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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 20-Nov-14 14:51:14

Help donate a better future

Susan Alderson tells us how a trip to Kenya prompted her to sponsor a child - and how that child, through drawings, updates and letters, became part of her family. Through donating a small amount of money to ActionAid, Susan says, we really can make a huge difference to a child's future.

Susan Alderson

Help donate a better future

Posted on: Thu 20-Nov-14 14:51:13


Lead photo

Paap and one of his regular drawings.

I'd been working for ActionAid for a while before I went on a trip to Kenya in 2008 and was moved to sponsor a child. I am hoping that by reading my story you will be inspired to sponsor one of the 2700 children who urgently need sponsoring this Christmas.

Of course, working for ActionAid, I knew in theory why it made sense to sponsor a child. I understood that it meant you'd have a personal link with one child, but also knew that actually the money donated helped the whole community where it was needed most.

But it didn't hit me personally how essential child sponsorship was until I saw with my own eyes some of the horrors and hardship that children go through just to survive.

It was when I met a group of children as young as four who were crushing big, horrible rough stones into smaller rocks in blistering heat with their bare hands that it struck me. They then put these into bags to sell to contribute to their family's income. Little kids who should just be at nursery. This is a country where so many live on less than £1 a day.

A beautiful girl I met, Mariam, was just ten. She carried a jerry can full of water on her head. I remember it was so heavy I couldn't even pick it up. This water was for her family to use throughout the day. She'd wake early to collect it then go off to school - a school that was supported by sponsorship money. Shockingly, one million children are still out of school in Kenya which makes it the ninth highest of any country in the world. But what's of equal concern is the lack of teachers. The average teaching ratio is 50 students to just one teacher.

We regularly say hello to Paap's photo and I tell my two-year-old son all about where Paap is from. When a programme comes on the TV about that part of the world he tells me, "look Paap lives there!"

When I came home I signed up to sponsorship and Paap entered my life. I am sent drawings and letters from him. Now, several years later I am a mum and Paap, now 10, has always been a part of my son's life. His photo and letters where he describes his favourite things to do - playing with his friends ranks highly - are on our fridge door. Before my son was even able to understand, I would tell him about this little boy from Kenya. Paap's life is very different to my own son's. He lost his mum many years ago and sadly didn't know her very well as she left him when he was two. Luckily Paap is surrounded by his six siblings.

We regularly say hello to Paap's photo and I tell my two-year-old son all about where Paap is from. When a programme comes on the TV about that part of the world he tells me, "look Paap lives there!"

To me, this is a great way to teach your child about the wider world. One day I would love for the two boys to meet each other. The letters he sends give me regular updates about his life and the progress that is happening in the community.

Sponsoring a child with ActionAid means that we can help create a better future for them. Child sponsorship doesn't just help change the future for the child, it benefits their loved ones and neighbours too. Only £15 a month, or 50p a day, helps children get access to basic essentials, to healthcare and to education.

Could you, financially, make a space at your family table this Christmas and beyond? Your help will really make a huge difference to a child's life.

For more information, or to sponsor a child, visit the ActionAid website.*

By Susan Alderson

Twitter: @ActionAidUK

durhamjen Fri 21-Nov-14 00:27:26

I support ActionAid anyway, but not by sponsoring a child. I support anything to do with getting clean water into communities.

nanaseaside Fri 21-Nov-14 18:48:35

A year ago I decided to sponsor a child. I researched charities and decided to do it through Plan. Also only £15 a month. I'm on a low income due to health problems but decided to give up naughty nibbles (chocolate, biscuits etc.) to help pay for it. Little Francisca came into my life and is very special to me. She is now 5 years old and has no parents but lives with extended family in a remote part of Uganda. The drawing she sent me is in pride of place on the wall with my granddaughter's drawings and their photos are grouped together. I receive letters from the family too. We are connected and it feels good. I am told that it means so much to Francisca and her family to know they are thought about and cared about by someone on the other side of the world. (When I look at how much material stuff my 3 year old granddaughter and her peers have, and keep on getting, I wonder about people's values in this crazy world).

I admit to initially selfish motives. Due to circumstances out of my control I have never seen my second granddaughter and that has created a painful void and lots of difficult feelings. So I thought I'd redirect my affections to where they would be welcomed and do some good. It quickly became clear to me that Francisca is a little person in her own right, not a substitute for my 'lost' granddaughter. We both gain from sponsorship and I can highly recommend it.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 21-Nov-14 19:40:14

You have made that very tempting nanaseaside. smile

I do wonder if it is fair to single one child out to help. What about the six siblings mentioned in the blog? Are they sponsored too? Is it better to simply donate a certain amount a month to, say, Unicef?

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 21-Nov-14 19:53:47

And would it be expected to become like this?

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 21-Nov-14 19:55:15

I think a charity like Oxfam set up schemes whereby the population are enabled to help themselves. That seems a better idea.

shysal Fri 21-Nov-14 21:01:42

I have bough gift vouchers for for Christmas presents this year. It is my favourite charity, which I heard about on GN. I made an initial loan, which has been repaid and lent again many times.

janeainsworth Fri 21-Nov-14 21:24:34

Nanaseaside That sounds lovely, that you're able to help Francisca and at the same time have some solace for the deprivation of your own granddaughter.
I think too that it must help the children who are sponsored to feel they have a link with a particular person who is interested in them, rather than simply receiving aid from an impersonal organisation.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 21-Nov-14 23:10:12

Shysal Deki sounds a great idea!

TwiceAsNice Tue 25-Nov-14 23:05:42

I sponsor a child in Uganda and the money is used to put her through school? I only started it in January this year. I have also sent a cheque recently to buy her Christmas presents. The sponsorship was arranged by a colleague involved with it and he set up the sponsorship for me. I intend to see her right through school and university if she wants to go! She is only 9 at the moment and in primary school. I sent her a Christmas card with the gift cheque . You are encouraged to write to the children but not include your address so all communications are sent to the charity at a local address and they pass it on. I have been sent several general newsletters and a photo of her but she has not written to me yet. It's sad that it costs so little to send her to school less than £100 for the year but that without the sponsorship she would have no education. Western children are so lucky and take education for granted.