Have you considered sponsoring a Ugandan boy or girl, but hesitated because you are not sure whether the scheme has value, or whether your money would be well used?
We regularly tell you about the importance of the project, to the children themselves, to the schools and to the communities around Bulumbu and Bubebbere. So I thought that it might be interesting and useful to learn what some of the sponsors themselves think about how it works in practice, and their reasons for supporting children in this way.
The right to education is taken for granted in the western world, but in a country such as Uganda where some 3.5 million children live in poverty, that is not so. As AH commented:
Why do we sponsor Ugandan kids we have never met? What it comes down to in the end is simply that we are privileged and they are not. And that is just an accident of birth. We all share this planet but a few of us are, relatively speaking, able to enjoy wealth, health and freedom. This is down to the luck of the draw, being born in this country especially and the western world in general means a life of privilege.
JH backs this up when she says, “It seems to me to be the only way I can actually do something to help a child living on a fantastic continent where, sadly, survival is a daily struggle.”
PC puts it slightly differently, “We want to help the country rebuild. it is only a drop of water, but it is so important for these children.”
AS confirms how fortunate we are in the west when she told us, “One of the boys we supported had to leave school to work to help his family – at 10 years old! By helping children get a basic education (and a meal) we hope to improve childhood for them, and give them a better chance in life.”
We have pointed out before that children have been lost to our programme through death (both pupils and family) and through poverty. If we can keep a proportion of these youngsters in school for just a few more years, we give them that chance in life as well as the possibility of a little bit more of the pleasures of childhood; that is worthwhile in itself.
When we started to ask people to support youngsters’ education, it was entirely at the primary school level. But time does not stand still and each year we have youngsters who have passed their PLE (Primary Leaving Exam) but whose parents would find it difficult or impossible to find the fees to support their sons and daughters at the secondary level.
As JH points out:
At the end of her primary schooling, Joweria went off to work in the fields – now, she is at secondary school, still struggling probably, but with the hope of a future which she wouldn’t have if she’d stayed in the fields! It’s what the French call, “la goutte d’eau” – if more people sponsored, there’d be more “drops of water” in this huge ocean of famine and misery, and life would be more worth living for many children.
KM backs this up:
We first met Ronnie at his home, a wattle and daub structure sheltering a large family, when he was still a young boy. It was not the kind of setting or background that would enable him to prosper educationally. He is no world-beater academically; his three years at secondary school have been a struggle. However, he is still there and still studying, and he still has the chance of a better future.
It is wonderful that this year, we shall have our first student who will sit her A levels. That is an exciting prospect for our young charity, and her sponsor is very proud of her African child’s progress. CR has traced the history of the support that Marjorine has received:
I could not make a choice from the photos; it was too disturbing. Keith told me that it is more difficult to get support for girls especially if they are older. Among the photos, I stopped on a small face with mischievous eyes and a bright smile. In my heart, I think that despite an uncertain future and precarious living conditions, she smiled, a positive child, a fighter. Her name was Marjorine.
Over the years, we have established a link with Marjorine, at first by means of school reports, then through letters and small gifts. She has grown up, and we encourage her as best we can. Through her letters, she tells us about her family, her life. She is flourishing and we learn how she wishes to develop professionally.
It is interesting that Marjo is the same age as our daughter, Camille, and despite the fact that they are growing up in two such different worlds, their expectations and their desires seem to be similar. Even more curious, they entertain the same professional goals. This gives an element of added responsibility to this sponsorship; we need to support her studies so that she can succeed as well as our daughter. Helped by our small financial contribution, Marjo is making her way; we are proud of her work, her tenacity and her determination to succeed. We are just one more string to her bow, a support to help her become a complete woman.
The question remains; if you are not already sponsoring a child why should you do so through Friends of Uganda? If you are not convinced by my words, perhaps those of the sponsors will help to persuade you.
From EL: Why this association? Because I came across it at the right moment, because I was delighted to be able to improve his daily life, even a little … in addition I wished to sensitise my 5-year-old daughter that we are not all equal and that it is possible to help people who are in need. Five years later, I am very pleased with this sponsorship and with this charity. Even though I devote very little time to it, I know that my membership permits a child to have a better life. Thank you both.
In a slightly different way PC confirmed: We wanted to sponsor a child with Friends of Uganda because it seemed very well organised. It was not just charity but a means of development for these young orphans. We were persuaded that the charity and what it represents functions well and faithfully, and we have been happy to follow the educational development of these children and particularly of Ronald and his village which seem so far away.
This is the way that MN puts it: I think it is a fantastic scheme. Although it is relatively small, what it lacks in breadth it gains in depth; it is personal and intimate. I find it rewarding to know where our small contribution is going. Other larger schemes can be impersonal and we, seldom have any idea how our remittance is applied. It is also very rewarding to be able to track the progress of our sponsored child.
If you are still not convinced, perhaps AS can persuade you: “Friends of Uganda” should be an example to other similar charities. If more villages in Africa were supported by villages such as St. Lucien (and friends!) it would be a wonderful improvement overall for many countries.
We have agonised about including words which praise Jeanette and me, but in the end we are asking you to trust us and I felt that we had to include one comment from CR. It is included in all humility:
First of all, we chose to sponsor a child because of the personality of Keith and his wife Jeanette … dedicated and hard-working, their charity is central to their daily lives. Their sincerity leaves no doubt about the conduct of their association. And most importantly, they do not drive a Ferrari!
Thank you CR – at least your last sentence is true!