Two words – but they put together so much! We are talking thousands of children making friends with equal number of sponsors, while ActionAid and partners make the bridge. ‘Together’ is a key word in this connection, this friendship. Joining hands brings magic. Under the pet-name ‘child sponsorship’ thrives a human connection – one child in Bangladesh finding a friend in another. Why the friendship? Well, besides the joy of meeting and knowing people, there is also a target: building a poverty-free and just community. And also share some magical moments while we are at it.
Colleagues in UK, Italy, Sweden, Greece. contact individuals interested to involve with ActionAid’s work. These generous souls meet children through individual photos and short descriptions of the child’s community. Brief on her/his culture and interests make the ‘profile’ win hearts. This is the first of many communications from a child. The sponsor willing to bring positive change to the child’s life, and through her the community, writes back and commits to contribute a nominal monthly amount to our Affiliates, who in turn fund our annual work that engage and benefit the child and the community.
ActionAid operates in over 45 countries as of 2015. In Bangladesh since 1983, ActionAid has made use of child sponsorship to mandate our focus – children and women. Literally, this open-to-use fund is so much better than anything restricted by donor outline. Child sponsorship does so much more than delivering on a healthy and safe space for children’s overall growth. It creates avenues for long-term solutions to poverty.
Good ideas – ideas that improve lives – never cease to amaze. One idea we have stuck to ever since is, helping women and girls can be the best way to end global poverty. Child sponsorship makes use of the idea and starts with children – not just girls, boys too and including their parents in our drive to empower and unite people for bigger things to happen.
4 to 6 years is when a child joins us with consent from their parents. We maintain ‘child protection’ standards to engage them in fun activities such as scribbling, singing etc. Photos and information collected are sent to the ‘sponsor’. Are they only sponsors? The warmth of the bond calls for the word ‘parent’. These new parents respond with letters, photos to share with their child a glimpse of their life – personal interests, the pet that the family adopted or the recent vacation they enjoyed, painting from their children etc. They also remember about the child’s birthday and sometimes sends gifts. And when a child sponsor comes to Bangladesh looking to meet her/his child in person, one can only imagine how moving the meeting becomes.
Nearly 60% of our sponsors are women mostly engaged in teaching. Middleclass to their home crowd, most of these individuals from the North are middle-aged. We also gladly see many young people caringenough to join ActionAid to together build lives in the South.
Thanks to the beauty of sponsorship, we can deliver on what the community needs. Thanks to our supporters and rural communities, our work brings return in soulful ways. Children getting back to a better school, and eating healthy as a result of their parents’ increased earning capacity, community yielding bumper crop after renovating an embankment, local government developing annual plan after actually listening to people’s needs, national campaign against child marriage, women’s exclusion etc. are a few examples.
Throughout the relationship, the child writes letters to her/his friend through us. As sweet and touchy the letters are, with scribbles and leaves or flower petals, they also capture the growth of the child the sponsor begins to care more about. We add with the letter a detailed report twice a year sharing how the money was spent to help improve people’s lives. The whole experience gives our valued friends a sense of fulfilment.