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What 16 years of child sponsorship look 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.

This is what 16 years of child sponsorship looks like.

Why Sue decided to sponsor a child

Sue began sponsoring Thom in December 1999, when he was just 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 child sponsorship and share my experiences with them,” she explains.

What was it like for Sue to visit her sponsored child in Vietnam?

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.

How did life change for Thom and her community in Vietnam?

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. With the support ofChildFund Vietnam, Thom’s community also benefited. It managed to achieve all of its development goals. Sue is delighted that Thom’s community is now self-sufficient, and Thom is well-equipped for her adult life ahead.

Reflecting on her child sponsorship experience, Sue is most proud of the fact that she provided Thom with better access to education and healthcare. And not only Thom, but many other children in Thom’s 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.

Unforgettable memories, that’s what 16 years of child sponsorship looks like

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.

Create your own memories

You can change the world by changing the life of one child. See what Sue and other child sponsors learned from their child sponsorship experience, or find out more about how you can create your own memories by becoming a child sponsor here.

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