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What do you think when you hear the words 'sponsor child'? We bet it isn't this.

Julie meeting mums and bubs

 

By ALEX BRUCE-SMITH

What comes to mind when you hear (or read) the words ‘sponsor a child’? Is it sad music? A shot of wide eyed children staring meekly at you through your television screen? Are you flooded with guilt that UNLESS YOU DO SOMETHING, THESE KIDS WILL STARVE?

Yeah, me too. And that’s why it’s so refreshing to talk about sponsoring children in a way that is, well, positive. It seems like there’s enough terrible things happening around the world that when we see something joyful, we should celebrate it.

It’s this attitude that the sponsored children of Uganda have taken in their stride. Yes, the children you might sponsor or used to sponsor or have thought about sponsoring. They’re not asking, “Why is life so unfair to me?” They’re overwhelmed with joy. And gratitude. And all those things we forget to feel sometimes.

How do I know this? Julie Goodwin, Masterchef and mother extraordinaire, recently became an ambassador for ChildFund Australia. (She’s been sponsoring them for years, well before the mum of three decided to compete in that little known cooking show.) She recently travelled to Uganda to meet her sponsor child, Hamad, and check out some of the work ChildFund Australia is doing over there.

What she found was an overwhelming sense of positivity. That things might not be perfect, but they’re getting better. That rather than the doom and gloom we traditionally associate with child sponsorship, that things were… okay. She says:

“When we arrived to this community, there were school children here, and there were parents here of some of the children that were sponsored by Australians. One of the mother’s just broke out into this spontaneous song and dance; she was radiant. I certainly don’t feel it was deserved just by Mick (Julie’s husband) and I. I chose to take it on board on behalf of all the Australian sponsors doing these great things in these communities.”

“I certainly don’t feel that it was deserved just by Mick and I.”

This is the chord that really struck with me. My family used to sponsor a child in India (until she got married, and we were politely told she no longer qualified). I always had this vision of the sponsored children being the lucky ones, the fortunate ones, the ones who lived a carefree life while their unsponsored siblings and friends looked on in envy.

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Oh, how naive I was. When you sponsor a child, you’re not just making a difference to one child, you’re making a difference to the whole community.

And it’s not just you. It’s thousands of Australians like you.

When Julie talks about meeting her sponsor child Hamad, she gets a little tearful. Here is a child whose life has changed. Hamad isn’t worrying about where his next meal is coming from, he’s thinking about becoming a doctor. One of his brothers also wants to be a doctor, while a second brother is aiming for engineering, and his sister is going to be a fashion designer.

I think I’ve just been out-ambitioned by a ten-year-old.

The overwhelming gratitude by this community shines through everything. In the video Julie shows us, some of the children are even singing a song about ChildFund. At first, I thought this was pretty strange. Were they simply hamming it up for the camera?

And then I remembered I’m likely to tell someone I love them if they so much as offer me a free cupcake.

If there was someone out there making sure I had enough food, and didn’t have to walk miles for water, that I could go to school, that I had access to medical attention, and that I could just kick around a soccer ball with my friends like any other kid – well, I’d probably sing a song about them, too.

Julie and Mick with Hamad and his family

 Alex Bruce-Smith is a journalism student and an intern at Mamamia.

What are your thoughts on sponsoring a child? Have you taking part in a sponsorship program?

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