Sunday 03, Dec, 2017

Amanda has been sponsoring a child with international children’s charity World Vision for almost 20 years.

‘When I first heard how sponsorship could make a difference to a child’s life, I was happy to sign up. I enjoyed starting to get to know Diaw, a 10-year-old girl from Senegal, through the letters we exchanged. So when the charity offered me the chance to visit West Africa to meet her, I was delighted. When we met in a remote village, it was emotional. I was so impressed by her dignity in the face of poverty but, at the same time, my heart was breaking as I wanted to do so much more. Diaw was the same age then as my daughter, Emily, who made the trip with me. The instant connection between the girls was incredible. Emily let her hold her prized possession, a teddy called Brown Bear Barney, and they communicated easily, even though they didn’t speak each other’s language. The innocence of two girls who were so similar but from such different worlds brought home how much we take for granted.

The villagers were desperate for clean, safe drinking water, and I was shocked by the stories of mothers who had to make the terrible choice of seeing their baby die from dehydration or give them a cup of contaminated water knowing that it would kill them anyway. When World Vision started work in the region, disease – such as cholera, malaria and typhoid – was rife. Hundreds of children were dying each day. The villagers had no electricity, no sanitation, and the well they did have was covered with a thick layer of mosquitoes buzzing over the top like a black blanket. Surely everyone should have access to clean water? Yet sponsorship costs £26 per month and can truly save lives. I was helping the entire village, but getting to know Diaw made it so much more personal. Once we were back home again, I had a photo of the three of us enlarged – it still hangs at home. By the time Diaw turned 22, child sponsorship money had paid for boreholes to provide clean water and villagers had been trained to maintain them. Sanitation improved, sponsorship helped fund schools and, in 2010, World Vision felt the community had developed enough to become self-sufficient so has focused its efforts on other areas in dire need. So I now sponsor Sophie, who’s 10, from another part of Senegal and hope to see similar changes to her life. However, I will never forget my trip to see Diaw. The conditions I saw first-hand were distressing, yet I came away feeling uplifted and knowing that sponsorship works. There will always be poverty and disasters to overcome but I know we can help communities and give kids, like Diaw, real hope for the future.’