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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Our Trip of a Lifetime winner heads to India

My husband and I first began sponsoring a child through ChildFund Australia in 1988 when we were just newlyweds. We started sponsoring Sarita when she was just eight years old. We’ve now been sponsoring her for almost 10 years and she is about to turn 17 years old in December.

I am a lecturer and tutor at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). I teach a few first-year subjects from the School of Communications and one first-year subject from the School of Business. I first came to USC in 1996 when I enrolled as a mature-age student when the university first opened. There weren’t many of us back then, though there were always a lot of kangaroos around campus! I finished my honours then took a short break before coming back to do my PhD. I began tutoring at USC in 2003 and have been teaching here ever since.

I was at work when I read about the Trip of a Lifetime competition and just decided to enter, not really thinking about the fact that I could actually win. I just really liked the question — what inspired you to sponsor a child? — because it made me think about my sponsored children and how much I’ve enjoyed being a ChildFund sponsor for the past 25 years.

Once I sent in my entry I didn’t really give the competition a second thought so I think I went into shock when ChildFund called to tell me I had won. I was feeling so many emotions all at once: utterly surprised that I had actually won, amazed that I had the opportunity to meet Sarita and completely terrified at the idea of going to India. I just kept thinking: India!

My husband and I have only recently started travelling. We’ve been to the usual “safe”, Western destinations, Europe and the US, so I was really worried about the idea of going to India as it was definitely out of our comfort zone. Everyone who travels to India seems to either love or hate it because it is a country of extreme contrasts and such an assault on your senses. So we just started madly watching as many documentaries and reading as many books as we could find on India to try to prepare ourselves.

From all that I’ve read and watched I’ve come to the conclusion that I do not want to judge India from my Westernised perspective of how things should be.  I want to love the country and its people for what it is, not for what I think it could be. I know that I am going to encounter things that will make me feel uncomfortable, maybe even sick, but I don’t want to come to India with this attitude of how things could be improved. I just want to take it in and appreciate what I see.

After I calmed down from the shock of actually winning I started to feel a sense of guilt. I just knew that there were so many ChildFund sponsors who would have loved to have won the competition and be given this wonderful opportunity. So I just want to keep it in mind that I am representing ChildFund and I am representing all of ChildFund Australia’s sponsors. I want to make it the best experience I can for everyone: us, Sarita and her family, ChildFund Australia and their other sponsors.

My husband and I are really excited now, especially as our work winds down it feels like the countdown is really on for the trip! I just cannot wait to see Sarita for the first time in real life.

I recently went through all of the letters and photos Sarita has sent me over the years. I am going to take them with me on the trip to show her that I’ve I kept them all. It has been truly wonderful to watch her grow up into a healthy and educated young woman.

Lee-Anne and her husband, Roxley, looking at letters they have received from Sarita, their sponsored child from India

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