Once upon a time, I had a great job, earned a lot more than the average salary, and thoroughly enjoyed myself at weekends thinking nothing of an evening spent drinking £12 cocktails. I was pretty much oblivious when it came to children living in poverty. Shocking, yes?
But I wasn’t a hard-hearted monster, I donated to Comic Relief when it came around, I did my bit. It was just, well, there was poverty everywhere in the world and, like many people, I was overwhelmed by the scale of the problem. I couldn’t help every starving child, so I parked the thought under ‘too difficult’ and moved on.
I don’t think I was alone in this reaction then, and I’m pretty sure many people feel the same today. When you read about how many children live in poverty, how many exist on a single bowl of rice a day – if they’re really lucky – and how many have to fend for themselves on the streets, you might feel overwhelmed by the size of the problem too. It’s true – there are more than 400 million children living in extreme poverty across the world. What can one person do to help them?
Honestly? One person can’t help every one of those children. Not even multi-billionaires have the resources to deal personally with every child that needs help. But anyone who has ever been involved in delivering a huge and complex project knows that a massive goal is tackled by breaking it into smaller goals, and that each goal devolves into numerous manageable tasks. That’s how gigantic structures are built – rivet by rivet, one step at a time, all the pieces slowly coming together to make a beautiful, impressive bridge, ship, or building.
You know where I’m going here, right? So, let me introduce my second family to you. Gloria, now 15, was my first sponsored child. Over the years it became clear that Gloria wasn’t learning as fast as her peers and probably never would. Gloria still cannot read, and she’ll probably always need some help to live a safe and happy life in her native Uganda.
Juan is 12 and he lives in a fishing community in Colombia. He’s eager to learn, is a big football fan and he lives with an aunt and uncle. Juan dreams of living in a city, and maybe one day seeing the ocean. An education, food in his belly and clothes on his back today are a step towards his dreams.
And now, three-year-old Eduard is joining the team. This little dude is a bright, beautiful boy and, in the photograph I have of him, is wearing football shorts several sizes too big for him and a sweet expression. Home for Eduard is Peru, where he lives in an adobe-walled house with a dirt floor and tin roof. He needs education, food and health care. Eduard, like Gloria and Juan, needs to feel the love from us.
Now, I’m no better than anyone else, and I don’t claim any moral high ground when I tell you about these kids. I’m doing it because – excuse the cliche – children really are our future and it’s no cliche when I say that that life changed for me when my grandchildren arrived.
Fate has dealt them a great hand. Born in the wealthy west, they are growing up in safe, warm homes, go to school and want for nothing. But if it ever came to pass that they found themselves alone, in poverty, homeless and hungry, I hope there’d be someone around who was prepared to help them.
The good news is that there are already hundreds of thousands of people in the UK who sponsor children around the world and have made a terrific positive impact on their daily lives and their future prospects. Of course, many more would be better. So, if you and your kids have been dealt a great hand too, how about it? It costs only £25 a month to sponsor a child. Two posh cocktails or four supermarket bottles of wine a month.
Frankly, I should have done this two decades ago when I was well off. No matter, it’s never too late. I’m so over cocktails…
Please think about sponsoring a child. You will never regret it. Compassion UK is making a massive difference to children across the globe. Be part of the change.