By Jennifer Browning
As her twins’ 10-year-old birthdays approached Dr. Gwen Wurm gave her children an option: either they each received one present from their parents or they could receive several gifts from their friends attending their birthday party. Dr. Wurm suggested to the children that instead of receiving gifts, their party guests would give a donation to Project Medishare. In addition, Dr. Wurm and her husband, Benji Waxman, agreed to match the donated amount.
The children were aware of Project Medishare’s work in Haiti from various conversations they had with their parents. After a recent medical trip to Haiti with Project Medishare and the University of Miami, Dr. Wurm and her husband would tell their children about working with Project Medishare’s Haitian medical team and about the people they met during their volunteer trip.
“They know how much going to Haiti meant to us,” Dr. Wurm said. “They have seen pictures of Haiti and talked to us about our trip, so they know about Project Medishare.”
The family asked their guests to make a $5 contribution to Project Medishare instead of bringing a gift. While many of their party guests donated $10 or more, Dr. Wurm believed setting a specific dollar amount helped the guests have a sense of what made an appropriate donation.
The birthday donation proposal came about after the family recently remodeled their home. Dr. Wurm said she was offended by what was thrown out during the remodeling and simply, by how much waste is out in the world. With this in mind, it was a simple decision to encourage her kids to ask their birthday guests to donate to Project Medishare rather than accumulate more “stuff.”
Twenty-five children attended the birthday party raising $250 for Project Medishare. The children chose for the money to go toward supporting two health agents in Haiti’s central plateau.
“This was something [the children] could really understand,” Dr. Wurm said, “because they know what these health agents do, like performing home visits and making sure people are vaccinated.”
Dr. Wurm said she would like to encourage other parent’s follow their lead.
“I would encourage other parents to do it, to the degree that there is an alternative to gift-giving,” she said. “It sets up a tradition in the family that says ‘we give to charity.’ It’s a good lesson and it models good behavior for the kids.”