and administrators about what these children needed most. Food, clothing and books all seemed to be smart choices. I was satisfied that we, as adults, knew what was best. During this time, Ben had been interacting with the kids. When I asked him what he thought the school needed, Ben said, “A playground. It’s a bit boring here.” I hadn’t even thought of that! He was right. These children needed a place where they could feel safe and just be kids.
I told Ben his idea was within his budget, and he couldn’t believe it. To engage his schoolmates, he and his class held a competition to design the center’s new playground. Ultimately, the playground ended up having a more significant impact than we had foreseen; more and more kids started going to the Bali Life School not just for food, but to have fun!
One could ask how much of a difference a playground really makes for children who are without basic necessities, though Ben’s entrepreneurial journey reminded me that we shouldn’t assume
we know what is best for others. This experience has shown me
the importance of encouraging new perspectives in my children and within myself. As EO members, we should consider how our charitable actions help young people learn about the world around them. And we should also accept their naïve assumptions, for their ideas are probably better than ours.
James Breeze is an EO At Large – APAC member and CEO of Objective Experience. He and Ben are currently campaigning to save endangered animals and rain forests from the impacts of slash-and-burn palm oil farming via Kids Cut Palm Oil, which has garnered support from Jane Goodall and her foundation. Contact James at
[email protected]and Ben at