Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Sixty six pence a day.

Seven year old Barthelemy was living in Togo with his elderly grandma, his mother having died. We wanted to find him a sponsor who would help with the costs of bringing him up, educating and feeding him, and thus would give him the chance of a brighter future.

World In Need (WIN) currently sponsors 540 children in 15 countries. The same number again are waiting, needing us to help them out of situations of dire need. Their circumstances are caused by a variety of reasons, war and conflict, drought, famine or flood, and just plain, common-or-garden poverty.

The World Bank defines poverty as living on less than $1.25 a day. In England, this is a third of the cost of a supermarket sandwich. In the developing world, it is supposed to feed, clothe and house whole families.

In fact, in some places, $1.25 is more than people earn in a week. Families in these places soon get used to not eating every day. Children cannot go to school because they need to help with the family finances, although their age, inexperience and sheer desperation for work means their wages are extremely low. Old before their time, uneducated, unskilled, they are trapped by their poverty.

Sponsorship brings freedom from that trap, and hope for a brighter future. The sponsored child attends school regularly, is better nourished and clothed, has access to health care and, freed from the burden of having to work, is able to have a real childhood.

This was the life WIN wanted for Barthelemy.

Sponsors make a commitment to give a monthly amount. In the UK, a child costs £20 a month although not every sponsor pays that much. Sometimes, two people sponsor a child between them. Groups such as churches and school classes also take on children.

Some sponsors write to their child, some do not. The level of commitment with a child is entirely the choice of the sponsor.

In return, sponsors can expect two letters a year from their child, plus school reports. For many of the children, English is a second, or even third language, so often the letters are short, but they do convey the way the child feels about the sponsor and the opportunity they have been afforded. It can be humbling to realise the difference that has been made to a child’s life because someone gave what, to many of us, is a trifling amount. £20 a month. 66 pence a day. In England it’s enough money daily to buy a King sized Mars Bar. In many parts of the developing world it buys a whole life.

We never found a sponsor for Barthelemy. Before we could do so, he died, just another statistic in the heartbreak that is too often the story of the developing world. We will however, continue to try to find sponsors for all the other children on our books. Together, we can work to make Barthelemy’s story the exception rather than the all too frequent norm.

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