Child Sponsorship Week

I know that lots of you see this post through a reader and I urge you to read on and at least think about child sponsorship and how a little money can make a great difference.

~ Pru

Charity has been on my mind a lot over these past couple of weeks.  Richmond, the town where I live, is home to the Poppy Factory where hundreds of thousands of poppies are made each year to commemorate Remembrance Day and it seemed that wherever I went there were people selling poppies.

It’s easy to remember and think about something when it is right in front of you.  I admit freely that Myanmar hasn’t been at the front of my mind.

Since becoming a Blogger for Action Aid I try to stay more informed about the work that the charity is doing. ActionAid is asking people across the UK to celebrate Child Sponsorship Week and make a huge change to all the people who have endured decades of struggle and uncertainty in Burma/Myanmar and elsewhere in the developing world.

There are 1,600 children in Burma to sponsor but worldwide there are nearly 5,000 children that need sponsorship in 17 countries.

My decision to start sponsoring Gift in Malawi last year through Action Aid at first seemed like quite an undertaking.  £15 per month seemed like a lot of money and I was thinking of all the Starbucks I would be foresaking!  But the truth is, I spend money ridiculously.  £1 for an avocado the other day to top up a lunch that I had already purchased in M&S for £3.  That’s eight days of sponsoring Gift to give her the opportunity to go to school and be clothed and fed.

For just 50p a day sponsors have the opportunity to change a child’s and community’s future not just for today but forever. For information on how to get involved and transform a child’s life visit www.actionaid.org.uk/child.

I love sponsoring Gift.  I like thinking about a stranger in another country and what she is doing and her how family are and what she is learning at school.  I also like that I am in the privileged position to be able to help someone else have a better change at life.  And I reckon that most of the people reading this blog have the ability to sponsor.

What does 50p buy nowadays anyway?

~ Pru

Action Aid’s Blogging Event

I have taken a break from my blogging vacation to write about something that is very dear to my heart.  No, not the Olympics or food.  Much, much more important.  Action Aid and child sponsorship.  Ever since I started to sponsor Gift through Action Aid last year I have found that it has given me more purpose.  You know when you have a really rough day and just want to stay in bed and watch old episodes of The West Wing?  Those days are the days when I remember that I am contributing towards someone else’s life and not just my own.  Those days are the days when I look at the photo on my office wall of Gift and she strives me on.  I have more purpose now.

Last Friday sitting in the living room with mum and dad eating our buffet dinner and  glued to the TV we all remarked that we had not heard of some of the countries parading through the Olympic stadium.  I was pleased to see a map in the paper the next day pointing out some of the tiny countries sitting in the Carribbean that had escaped my attention.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, needs no introduction.  I think that everyone has heard of Aung San Suu Kyi and I am sure that we all nodded as the athletes waved to the audience on Friday recognising another country competing.  But when Action Aid asked what I knew about Myanmar I commented that I would have to do some Googling.  Truth is, I know very little, and sure, Google and Wikipedia will spout out the facts of how many live in the country and who there government is run by, but I don’t think that’s really what Action Aid were asking.  So, I’m holding my hands up.  I know nothing about the country apart from where it is situated (near to China and India).  That’s it.  And it sort of made me sad that I didn’t know that much about the country, or many other countries in the world.  I am so looking forward to finding out more on the 15th August.

Just as I knew nothing about Malawi when I started to sponsor Gift through Action Aid last year, I have learnt alot about that country, continually seeking to learn more.

Action Aid are holding a Bloggers Summer Party on the 15th August in Clerkenwell, London.  I attended the Bloggers Tea Party for Action Aid earlier this year and it was such a great time to meet with fellow bloggers, to learn more about Action Aid and to have a fun afternoon.  This time around they have Jimi Mistry of East is East fame talking about what child sponsorship means to him and the work of Action Aid.  To book a place today click hereGemma and Penny will be there doing a brainstorming blogging section which I think is going to be quite hilarious and good fun.  And of course I will be there too (what more could you want!)  It will be a great event to learn more about Action Aid and especially the work that they are doing in Myanmar.

~ Pru

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Writing to the child you sponsor

From Pinterest and Tara Adams’ board

Recently, a lot of searches have been about how to write to a sponsored child.

When I first started sponsoring I trawled the internet for ideas and found a few things, but not much.  The one thing that did stick out was that you should write.  Send a card or a postcard from your holiday or a letter.  But for goodness sake, send the child something so that when letters are delivered she has something to open.  An article I read detailed how two siblings were sponsored and one child received letters and the other didn’t.  The child who didn’t receive letters didn’t excel at school and felt as though they had done something wrong.

Disclaimer:  I am no expert.  I have learnt a few things along the way and I thought that I would share them with you:

Write regularly

I aim to write once a month.  I find it easier to carry on with my letters that way rather than starting afresh each time.

Look at the Calendar

January you can write about Christmas and New Year and your resolutions.

February is Valentines.

March or April will be Easter.

May and June the warmer weather has arrived and there are pretty flowers in the garden and in the park.

July and August are perfect for showing photos of any holidays.

October is Halloween

November if Guy Fawkes Night.

December is Christmas.

And round and round it goes.  Also, there are birthdays and outings which you go on.  These all add to any letter that you write.

Themes

For my February card I sent a Valentines card (with a big glittery heart) and some heart shaped stickers.

This past year I have sent postcards with the royal family and a little bit of history on them.

At Christmas I send a Christmas card.

A letter on plain white paper is great, but a letter on coloured paper or a pretty postcard or card is so much nicer.  Think about what you would rather receive.

Mix it up

I like to include photos (either an actual photograph) or a digital photo which I print out with my letters.  If I am writing about my favourite flowers in the garden I take a photo so that Gift knows what I am talking about.  I include photos of Violet my dog and of me and my family.

Also, I sometimes type my letter, sometimes its a card or postcard.  I write with a green pen (which smells of peppermint) one month, and then a pink pen (which smells of strawberries) the next.  I do different fonts of the computer and try to make sure that no two letters look the same.

Remember who you are writing to

In my case, I write to a ten year old girl.  I hadn’t realised at first, but her age is not representative of ten year old girls in the UK.  No Justin Beiber or Facebook and iphones.  Simple things, write as if you are writing to someone a few years younger than their actual age.

Is it boasting?  Will they understand?

I struggled with this at first.  If I showed a photo of my garden with pretty flowers was it going to suggest that I had a huge amount?  What if I showed photos of going out and eating ice cream?  Would she know what this was?

Stop.

Here’s the thing.  Don’t go writing about receiving hundreds of presents for Christmas or how every night the butler brings you cocoa in bed.  Write about Christmas and what you did and include a photo of the tree, just don’t show the huge pile of presents.  Don’t over-think these letters too much either.  You may have more material things than the child you write to, but there is nothing to say that their life isn’t richer than ours.

Simple letters with words about you and this will work well.

Gifts

Until recently I was never sure about sending a little present.  What I have learnt is that stickers are acceptable – I try to make them go with my theme and only send them every now and again.  For Valentines I sent 60 stickers with hearts to Gift.  In the letter I explained that she should share these with her friends and siblings.

With the Olympics around the corner I am putting together a pack all about London.  Paperchase had these great stickers on London and I will be putting those in with my letter.

Turns out that letter writing isn’t that hard.  It doesn’t have to be pages and pages, but something fun and creative is always going to be nice to receive.

I am sponsoring Gift through Action Aid.  Find out more details here.

Pru

International Womens Day

March 8th is International Women’s Day.

I’ve been banging on quite a lot about Action Aid recently, but I thought that today was the perfect day to show the photo which keeps me going all the time.  When times are a bit hard or I’m not too happy I look at this photo and it keeps me going.

This is Gift.  She is ten years old and the girl I sponsor in Malawi.  If it wasn’t for Action Aid I wouldn’t have known about International Womens Day today.  And without Action Aid I wouldn’t have something else to focus on.

To everyone who visits my blog, I hope you have a wonderful day today and take time to think about the people who inspire and love you.  Male and female.  Everyone.

Have a great day.

~ Pru

Are you following me on Twitter or Pinterest?  If not, then click on the links.  It would make my day, possibly my week too!

Hearts and Glitter

I am going to be making a big deal about Action Aid and child sponsorship this month.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to start preaching (which a blog I usually love started to do the other week and has lost my interest).  So, no preaching.  No ‘I’m so wonderful’ or ‘You must do this’.  No, this is where I am going to post the letters I send to the child I sponsor, Gift, in Malawi and the letters and drawings which I receive back.

Now, letter writing isn’t my strong point.  Years back I used to write to my grandparents every month and now I write to my grandfather every couple of months but they are typed in large font (he can’t read my scribble anymore!) and are pretty basic.

Writing to a ten year old is completely new.  I don’t even know a ten year old.  But this is not a ten year old who can relate to things that a ten year old would know about in the UK like Justin Beiber and FaceBook.

I aim to write every month and the other week I received a beautiful drawing from Gift but which highlighted that whilst she might be ten, her education is not as high as that of a ten year old here, and in fact I need to tailor my letters to maybe a six year old.

I am aiming now for simple letters which are pretty and fun.  I think I will be moving more towards cards rather than my two page letter which no doubt leaves her (and the Action Aid workers) very, very confused!

So, Valentines Day is coming up and I stood in front of all those red and pink cards with declarations of love.  Urgh!  I so need a boyfriend or lover who might send me cards and flowers.  But anyway, a card possibly without a declaration of anything, but something fun.  I think I found a good one.

Now sending gifts is highly discouraged but I hear rumour that some sponsors do send little presents and these heart stickers from Paperchase seemed ideal (and I purchased 64 of them so that her friends can have them too).

Letter writing is still hard.  I kept this letter pretty simple.  I have plans for an Easter card and another fun project too.  Details next month, and the month after that, and the month after that too.

 

~ Pru

Are you following me on Twitter or Pinterest?  If not, then click on the links.  It would make my day, possibly my week too!

The Post That Haunted Me

Did the title get your attention?  Good.  Do you feel my pain?  Have you ever known that you need to do something but you just don’t know how?  This is what this post was like for me. I was haunted by it.  I put it on my blogging to-do list and my normal to-do list and my weekend to-do list, but each time, I never crossed it out.  And it took me ages to write and then re-write as I didn’t want it to come across as ‘preachy’.  I hate preachy.  I stop listening when it becomes preachy.

But enough is enough.  I’m even being chased by people for it.

The other week I took the day off from work, I had a well needed lie in and then applied my makeup properly – powder, blush, eyeliner, eyeshadow and mascara – and then I straightened my hair and got on the train to Waterloo.  Turns out that I don’t read a tube map as well as I thought, and went the wrong way and then in the wrong direction before finally making it to Farringdon.  I had aimed to arrive early and look around Farringdon but there was no time.  Hot and flustered I arrived at Action Aid’s central office, but was quickly welcomed and offered tea and water and cake.  Such gorgeous cake too, put some of my offerings to shame!

Now I knew some of the names of people attending, I had been part of a couple of Twitter conversations and that morning had been woken up by someone tweeting me, but I didn’t know them.  And I admit that nerves got the better of me.  I sat at the back and listened but didn’t interact that well with other bloggers instead I spoke at length with Debbie who works for Action Aid.  She too sponsors a child and we had great fun swapping ideas and she was so kind to give me tips on what to write and more details on the charity.

The reason for taking the day off and attending the tea party was to learn more about Action Aid.  Mark Watson the comedian spoke but he was well and truly trumped by Lynn and Spencer (and I was so pleased that he was), a couple who don’t blog but who do sponsor a 13 year old boy called Malafani in Lesotho.  They had a wonderful slide show of photos that they took when they went out to Lesotho, and it was the small things from their chat which stuck with me.  How they love the boy and his family and their village so much, how they had been amazed by the welcome that they received on their visit, but how things were very basic, with the school at the top of a hill and catering for 90 children ranging in age from 5 to 15 in one tiny room.  The people in the village had very little but were being helped by Lynn and Spencer and other sponsors through Action Aid to make life better.

Whilst Lynn and Spencer (and I) have the name and photo of the child we sponsor, the money is put towards the community rather than to the individual child or their family.  And Action Aid aren’t going into their village and deciding what the village needs.  No.  Action Aid speak with the community to find out what they need.  A more personalised service if you like.  Need the school moved from the top of the hill (where at times it is inaccessible and teachers won’t work there) to the bottom of the hill?  Yes, Action Aid can help with that.  Need a well?  HIV & Aids awareness and assistance programmes?  Action Aid can help with that too.  In Malawi, the community needed a house built so that the community could retain a teacher to teach the children.  Some of the time its basic stuff that we take for granted that others really require.

I left the tea party with lots of ideas and safe in the knowledge that for me, sponsoring is a very good idea.  The money is helping the community where Gift lives and as far as I see it, any help to anyone who wants it can never be a bad thing.

I’m putting up a link to Action Aid here.  I’m no expert but if you ever think about sponsoring a child and want some advice from someone that does, then please contact me.

~ Pru

Are you following me on Twitter or Pinterest?  If not, then click on the links.  It would make my day, possibly my week too!

Action Aid’s Bloggers Tea Party

Do you remember in November when I wrote about how I am sponsoring a little girl in Malawi called Gift through Action Aid?  I write once a month to Gift and love everything about sponsoring her.  I keep a photo of her next to my desk at work and think about her very often, wondering what she is up to and how she is getting on at school and what life must be like in a country that until a little while ago I knew very little about.

There are so many ways to help charities, and one of those is by highlighting a charity and their cause by word of mouth, or on Twitter, Facebook or on your own blog.  I was so pleased to read on Twitter that Action Aid are holding a Bloggers Tea Party to get to know bloggers (who sponsor though Action Aid and those that don’t) and to highlight the work that Action Aid do and how we can help.

So, what are you doing on the 19th January?  I am now taking a day off from work, I plan a little shopping and maybe an early lunch before heading into a part of London that I’ve never been to before.  If you spot me with a map in one hand and a puzzled look on my face, please point me in the right direction!

Here are the details:

WHEN: 19 January 2012, from 1pm

WHERE: ActionAid London office, London EC1.

If you want to attend, space is obviously limited, register here. There’s also a small crèche facility, subject to numbers.

Action Aid will get back to you to confirm your place, in the meantime any questions tweet @ActionAidUK or connection via facebook.com/actionaiduk. You can also email at bloggers@actionaid.org.

Hope to see you there.

~ Pru

 

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