week #15 give the gift of education

educateAs much as I love studying, I sometimes catch myself feeling complacent about the next text I should read. I have been known to convince myself that the flat is too dirty to study in and I resort to vacuuming before I try and focus on writing. Like many of us, I am inclined to regard education as a right, or even a necessity, but for millions of children around the world an education is a privilege; something they dream of but may never get to partake in.

Like many of the problems affecting the world’s poorest, this is not purely a financial issue. If it were, it might be more easily resolved and everyone would have the opportunity to learn to read and write. Unfortunately, many children in developing countries are caught in a cycle of poverty which restricts their prospects of a basic education. For many, their day will start before sunrise when they will set off to collect water for their family. By the time they get home they are exhausted and hungry. If they are lucky, there will be a small meal available. If not, the prospect of walking a long way to school, on an empty stomach, would be enough to deter the most determined character. This is the harsh reality facing millions of children right now. Not only is the lack of food and water a major concern, but many children are forced to abandon their education as a result of their parents dying from HIV/AIDS. In communities where there is seldom enough to go around, many of these children are forced to accept responsibility for their siblings by becoming the head of the household, some of them not yet teenagers. As you can see, the chances of these youngsters ever being able to complete their schooling are not good.

That is why I am such a supporter of organisations such as Compassion and World Vision, charities who focus on child sponsorship. Entire communities are being uplifted through the incredible work of these charities who are able to provide children with an education, as well as ensuring that they receive regular nutrition and health checks. Not only are sponsor children afforded the prospect of a brighter future; projects such as Compassion’s AIDS Initiative are working with the whole community to combat issues that could impact children and their families. Since 1981, AIDS has killed more then 25 million people* and organisations such as Compassion recognise that these issues need to be tackled to ensure the longevity of their work.

Child sponsorship is something that my husband, Fox, and I have done for a number of years. What I have learned during this time is that it is about so much more than just sending money as a conscience-clearer. Rather I am providing a child and their family with the opportunity to better their situation. It is also about relationship. This may seem odd when one considers that these children are thousands of miles away but sponsors are encouraged to communicate with their sponsor children through letters. Admittedly, over the years I have been less than exemplary when it comes to regular letter-writing. I send a few letters a year but every time I read about the difference that these letters make to the children I feel a little pang of guilt. Poor little Owen and Marie-Grace….waiting for my letter that never arrives! Therefore, I am committing to write more regularly and send a letter at least once every six weeks.

As we approach Christmas and perhaps start to dwell on our contribution to the spending-boom that takes place at this time of the year, why not consider giving a gift that will change a life? By sponsoring a child you are letting them know that their future counts. We can fight extreme poverty, even if it is just one life at a time.

*Compassion Magazine October 2011

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