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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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After more than two decades since leaving ChildFund’s sponsorship program, Samuel says his former Australian sponsors helped him understand the importance of family and become resilient to the many challenges he faced in his life. They also inspired him to achieve his goals.

Samuel, now aged 40, says he looked up to his former sponsors Perry and Elaine, who live in Queensland, as a child.

“They are my role models in family life,” Samuel says. “From their positive relationship, I did well academically, and felt cared for, valued and respected. I have more self-esteem and confidence, and feel more relaxed in facing the lows and highs.

“They shared their awesome photos of their wedding, house, and family van, and some family photos with me when I was a sponsored child. These pictures, and the letters they wrote, showed me the value of family and work.

“They inspired me.”

This is the powerful impact sponsorship can have on the life of a child, in the words of a sponsored child himself.

Growing up in Uganda

The second youngest of four children, Samuel grew up in a small, disadvantaged village in Uganda. Samuel’s mother raised him and his three sisters on her own, working as a pre-school teacher for a living. Occasionally his mother sold baked goods and took on food catering jobs for extra income.

She worked hard to make sure her children were well fed. “She prepared the best meals for us, including porridge,” Samuel says. Meals often included sweet potato, millet bread, beans and groundnut stew.  

“We never had much, apart from the constant promises of a better tomorrow from her if we worked hard,” Samuel says of his mother.

When Olivia turned five years old in May, she celebrated like many children her age might – with a Disney-themed party, lots of games and a big cake.

However, instead of receiving gifts for her birthday the Sydney preschool student raised money to buy one of ChildFund’s Gifts for Good.

She asked friends to donate to the cost of a cow, to help a child and their family in Uganda access milk – a rare nutritious drink in poor communities in Africa.

“We set up a fundraising page and explained on there what her goal was, and put a link to it on her birthday invitation asking parents to consider supporting Olivia’s goal to buy a cow, as an alternative to a gift,” mum Martine says.

“I explained to Olivia that she would still have presents from us and her grandparents, but that with so many children being invited, we could help some other people in need as well.”

Many parents were enthusiastic about the idea, says Martine, and many of Olivia’s friends drew pictures of cows on the birthday cards they made. “It was lovely to see the concept went further than just Olivia!” Martine says.