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My experience of child sponsorship

Sponsor-child relationship

Please read below some of the letters we have received back from sponsors, including those from Ann Bailey, Philippa Fibert and Shirley Dudley.

Ann Bailey, a sponsor living in Cambridge, writes:

In 1965, whilst working in Canada, I first sponsored a child called Anni, aged 5. I first visited the SOS Children's Village where she lived in 1969 and since then, except for one year, I have seen Anni every year since (mainly in her country but a couple of times in mine). I have had wonderful holidays in the SOS Children's Village where I met her, her SOS Mother and her eight brothers and sisters in her new family. At Christmas I started sending presents to all of them.

Anni is no longer a sponsored child, she is married (I went to the wedding) to a lawyer and they live with their four children. I am still very much involved with Anni and her family and have just posted a birthday parcel to her youngest child, Jakob, who is now 11 years old. I feel I am part of their family and they are certainly part of mine. I have been to first Holy Communions, school visits and trips to the zoo. I have visited her SOS Mother's own family and taken my sponsored child to the theatre and concerts. Anni's SOS Mother is retired now and still lives in the SOS Village: I see her every time I visit.

After I stopped sponsoring Anni, my next sponsored child was Souad. There was a civil war in his country when I started sponsoring him, so our direct contact was much more limited. We could not send parcels to his country but on holiday I met some nuns near him who took a parcel for me. Souad is now 32, married with a son and living in Paris!

Now I sponsor Martin in Peru. His Christmas card for me arrived last week! Because I have stayed in an SOS Children's Village I know how it works. I know my sponsorship helps do the very best for all the children cared for.

Ann Bailey, Cambridge 2005

Sponsoring a child with SOS Childrens Villages, by Philippa Fibert:

As a newly qualified teacher, I set off to India to work as a project worker. My first port of call, fresh from the aeroplane, was SOS Children’s Village Tambaram, Madras. The resident social worker was there to meet me with his scooter, and clinging tightly to his back, we rode through the colourful, packed streets, avoiding wandering cattle and barefoot pedestrians.

As we neared our destination, the surroundings became eye-poppingly different. There was a teeming squalor that I could never have imagined. We wound our way past the railway station, which stank of urine and swarmed with humanity, past mud huts with dirty looking children playing in the doorways, and through the gates of the village. It was like a haven. Children were playing cricket, women were wandering past. Life was still going on, but in a manageable format.

I imagine it must have been like this for the children too. Many of them came from the area I had just driven through. Here they had space, toys, access to education, food, a family. Here there were opportunities for them to develop to their full potential, to go on to further education, to learn a trade.

Most importantly here they had a family: the director was known as ‘Uncle’, the social worker as ‘saama’ or big brother; I was called ‘saaka’ or big sister. Each child had a ‘mother’ and around 10 other brothers and sisters of varying age who all lived together in separate houses on the compound. And each child has an 'uncle’ or an ‘aunt’ who sponsors them. A more perfectly structured system I could not imagine. This group of orphans would always have their SOS brothers and sisters to replace the families they had lost. The ‘mothers’ too, were often widows, for whom life usually ends after the death of a spouse. They loved and cared for their ‘children’, who in turn had given them a new lease of life.

When I eventually returned to England, and started a family of my own, I was very conscious of the privileges that my own children would take for granted, that compare so starkly with the conditions I remembered from my visit to India. I wanted my children to know about other children and the lives they led, and I wanted them to care about the plight of those less fortunate.

Funding a child though SOS Children’s Villages has allowed my family and I the privilege of watching our ‘child’ Arjun grow up as they grow up. He arrived at the village as a baby with physical disabilities that meant several years of callipers. Every year he writes to us, and we write back to him. He was playing chess when my daughters were learning the game; collecting stamps which we could send; he sent us pictures and we reciprocated. Now he is nearly grown up and living in a youth house as a step toward independence. I know that, despite the disabilities that are still with him, SOS Children will ensure that step is as easy and successful as possible.

It is my belief that if every family in the developed world sponsored a child in the developing world, then we could on a micro level, achieve what the G8 summit is attempting on a global level. And it is of minimal financial impact in our affluent societies. It might be the difference between a second hand buggy and a new one: nowadays my children have one day when they don’t take a ‘treat’ in their lunch box which funds Arjun’s sponsorship and reminds them that ‘treats’ are just that. In fact, now that they are growing up and we have more money to spare, I can’t think why Arjun is the only ‘cousin’ they have. It’s time I expanded our family… Are there any little girls in Tambaram, Madras in need of an Aunty?

Philippa Fibert, February 2005

Shirley Dudley, a child sponsor, writes:

Our experience of sponsoring with SOS Children.

When we had our own child quite late in our lives (I was 37, which made me an “old” mother in the maternity hospital’s eyes!), we were so grateful, we felt that we would like to “put something back” by sponsoring a disadvantaged child abroad. I had two older children from a previous marriage, who were then in their teens and going through the usual self absorption period and who, I felt sure, would benefit from sponsoring a child who had very little, compared to everything they had. We chose India because I had conceived on our arrival back from a trip to Calcutta!

We were most excited when the details for our sponsored child dropped onto the doormat. Dorjee, then aged 8, but seeming small for her age, is Tibetan, whose parents are poor refugees, unable to provide their children with even the most basic necessities. They decided to ask for their children’s admission to the SOS Children’s Village to give them a secure future, which must have been an extremely hard decision for them. (Editorial Note: current SOS policy would always be to support a family in poverty, never to separate it ) We couldn’t possibly imagine in our comfortable lives, having to make such a difficult choice.

Over the last 10 years, we have watched Dorjee grow from a scrawny 8 year old into a beautiful, healthy and educated 19 year old. We have had regular letters and photos from her, and lovely letters and school reports from the secretary at the village. Communicating with Dorjee has helped keep the feet of our “big” children firmly on the ground and has given the younger ones an insight into how some other children in the world have to live and information on life in other countries in general.

Mindful of the time coming soon when we shall no longer be sponsoring Dorjee, in 2000, (and with another new addition to our family!) we decided to take on another SOS child. Once again, with excitement, we read all about our Andelina, in Croatia, who was born a month after our youngest. As they are exactly the same age, we are looking forward to seeing her grow up and think this will be especially nice for both Andelina and our own four year old.

We have never made a visit to India to see Dorjee, but who knows, maybe one day we will make the journey, either there, or more likely, to Croatia. It would be lovely to meet one of our sponsored children, especially when they have been such a large and fulfilling part of our lives. We would strongly recommend, if funds allow, sponsoring a child abroad. There is so much to be gained, by the child of course, but also by the sponsoring family.

Shirley Dudley, February 2005

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