The best things about sponsoring children are the relationships that are formed and what it can teach you and your family, says long-time sponsor Karen Wood.
The mother-of-three (pictured below) has been sponsoring children through ChildFund Australia since the 1980s, and says sponsorship has been a mind-opening experience for her and her children.
Sponsorship has changed Karen’s life for the better
“Sponsorship has changed me for the better,” Karen says. “It has taught me to be more considerate of cultural differences. There may be a difference in language and the colour of our skin, but we still have the same needs, physically, mentally, emotionally.
“And as parents have the same concerns about our children, and that goes beyond the colour of our skin and our language.”
Karen’s children have grown up learning about different cultures
Through writing letters to her sponsored children and their families – Diah in Indonesia and Man in Vietnam – Karen’s children have also grown up learning about different cultures and how other children around the world live and grow up.
“With my children, they got to see that what we take for granted – like going to school, a bed to sleep in, a meal on the table, a doctor, dentist, and medicines – and what some children around the world don’t have,” Karen says.
Helping children was something that remained close to her heart
Karen first began sponsoring through ChildFund after finishing her nursing degree, and has sponsored children on and off ever since.
While life had been “extremely tough” after her partner passed away and she became a single parent, helping children was something that remained close to her heart. “My life had turned upside down but I got back on my feet, and recommencing sponsorship was back on the table,” Karen says.
“I wanted to instil into my children to be there for others, to be considerate, and really help.”
Being a sponsor with ChildFund has been “like being part of a family”. “I can email or call and I can find things out and I can work out the best way to provide support with my situation,” Karen says.
Sponsor a child today and experience the life-changing journey for yourself
When you sponsor a child with ChildFund Australia, not only do you change a child’s life forever, but you provide your family with a life-changing experience: a journey of change with the sponsored child and their family.
The collapse of a dam in Attapeu in July 2018 caused flash flooding into Khied’s small village in southern Laos and spread into neighbouring Cambodia.
At least 26 people reportedly died and more than 6,000 children and their families were displaced, seeking refuge in camps.
Khied’s family lost their home and everything they owned.
The ensuing 12 months have brought many challenges, but Khied says she has emerged stronger, thanks to ChildFund supporters and the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP) which helped to provide vital relief after the floods.
“Among all the misfortune there have still been some really good things that have made me happy,” Khied says.
“I’ve never felt discouraged or cursed by fate as a result of the disaster. It has made me into a much stronger person in both body and mind.”
After the flooding, Khied was worried she would not return to school. Her family was homeless and her parents had no way to make a living.
The event had been traumatic.
After their home was destroyed, Khied was dragged out with her brother and sister by the force of the water, to the forest.
It was five days before they saw their parents again.
“During the flood, I told my sister and brother to hold onto a tree so we would not float away,” Khied said. “There was so much debris like roofs, and logs and rocks that hit us.
“I had to stay alert and take care of my brother and sister so they wouldn’t be scared.”
The siblings ended up on a mountain in the forest, where they stayed overnight.
The next day, Khied saw the extent of the devastation. Debris was floating everywhere and there wasn’t a house in sight.
“I could only hear the sounds of people, injured and crying,” she says.
“I tried looking for my parents and calling out for them, but I didn’t see them anywhere.”
They spent seven months at a displacement camp supported by ChildFund Laos, where the family received the help it needed to get back on its feet.
Khied was able to return to school and is now excited about finishing her studies next year.
She says the time she spent volunteering at a Child-Friendly Space at the camp has made her more confident about the future.
“I have learned to be more courageous, to participate more, and am better at sharing my thoughts and opinions,” Khied says.
“Part of that is that I’ve been able to attend trainings on how to implement activities through the Child-Friendly Spaces project.
“This has also allowed me to participate better and play a greater role in activities at my own school, especially dancing and playing sports.