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Many of us have probably thought about child sponsorship but have never actually gone ahead, basically as the result of not knowing enough about what is involved. We asked Plan International through whom children’s campaigner Esther Rantzen has been sponsoring a child for 14 years a little about what we might expect.
Well, let’s get the easiest bit out of the way first – How much does it cost? Plan asks for a minimum of £15 a month which is sufficient to make a real impact although, of course, many people choose to give more. It’s really quite amazing what even £15 a month or 50p a day can achieve over a period of time.
Next, everyone needs to know what else might be expected of them. Nothing is, of course, compulsory but anyone deciding to sponsor a child should realise that the more one puts in, the more one gets out of it. So it is usual for sponsors to correspond with the child they are sponsoring either from time to time or on a regular basis. Also, it is normal practice for both the sponsor and the child to exchange photos. This communication shows the sponsor just how his or her funds are helping the child to develop into an educated, self-sufficient adult.
This process starts when the sponsor first joins the programme. New sponsors receive a welcome pack containing a photo of the sponsored child as well as information about the child’s family situation and community. This will be followed by a letter or photo from the child himself or herself.
Subsequently, sponsors receive annual updates and up-to-date photos so that they get a visible record of the child’s progress and information about how sponsorship funds are benefiting his or her community.
Many new sponsors automatically assume that their sponsorship funds are spent directly on their sponsored child whereas, in fact, experience has shown (Plan has been involved in child sponsorship since 1937) that it is far better to pool the donations with those of other donors in the same country to mount worthwhile projects which benefit the whole community in which the sponsored children live. These projects might include such things as building schools, vaccinating children, connecting villages to a safe source of water, and stamping out child abuse.
Another common misapprehension is that sponsors can choose a particular child to sponsor. In fact, Plan is operating schemes in 48 different countries and sponsors can, if they wish, select a country, an approximate age group and whether they wish to sponsor a boy or a girl.
Plan’s programme which has been refined over decades obviously works well as the charity has over a million sponsors across the globe of whom over 100,000 are based in the UK.