A couple of weeks ago I watched an incredibly heart wrenching documentary about the estimated 88,000 Syrian children who are stuck in Europe without their parents.
I try to avoid conversations about the refugee crisis. The only thing that goes through my head is, 'what if it happened to us?' What if we were happily pottering along, going about our daily lives, when all of a sudden our villages, towns, and cities were bombed, and we were no longer safe in our little bubble of Western bliss?
I made some initial enquiries about how to help some of these children directly but apart from the hands on volunteering, what else can be done on a small scale for the likes of you and I? I want to help make the world a better place for my daughter, Molly, to grow up in, but it's difficult knowing where to start. Lets face it, we all try to doge the street fundraisers with our imaginary excuses and 'places to be', or 'sorry, I'm in a rush', I've even (shamefully) played 'the single mum' card. The exact label I want to avoid, using the warped view of a single mothers 'struggles' to provide for her own family, let alone an additional responsibility.
With so many charities reliant on fundraising, it is nearly impossible to 'choose' which ones to help. The incredible hospice that looked after my Dad (and I, the waddling, hot chocolate addict, who happened to be carrying an 8 month foetus) in his last few weeks of life? The Heroes who fought for our country, now left with life changing injuries? The medical research companies needing funding to help cure the bastard diseases that take our loved ones? The homeless? The victims of war? Children living in poverty? ... and that's not even getting started on the animal charities.
There are simply too many to consider, all of which as important as the last. So how are we supposed to decide, without getting put off by the momentous volume and variety of fundraisers? The 'out of sight, out of mind' approach doesn't warrant any humanitarian brownie points, so having decided to finally pull my finger out, I thought it would be a good place to start with child sponsorship (something I had always wanted to do).
I decided to speak with a charity who support woman and children in extreme poverty. They are appealing for donations to help refugees, but I wanted to make more of a long term commitment rather that a one off donation. They explained that they are in particular need of child sponsorship in Kenya, and that just £21.50 a month can help a whole community transform their lives. Seeing as this is the price of my weekly coffee expenses (...I'm working on that), it seemed like a small price to pay to help bring together a whole movement of people who can work together to make the world a more just place.
When my sponsorship pack arrived in the post I felt quite emotional. We were given details of the child we were sponsoring, and her community. We were given lots of information about the main issues in Kenya being Poverty (43% of people live below the poverty line), Woman's Rights (such as being denied education, and subjection to female genital mutilation) and Ending Hunger (help to grow drought tolerant crops). Sponsorship is supporting entire communities, and helping people live a better, more dignified life.
I have had the odd comment about how I am funding a corporate, and the luxurious lifestyle of it's CEO, but I can't see how this type of funding can attract negative criticism? Of course charities have operating costs (I doubt the advert that attracted my attention came for free), but 80% of the sponsorship fund goes directly to the child's community to support immediate needs for food, water, education and healthcare. In return, Molly and I get regular updates about the changes taking place on the ground, and of course, we get to stay in contact with our sponsored child.
I am pleased to be able to share this experience with Molly and teach her about the world and its different cultures. Not only will this be a rewarding experience for us, but as the letter from the charity states: "To know that someone many miles away is interested in them and wants to help means that the child you are sponsoring often feels very proud of this incredible process". It's a win-win for all.
So in the words of Ronald Reagan 'We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone'. This is quite possibly the most exciting adventure yet for Molly and I, and I can't wait to see it develop.