Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

What 16 years of child sponsorship looks like

As the Sponsorship Coordinator for Vietnam and Cambodia, and one of ChildFund Australia`s longest serving staff members, Sue Mandelik has been dedicated to helping children in need over the last 16 years. She has also made an incredible impact on the life of 17-year-old Thom from Bach Thong District in Vietnam.

Sue began sponsoring in December 1999, when Thom was 18 months old. “I decided to sponsor Thom as she was the same age as my daughter Jacinta, and I had learnt a lot about Vietnam and the needs of children through my work. I also wanted to be able to explain first-hand to other supporters about the benefits of sponsorship and share my experiences with them,” she explains.

Sue managed to visit Thom twice throughout her sponsorship, with her initial meeting taking place in 2002.

“Meeting Thom and her family for the first time was such a great experience. I was surprised at how little they had in terms of facilities and infrastructure, and could really understand why ChildFund Vietnam decided to work with children in need and families in Bach Thong. It was so eye-opening, while also exciting and emotional,” explains Sue.

The second time she visited Thom in Vietnam, Sue`s husband Ivan and daughter Jacinta joined her. “It was good to see how Thom`s community had improved since my last visit, and for Jacinta to learn about life outside Australia. I could tell Jacinta understood the needs of children, as when we returned to Sydney, she wanted to send all of her belongings, such as clothes and toys, over to Thom. It was really sweet,” says Sue.

Over the years, Sue continued to write and send photos to Thom. Today, she still keeps all of her letters and Child Progress Reports in an album. She often looks at them and thinks about how fast time has passed, and how much Thom has grown.

At the end of last year, Thom graduated from the sponsorship program. As a ChildFund Vietnam sponsor child, Thom’s community also benefited. It managed to achieve all of its development goals. Sue is delighted that Thom`s community is self-sufficient, and Thom well-equipped for her adult life ahead.

Reflecting back on her experience supporting a child in need, Sue is most proud about having supported not only Thom`s education and health, but that of many children in her community. For instance, every school in Thom`s commune now has safe water and hygienic bathrooms. When Sue began sponsoring Thom, not a single school had these facilities.

Reading Thom`s final letter, Sue can`t help but feel incredibly honoured to have contributed to Thom, Bach Thong, and ChildFund Vietnam`s achievements.

“To me, our memories are unforgettable,” says Thom. For Sue, their memories are unforgettable too.

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