A couple of weeks ago I watched an incredibly heart wrenching ITV documentary ‘The Forgotten Children’ about the estimated 88,000 Syrian children who are stuck in Europe without their parents.
I try to avoid conversations about the refugee crisis because some people’s views upset me. 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?
The UNICEF TV commercial during the ad break got me, and I text ‘food’ to 70030 before quickly deciding that I had to do more. I made some initial enquiries about how to help some of these children directly. In Bulgaria, Sadie Clasby, a 26 year old teacher from Cambridge set up a play school for Syrian orphans, stating “We’re the only thing that the children have here. They have no playground, most of them have no toys. It became very apparent that a lot of them had forgotten how to play. They just weren’t relaxed and they didn’t trust us.” I couldn’t bear the thought of Molly being alone and afraid like these poor children, so I made contact with several volunteering projects in Bulgaria, in the hope of arranging a trip in the New Year.
So 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 Molly to grow up in, but it’s difficult knowing where to start. Lets face it, we all try and doge the street fundraisers with our imaginary excuses and the ‘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 mother ‘struggling’ 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 have fought for our country, and have been left with life changing injuries? The medical research companies who need funding to help cure the bastard diseases that take our loved ones? The homeless? The victims of war? Children living in poverty? … and thats 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 didn’t let myself get put off by the overwhelming choice, and decided to jump in and speak with ActionAid, 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. Grace, from Kenya. We were given lots of information about the main issues in Kenya being Poverty (43% of people live below the poverty line), Womans Rights (such as frequently being denied education and subjected to female genital mutilation) and Ending Hunger (ActionAid has set up hundreds of local farmers groups to help grow drought tolerant crops). In Graces community, woman are responsible for all the household chores and fetching water from unprotected sources (which can take up to 12 hours). ActionAid plans to raise awareness about the role of a woman in the community and establish water points closer to peoples homes. Sponsorship is supporting entire communities, which can improve the quality of education, healthcare, and livelihoods so people can 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 Grace.
Molly has already been asking lots of questions about Grace and we have sent her pictures and drawings of what Molly thinks a lion looks like(!) 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 ActionAid states: “To know that someone many miles away is interested in them and wants to help means that, as life improves, the child you are sponsoring often feels very proud of this incredible process”. It is 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.
…. I would urge anyone to make regular charitable donations, but if you want an extra push then do look into sponsorship as there are SO many incredible organisations that need our help! If you would like to get involved with volunteering to help with the Syrian orphan crisis then do get in touch x