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  • Writer's pictureSharon Dominica

Why I don't Celebrate my Child's Birthday at an Orphanage (and 5 Ideas that are Better!!)

It's one of those traditions that well meaning Indians have been doing for ages... We take our child to an orphanage, distribute candy and snacks to the kids there. Have the kids sing happy birthday, and feel really good that we brought joy and happiness to 30-odd kids while celebrating our child's birthday in a meaningful way.

Really? Put yourself in the shoes of a child in the orphanage. Maybe they don't even know their birthday. If they do, it's probably not celebrated. They don't have parents either who buy them a beautiful dress and make them feel loved and celebrated. When we celebrate our child's birthday in an orphanage we are reminding that child of everything that they don't have- a family who loves them and celebrates them. A family who's excited about their birthday and is showering gifts and cutting cake and taking pictures.

I do appreciate the heart behind it all. The heart to think about the underprivileged on a birthday, and not be selfish. So here are 5 alternate things that you can do, that can really make a difference to a life, and sometimes even a generation.

#1 Contribute towards someone's business: If you start asking around, there are many people who want to start a small business- a vegetable stall, selling clothes in the village, buying a cow and selling milk. Sometimes a contribution of 5000 Rs to 8000 Rs is enough to help someone start a business that will support an entire family. Or you might know someone who works really hard and really needs to upgrade their equipment- an auto rickshaw driver with a vehicle that's falling apart, or a cobbler who could use an umbrella as they sit in the heat everyday. Donating towards a person's livelihood can change their whole life. I know, cause we wouldn't have started our cafe without people who helped us by giving us loans.

#2 Contribute towards education: Maybe it's school fees, maybe its books. Maybe it's admission into open school for a young man or woman who dropped out of school. Maybe its for extra classes for a child who's struggling. Contributing to education helps make sure the next generation has a better life.

# 3 Contribute towards the health of pregnant women: If you see or know of an underprivileged pregnant woman, contribute towards prenatal vitamins or supplementary health drinks. Most women working as maids, laborers, and such don't eat well and a lack of good nutrition in turn effects the brain development of the baby in the womb. Ensuring that these women eat well makes sure the baby is not only healthy physically, but also smart and able to learn and develop well.

#4 Contribute towards training: If there's a course that someone wants to do that will help them pick up work in the future- like a tailoring course, or a computer course. That's a great contribution that will change their future.

#5 Contribute towards the start of a bank account: A lot of people who are uneducated don't have a bank account, and don't have any savings. Help them create one and put a little bit of money in it. It will give them the motivation to start saving and watch their savings grow. Some day, when there's an emergency- they will thank you for it.

We need to look beyond traditional ways of helping those in need, and looking at our own neighborhoods, apartment complexes and streets. I'm sure you will find a person to help and a cause that's meaningful to you, your family, and will change a life.

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