“Let us not allow our countless blessings to immune us to the heartrending struggles of others.”– Anonymous
With the luxuries of this world at our feet and little knowledge of its absence in other regions, many of us are faced with the challenge of imparting a sense of service to our children, a sense of empathy for those in need. At a time when most dream of personal achievement, it is important we help our children realize the satisfaction in helping someone else achieve their dream. Ayesha Rania, a mother of two beautiful girls, recognized this need and resolved to do something about it. She wanted her girls to develop a sense of service and appreciate the blessings in their lives.
“My kids, living here, sometimes take everything for granted and lose the basic perspective of Shukr (thankfulness). “ She said. “If somehow we could connect them to their brothers and sisters in humanity and show them that they can make a difference in someone’s life, we could raise them to be better human beings.”
With the intention in place, the question then became how to turn this need into action. To this end, Ayesha brought up the issue in front of Dian, the founder of the GiveLight Foundation for orphans, and suggested a “kids for kids” program. Dian responded with the Sadaqa (Giving) Jar, an old concept from Dian’s partnership with Granada Islamic School in 2005 – revitalized and recreated for the new generation.
The idea was simple. Take a jar and ask your child to decorate it to their heart’s desire. The stickers, beads, glitter, and paint they used for this purpose would contribute to their ownership of this project. Next, initiate a charity drive in its simplest form. Deposit any money lying around the house – a penny, a nickel, a dime, any change that has been ignored – into the jar and, at the end of a month or two, donate this money to charity. Show your children that every little effort, put together, can make a big difference.
It wasn’t enough for Ayesha, however, that this be a simple matter of physical exercise. We needed also an opportunity to exercise our souls, an opportunity to feel with our hearts the impact of our actions.
“We thought the project should get kids to think about the Prophet, how he was an orphan and the hardships he had to suffer, about the other great people who are their role models.”
Thus the spirit of the Sadaqa Jar was extended to include a written essay, one that recognized and understood the struggles of orphans worldwide and the great figures in history who have overcome such insurmountable challenges. The possibility of becoming pen pals with someone they were helping, someone who lived a drastically different life than their own, created another level of excitement and involvement.
With the help of Sister Tusunnam, GiveLight spread the word of charity and brought together the community. GiveLight volunteers arrived at various school campuses such as Granada Islamic School, Silicon Valley Academy and North Star to work with Islamic Studies and Art teachers and assist them with project details. These emissaries presented workshops outlining the importance of giving, not only in times of crisis, but also everyday in our lives. The children also had the opportunity to participate in an essay writing contest about their role model, the Prophet (PBUH), with the top three essays getting the chance to present at the annual GiveLight dinner.
GiveLight also incorporated this project within their own events, starting with the Global Bistro, an event bringing together the talents of various nationalities within the GiveLight organization through the common and delicious medium of food. During this, Sadaqa Jars, meant as an activity to get the children involved, generated a lot of interest – so much so that a young girl collected $100 in a short period of time, simply for the benefit of children in need.
“I was excited to make a little jar and decorate it, but then when I started collecting money it made me happy each time knowing that I can also help someone.” said Fatima Yousuf, an eleven-year old who participated in the Sadaqa Jar activity.
Community events were not the only venues that were affected by this viral idea. Conscientious parents took it upon themselves to create family Sadaqa Jars, inviting this initiative into their home and reaping rewards for their entire family when donation time came around during Ramadan, a month where every good deed is multiplied many times. Others threw “Make a Sadaqa Jar” parties to combine their efforts, excite a sense of giving in their social circle and reap even more rewards for instilling the concept of service in young hearts. Ultimately, it became a reminder for all to be mindful of our blessings and remember those who are less fortunate.
The Sadaqa Jar had the simple purpose of educating our children, not just in terms of acknowledging the needs of others but in terms of improving our own personal character and it has succeeded in this regard. Like Ayesha Rania said, “If we can inspire even a single child to care and do good to others, it will be worthwhile.” Through her efforts, the volunteers at GiveLight, Sister Tusunnam and the GiveLight Foundation, many have been inspired – children and adults alike, and these ripples of service, will work in harmony to create waves of lasting change in the lives of others.
…so be inspired, create a Sadaqa Jar, instill service in your heart, empathize with the less fortunate, give in charity and, most importantly, change lives — starting with your own.