Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Every child sponsor’s journey is unique. Sponsors build meaningful and personal relationships through visiting and writing letters to their sponsored child. They’ve witnessed the growth and change in the life of the child over the years, and learned life-changing lessons themselves. 

Here’s what seven child sponsors had to say about their journey, and the time they spent in our child sponsorship program.

Sponsors who have built meaningful relationships with their child through letters and visits

For some supporters, the most meaningful part of the journey is corresponding with their sponsored child and their family. Supporters who write letters to their sponsored child learn more about them and find the sponsorship experience to be much more fulfilling.

“The friendship I’ve developed with my sponsored child is completely unique…”

ChildFund Ambassador and actress Danielle Cormack had been a child sponsor for 13 years before she made the journey to Uganda to meet Akullu, who she started sponsoring in 2003. For Danielle the visit was a culmination of “anxiety, excitement and anticipation” that had built up over 13 years through letters.

“I’ve seen her grow up through her letters,” she said of her sponsorship experience. “The friendship I’ve developed with my sponsored child is completely unique. She’s been part of my life for many years now and over that time has shared with me the positive impact of sponsorship, not only on her life but for everyone around her.” 

The visit to Uganda allowed Danielle to see first-hand the impact of her sponsorship, and cemented the friendship she and Akullu had built.

“Being a long-term sponsor and being able to build that relationship with the children has allowed me to follow Simon and Aber’s personal journeys…”

Geoffrey Fuller has sponsored children in Uganda for over 25 years. “You get back a lot more than you give,” he says of his years as a child sponsor. 

In 2016, Geoffrey travelled to Uganda to meet 15 year old Aber, who he had sponsored since 2006. It wasn’t his first time as a child sponsor. He had sponsored Simon in 1994, and began sponsoring Aber when Simon left the program at age 24. 

“Being a long-term sponsor and being able to build that relationship with the children has allowed me to follow Simon and Aber’s personal journeys…” 

Like Danielle, Geoffrey followed Simon and Aber’s progress through letters and built a personal relationship with his sponsored children and their families. 

“This is very special,” he says of his sponsorship experience.

It doesn’t take long to write a letter. Sponsors who take the time out of their busy week to sit down, put pen to paper and write a few things about themselves and their life to their sponsored child receive the most value out of their sponsorship. Over time sponsors develop a personal relationship with their sponsored child, as would be the case with any friendship nurtured through regular correspondence.

Sponsors who have witnessed the impact of child sponsorship

Many supporters come away from their sponsorship experience with a very real understanding of the difference their contribution has made. These sponsors witnessed the positive and measurable change sponsorship had on a child and their community.

“I am totally overwhelmed with humility and yet so happy that he has become such a good-hearted man.”

Bronwyn Barter sponsored Parashuram in 1993. At the time he was nine years of age. 

“Through letters I was able to follow his journey,” Bronwyn says. The pair corresponded for 12 years until Parashuram left the program in 2005 at the age of 21. 

“I was heartbroken to lose him after he left the program, but I understood that’s how it was.”

A decade later, Parashuram had become a senior government official in India, and dedicated a leadership program to his former sponsor. 

“I am totally overwhelmed with humility and yet so happy that he has become such a good-hearted man,” Bronwyn says.

“It is programs such as these that provide children with the opportunity to realise their true potential in life.”

When Tay visited his sponsored child Yumna in 2019, he’d already been a part of ChildFund’s child sponsorship program for 15 years. 

If it wasn’t for me personally visiting Yumna, I would have never had an appreciation of the great program that has been introduced to develop and support children such as Yumna,” he says. 

While Tay was visiting Yumna in Indonesia, he learned how his sponsorship had been supporting her growth and development. The program had ensured she received an education, and Tay was excited to continue following Yumna’s journey.

“It is programs such as these that provide children with the opportunity to realise their true potential in life,” Tay says.

You never know who your sponsored child will become. It only takes one person, and one decision, to change the life of a child. These sponsors provided a child with the opportunity to become who they wanted to be, and the results left them feeling proud to have contributed to changing a young person’s life.

Sponsors who have learned life-changing lessons from child sponsorship

Sponsors develop a greater understanding of poverty through writing letters to and visiting their sponsored child. These sponsors have learned life-changing lessons about gratitude, and live more meaningfully as a result of their sponsorship experience.

“I’m going home with a much better understanding of the world, of the people of the world. I’m very affirmed in the similarities between us all.”

ChildFund Ambassador and chef Julie Goodwin was excited, but nervous to meet Hamad, the boy she and her husband sponsored through ChildFund Australia. 

Julie spent a day in Hamad’s village, and was invited to cook and eat a traditional meal with his family. She observed that women in Uganda prepare food and cook kneeling on the ground, out of respect for the food that’s about to be eaten. 

Despite all the differences between life in Uganda and Australia, the visit taught Julie  that people all around the world want the same things out of life and for their children.

 “I’m going home with a much better understanding of the world, of the people of the world. I’m very affirmed in the similarities between us all,” she says.

“It was an amazing and enriching experience, we came away thinking our lives were so materialistic.”

Dave Meney and his wife started sponsoring Francis, a three-year-old boy from Kenya, in 1993. In 2004, the family visited Francis’ village, on what they called a “life-defining trip”

“Things changed completely in terms of our commitment to the sponsorship after the trip,” Dave says. “While it was an amazing and enriching experience, we came away thinking our lives were so materialistic.”

The Meneys lost contact with Francis after he left the program, but reconnected with him later in 2009. Now Francis works for Dave remotely, as a virtual assistant, and the Meneys have learned to live more meaningfully and and with gratitude.

“It was so eye-opening, while also exciting and emotional.”

Sue Mandelik sponsored Thom in 1999, on behalf of her daughter Jacinta. She wanted to sponsor a child the same age as her daughter, so the pair could grow up together. Sue also wanted Jacinta to appreciate life in Australia and learn about the experiences of children in developing countries. 

After Sue and Jacinta visited Thom in Vietnam, Sue says Jacinta learned valuable lessons. “It was so eye-opening, while also exciting and emotional,” Sue says “Jacinta wanted to send all of her belongings, such as clothes and toys, over to Thom. It was really sweet.” 

Over the years the family saw Thom mature into an educated and happy young woman, as well as the transformation of her entire village. The lessons learned from the sponsorship experience left Sue and Jacinta feeling  more grateful for the simple things in their life.

What will you learn on your journey?

Child sponsorship not only benefits a sponsored child and their community, it can also be a life-changing experience for a sponsor. 

 Start your child sponsorship journey here.

A whistle sounds and a group of young girls begin their warm-up, running around a small field outside the local school in a village in Myanmar’s Tanintharyi region.

They are gearing up to play a friendly game of volleyball, a sight unseen before in this small remote community.

Most people in the community believe that girls and sports are “badly mismatched”, says the girls’ head coach Su. “But we wanted to show that girls can participate in sports.”

Su and her team are taking part in a ChildFund project that is helping to empower young girls in disadvantaged communities in Myanmar, through sport and leadership and life skills training.

“At first, playing volleyball was physically challenging for the girls, but over time their bodies and minds strengthened,” Su says.

The girls participating in the project are between 12 and 17 years old, an age group particularly vulnerable in rural and remote communities like Su’s to becoming isolated, dropping out of school and being forced into the workforce to help support their families.

Poverty and a lack of jobs and opportunities to develop skills in their community means many girls end up leaving school early and migrating to find work in neighbouring countries such as Thailand. In these jobs they are often abused and exploited by their employees, or trafficked.