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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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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 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.”

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.

She says it has been “heart-warming” to see how the lives of Diah and Man have changed and how they now have access to education and better healthcare.

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 support with my situation,” Karen says.

“If others are thinking of sponsoring I would say without hesitation, go for it. It is just so rewarding.

“You develop lasting friendships.”

Russell and his wife Ursula had been to Vietnam before but in late 2019 they made a special trip to the country, which led them to helping a school in a remote village.

The couple from Victoria were visiting their sponsored child, 10-year-old Yen, for the first time. They had been sponsoring Yen for six years and had regularly written letters to her through ChildFund’s sponsorship program, but wanted to meet Yen and see for themselves what her life was like.

“We had always planned to visit her because it makes it more real,” Russell says.

“It was very exciting to meet Yen. It was a very nice experience. Her parents were delightful and Yen was delightful – a little shy at first, but after a little while she opened up.”

Russell and Ursula met Yen and her family at Yen’s school, where they were taken aback by the number of students.

“I was a bit surprised that the school had so many children – there were about 500 children – in such a remote place,” Russell says. “It was a big school for a place that was so remote.”

The school was in “good nick”, but Russell and Ursula noticed that the computer room was lacking in resources. “I think they had six or seven computers for a class in the entire school,” Russell says. “Given the children’s economic circumstances, I imagined they wouldn’t have computers at home.”

After returning home to Australia, the couple decided to donate eight computers to Yen’s school.