Developing community spirit
Article first appeared in the Portugal Resident.
As the restrictions related to the current pandemic are eased, it is very important that we continue to provide our children and students with the opportunities to learn and understand the ongoing importance of helping and caring for others in our local communities. As we know, the pandemic has altered many lives and communities for ever, and children do actively want to help.
Last week, during our whole school assembly, our Year 8 asked if they could continue their regular food collections and not stop them as the Algarve starts to open up again. Children of all ages really do care, and embedded in all good school curriculums should be the understanding of what makes a good citizen and how important paying an active role in local communities is to the wellbeing of all.
Not only does helping and caring for others make children feel good, but it is also very positive for both their mental health and a feeling of wellbeing. Children and students genuinely enjoy giving support and helping those around them. There is published scientific research that links generosity and happiness to the development of a more caring society.
So, where to start? Once again, it is parents, influential adults and teachers who should lead or, in modern terminology, model altruistic behaviour within all aspects of their own lives. A phone call to a local charity asking if they need clothes that your own children have grown out of, taking homemade cakes to a neighbour, saying thank you, asking a friend if they need help in the garden are all simple positive acts that enable children to understand that small acts of help and kindness can make a huge difference in people’s lives.
There are so many ways in which we can all make a difference in the Algarve. Never has it been more important for our local communities and society to practise loving thy neighbour!
Talk to your children’s school and encourage them to reach out to the local community and organise events with local charities within the local area. Encourage older children to be proactive and to reach out themselves to offer support.
At our school in Loulé, we work very closely with a local company called Existir, a non-profit organisation which helps people of all ages in the local area. Last term, our students organised food collections and have already filled two vans to the brim of much-needed basic foodstuffs, and are about to fill another! It is enlightening to observe children of all ages working together and to see how happy it makes them to help others. https://www.facebook.com/existir.associacao
Throughout the Algarve, there are a range of different charities that desperately need our help. The Algarve Network for Families in Need is one such charity that focuses on acquiring items for families in need from families who no longer need them. You can, therefore, as a whole family, help at any time. https://www.facebook.com/groups/algarvenetwork/
With many businesses closing or having closed due to the pandemic and unemployment levels peaking, homeless shelters and soup kitchens are very much in need. As a family, you could make soup to donate, bake cakes or simply take a bag of oranges from your tree. Volunteers are also always greatly appreciated. The soup kitchen in Portimão is one such organisation. https://www.facebook.com/Portimao-Thursday-Sunday-Soup-Kitchen
Of course, it also goes without saying that our local volunteer Bombeiros always welcome support and are very willing to receive donations directly. In my experience, they encourage and welcome pre-organised visits to their stations for children and schools, which always inspire students of all ages.
Ultimately, if we as adults treat our families and members of our local communities kindly, and with patience, then this will surely have a profound effect on the role our children will want to play in society and help to shape a positive altruistic future generation.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is – What are you doing for others?” Martin Luther King