The easy fix these days - you go to an orphanage, organise a meal for the kids there, cut a cake while they sing the happy birthday song, eat, and be back home. The orphanages are also ready, as they present you with a bill for that meal. Sounds like a good thing to do, right?
Here is a question though - how do those kids feel, when they watch the birthday prince/ princess, cut a cake and distribute largess and go back to their own world? Whom are we trying to bring cheer to?
Visiting children, once a year, is hardly likely to build a bond, establish empathy or make a connection. If you are trying to demonstrate the cause of the lesser fortunate, you have probably succeeded. You ensure that your child feels lucky that she has her ivory tower she can retreat to. As for the other children, this prince/ princess is just a stranger, who comes in beautiful birthday clothes, cuts a lovely cake, and then vanishes into the outside world. All the things that they can only dream of. Maybe, they wonder if it will be ever their turn. Maybe, they long to be able to give extravagantly for once, instead of having to take - in humility and abject gratitude. Maybe they wish to say "not sandwiches again!" . After all, friends do speak their minds! Objects of pity or butts of charity are expected to accept with grace.
Maybe, this seems too strong an opinion, but I think one should spend one's birthday in the company of loved ones. As for those who we think need charity, they need the charity of spirit, time spent with them, love shared with them, all on a regular basis. More than an act, once -in- a- way slave to the conscience, charity has to be a feeling, an emotion that prompts everyday behaviour.
As for the once a year, birthday charity, somethings are best left to the kings of yore.