Seven-year-old Ben Jabal began wrapping up one very important gift long before most people had even begun compiling their Christmas shopping lists. He decorated the box by hand and then added a careful selection of items: something to cuddle, something educational, something useful and something to wear. When he finished he proudly handed the box over to his mother, Susie Heinrich, and said: 'I'd really like to have this under our tree.' 'That's good,' Heinrich told him. 'It means you've made a box that another child will appreciate.' The box was one of 55 made by Ben, his family and friends for Box of Hope, the Hong Kong charity which asks children to help assemble a box of Christmas goodies for underprivileged youngsters in the city and around Asia. This year's campaign created more than 12,000 boxes, some of which Ben helped to deliver. It was an experience Heinrich, a teacher from Canada, hopes will stay with Ben for life. 'I don't use the word 'charity' with Ben. I talk about it as service,' she says. 'Charity has the connotation of feeling sorry for someone and I don't want him to feel that we are helping someone because we feel sorry for them.' Heinrich, who operates her own business teaching parents how to help motivate their own children, first got involved with Box of Hope last year through Ben's school, the Independent Schools Foundation Academy. 'What I like about Box of Hope it that it is real service for kids,' says Heinrich. 'It's hands on. It's not just about giving money. Ben did it all himself. There were so many things he learned from it. 'Throughout the whole process he asked a lot of questions. We talked about what kind of children would receive them, what kind of life those children have and why they didn't have a mummy or daddy, and why Santa would not be going to their houses.' Box of Hope is among a growing number of charities that target children. Even the established charities such as Oxfam now have programmes aimed at getting young people involved. For Nicole Woolhouse, it was the urge to see her three children, now aged six, eight and 10, take a more active role in charity work that inspired her and a friend to begin Box of Hope in 2008. 'There are amazing charities in Hong Kong, but it is very hard for children to get involved,' says Woolhouse, who worked in publishing before relocating from London about six years ago. 'Box of Hope is completely about the children doing something themselves. We give them instructions at an assembly at school and we tell them it is for you to do, not your mum and dad.' The recipe is popular with children because of its simplicity, says Woolhouse, who has seen a 20-fold increase in the number of boxes collected over the four years. Her passion for getting children to take an active role in charity is shared by Michele Lai Pek-lian, the mother-of-two behind Kids4Kids. Founded in 2008, it encourages children to use their talents to create things such as books and place mats, which can be sold to raise money to help those in need across Hong Kong. It also collects books to distribute to underprivileged children and runs buddy reading sessions where children visit and read to other youngsters who have less access to books. 'My belief is when children get involved and do something, the impact is much greater,' Lai says. 'I've got two children, aged nine and six. They would take part in dress casual days at school and hand over HK$20, but they were not really involved and they did not know what that money was for. I thought if the kids were involved in creating that HK$20 and could see where it goes, it would make them feel they were making a difference and that they were being taken seriously. 'It also gives them an understanding of a community other than the one they see day after day. When they share their abilities by reading or creating something, it gives them a feeling of self-worth.' His 18 months as a reading buddy at Kids4Kids has already given Jeremy Chow Chak-lun a sense of achievement. 'I feel like I have actually provided some entertainment to the kids,' says the 13-year-old, who studies at Renaissance College. He joined the scheme initially to improve his speaking skills and do some community service, which features in the International Baccalaureate curriculum, but he has also learned from it, he says. 'For example, I learn how to keep the kids focused on what I am reading about, and the different methods of getting them into the story. It is not just sitting and reading; and some kids can actually be quite naughty.' Child psychologist Dr Alice Wilder says all parents should encourage children to think about charity. 'Getting them actively involved means the more they can see the cause and effect of something, the easier it is to learn,' she says. 'It's important to show children that if they are fortunate they should share some of what they have and get into the habit of donating - whether its money, old toys, energy or their talents. 'The beautiful thing is that children love to help and it is quite natural for them to get into the habit of donating.' Fifteen-year-old school friends Lily Ko Lee-ting and Sunny Lau Ho-wun believe their involvement with Oxfam has given them a much bigger picture of global issues. The two girls helped organise a hunger banquet at their school, Shung Tak Catholic English College, earlier this year, during which students were given a taste of what it is like to eat a basic diet, similar to that eaten by 80 per cent of the world's population. 'Many of our schoolmates are lucky that they have enough to eat. I think it is good that they can have a chance to experience abundance, poverty and injustice,' Sunny says. 'Now when I am having a meal, I thank God that I can enjoy delicious food and have enough to eat. It has also made me understand that I need to share with others.' Lily, too, now has a better understanding of the interconnecting roots of poverty. 'I used to think disasters were the only cause of poverty,' says Lily. 'But I have since discovered that poverty is not something that happens overnight. It is the result of long-term exploitation, civil wars and revolutions. This activity changed my attitude. I have stopped complaining and have started to cherish what I have. 'When I grow up, I want to help innocent people. In the meantime, to help poor farmers around the world, I will buy and promote ethical trading products.' Woolhouse hopes her three children's experience as volunteers will have a long-lasting effect on them. 'Box of Hope has become a family tradition. All the children we have taken on trips to hand out boxes certainly haven't forgotten what they saw,' she says. 'At the end of the day, kids are kids, and my kids still sit there and say I want X, Y and Z. But I do think getting them involved in something like Box of Hope makes them think, even for just a few seconds, about the big world. I like to believe that if you instil this spirit of giving in them at an early age, it will always be a part of their lives.' Heinrich reckons that if we make helping others a part of children's learning process, talking to them about what we are doing and why, it will make a difference in what they take from the experience. 'One thing I know Ben has gained is an appreciation of what he has and the realisation that he doesn't always need more,' she says. 'I am not sure if this has anything to do with Box of Hope, but when we were talking about Christmas this year, he turned to me and said: 'Mum, I don't need any more toys.''