The adage “charity begins at home” certainly holds true in Titus Fernandez’ family. His daughters – Isabel Meng Shinn,14; Annabel Pui San, 12; and Rozabel Hui Ling, 10, have been involved with charity work since young.

“When my girls were younger, they used to accompany my wife and my mother-in-law to distribute food to the underprivileged community in Ara Damansara, Petaling Jaya. They handed out food and mingled with the poor. Through this, they’ve learnt how some individuals have tougher times in their lives,” says Fernandez.

As children learn from what adults do, Fernandez believes it is important to teach them the value of charitable deeds.

“Children are good followers. When their parents lend a helping hand to the poor, they follow suit and do their part, too. Children should learn basic values and how to incorporate it in their daily lives.”

Fernandez is a coordinator at the Thrift Shoppe in St Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. The pre-loved shop is part of the church’s Parish Integral Human Development (PIHD) programme. Proceeds go towards helping the needy and funding church activities.

Fernandez’ “blessed angels” have been helping him run the shop every Sunday (between 7am and noon) for months now.

Isabel loves to help out at the thrift shop as it allows her to sort through the assortment of donated items.

“We receive bags of items – ranging from toys, clothes, music records to books. Our job is to sort these items and give them a good wipe. We help Dad tag each item and display them accordingly. There’s a sense of satisfaction when someone buys these things and money is collected for the poor,” says Isabel.

Siblings (from left) Isabel Meng Shinn, Annabel Pui San and Rozabel Hui Ling spend their Sunday mornings helping out at a thrift shop run by St Ignatius Church in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

Children should be taught the importance of community service from a young age.

will be kept busy cleaning and rearranging goods. The chores serve as a good break from studies, adds Fernandez.

“A child may be smart but if he does not have the right attitude, his intelligence has no value. As parents, we need to instil positive values in their life. And it starts at home, from helping Mummy wash dishes or sweep the floor to helping each other with schoolwork.

“With the right foundation, doing community service will be second nature to them.”

Apart from their duties at the thrift shop, Isabel and her sisters also help their mother, Vivian Chan, bake pies for charity.

“It is fun to get up early to help Mum bake pies and sell them at fund raising events. The best bit is when we sell off all the goods and hand over the donation to the needy,” says Isabel.

Fernandez thinks children should be taught the importance of charity work, especially human interaction and humility because “attitude determines our destiny. Children can engage themselves in charity work from young. There are many types of community service including caring for animals at shelters, helping the poor or saving the environment. As parents, we need to identify our children’s interests and motivate them to help out,” says Fernandez.

He also believes children should be taught the value of empathy and showing generosity towards the needy.

“There’s a sense of satisfaction, joy and the ‘feel good’ factor when helping the community. A small deed goes a long way and it all begins with simple acts of kindness.”

Happy to volunteer

Chan Lian See and her husband Benny Khoo also believe in teaching their children to be charitable.

Their daughters Caitlyn Khoo Chien Mynn, 11, and Khoo Zoey, 10, have been helping out at the Tzu Chi Foundation in Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, on weekends. Their responsibilities include sweeping and mopping the premises, washing toilets and helping out at the humanitarian organisation’s bookstore-cum-café.

Chan showing her daughters Zoey (centre) and Caitlyn how to do their chores at the Taiwan Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia, where the family has been volunteering for two years.

Caitlyn and Zoey have been volunteers at the Taiwanese Buddhist foundation for over two years, just like their parents.

“It is really fun. While volunteering, I have made many new friends, young and old. Plus, I feel like a grown up as I work alongside the adults,” says Caitlyn during a clean-up session recently.

The girls were cheerfully lugging a bucket of water and mopping the lobby when we met them. It’s a mundane chore but Caitlyn is not complaining.

“There are many volunteers here, so the workload is lighter. Everyone can do their part to help the community. Every simple task goes a long way,” says the friendly girl who wore a baby blue collared T-shirt and track suit, just like hundreds of other student volunteers at the foundation.

The Khoos spend between three and five hours every fortnight doing community work at the foundation.

After volunteering for two years, Caitlyn is able to handle her duties independently.

Her sister Zoey is autistic and has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but her parents make sure she also has the opportunity to give back to society. They guide and supervise Zoey with her tasks, and are convinced it helps with her development too.

“Since enrolling as a volunteer, Zoey is slowly learning how to complete each chore single-handedly. She enjoys mopping the floor and cleaning the toilets. Another plus factor is that the other volunteers are kind to her and motivate her as she takes on different tasks,” says Chan, a unit trust consultant.

Through volunteer work, siblings Zoey (left) and Caitlyn have learnt that anyone can do their part to the community.

The girls’ mother also finds that it’s beneficial for them to be in the company of people who find joy in volunteering and doing good.

Tzu Chi volunteers always carry out their tasks with a smile, and their benevolent spirit has influenced Caitlyn’s attitude and outlook.

“Caitlyn takes pride in her work. It is nice to see her smile as she gives her time for community service,” says Chan, whose family has been attending the foundation’s parent-and-child-bonding session since 2015.

Chan says that their volunteering experience has also made her daughters more receptive and willing to help with household chores.

“Caitlyn is growing up into a responsible and mature girl. She offers to wash dishes and tidy up the house. Zoey listens more attentively and tries to help when I cook or bake. When I bake, she loves to crack the eggs, sieve flour and mix the batter. I’m so proud of her milestones,” explains Chan.

She adds that volunteering has given Zoey a chance to hone her skills and shine.

“Children with disabilities may lack certain skills, but they could also excel in some areas. Special children should be encouraged to take on tasks. Learn how to praise, not scold, when they are trying to complete their tasks. Completing simple tasks may seem like small steps but they do wonders for the special needs child’s social and gross motor development.”

Caitlyn and Zoey also volunteer at Tzu Chi’s monthly recycling event in Petaling Jaya. They help to sort out paper, plastic and aluminium cans.

“I sort out boxes and plastic bottles. Most of all, I love to flatten and stomp on aluminium cans. We get to play while sorting out trash,” said Caitlyn, a Year 5 student.

Chan says children should be taught the value of volunteering and how charity should be part and parcel of life.

“Just like how parents teach children manners, it is equally important to educate them on giving back to the community,” she shares.