Normally a generous individual or a family would approach us and say they would like to sponsor a boy or girl at a certain age. Some want to sponsor a child or a few children at the same age as their own so they could be pen pals. Some friends just ask us to chose a needy child ourselves and they would sponsor him or her throughout the schooling. Depending of the age of the child, sponsorship could be for a few tears, five years or seven years.
We do not encourage anybody to sponsor a child just for one year because at the end of the year, the child would be heartbroken with no support to continue with his studies, also during the current recession it would be difficult for us to find another sponsor for him after a year.
Some of our friends who had started sponsoring a child when they were at school are now more than happy to continue their funding throughout their university education. In fact we have three very poor medical students supported by such friends.
Occasionally, somebody contacts us saying they don’t want a long term commitment but prefer to sponsor a child just for a year. In such cases, we find a bright child who is struggling in his A/l year because of financial problems at home. With this one-year sponsorship he would be able to study hard for A/L and get good results. One such child we have helped last year has got 4 A grades last month and have been selected for the University.
I am sorry to say that a few of our sponsors who had committed to long term sponsorships have dropped out half way through due to the recession. We have put those children back on our waiting list currently numbering about 30. Once a would be sponsor tells us the age of a child they prefer to sponsor we go through our waiting list to find a “match” for them. If we were asked to choose any child we would select the one who has been waiting longest.
The children on our waiting list have already filled in the applications so we know their circumstances and tragic stories. However, if they have been waiting for more than 6 months, we would ask them to fill a fresh application and get it signed by the school Head Master. This way we know they are genuinely poor and bright children that need help. We send all this information to the would be sponsor and if he is happy, he then sends us £90.
Once I have received the funds, I would send it to our Galle Seylan account via CEC bank in London, which charges us only £5. (High street banks charge around £25 to send funds to Srilanka).
We used to credit a whole years’ money straight in to child’s account. We no longer do that since two unscrupulous parents withdrew all the money at once and stopped child attending the school. Now we would credit them only the monthly allowance.
We get the child’s guardian to open a savings account with Seylan Bank.
Once the account is opened, we would credit 1000 rupees a month to his/her account. We also buy them a birthday present and a card with the money. For a girl, it could be a brand new dress she could only dream of.
We do not impose any conditions, except asking children to write to the sponsor at least once a school term. Sponsors or their children could write direct to the child and the family, but we advise them not to put their address on. Otherwise, in some cases, you would be inundated with begging letters from the family and also from the neighbours. It is always advisable to receive children’s replies via UKFG. Some would write in English, but for others, our field girl Najila would translate the letters and send the original and the translation to the sponsor.
Once the sponsor’s money is due for the second year we would send a reminder.
Occasionally, we get to hear that a child has stopped going to school or have been given a grant by the government or another has given him a grant. In such situations, we would inform the sponsor and stop the scholarship. We would find a new child from our waiting list for the sponsor.
You have other ways helping children. Many children go to school bare foot or in slippers because their parents cannot afford to buy shoes for them. When well-to-do class mates come to school in smart uniforms and polished shoes these children feel inadequate, isolated and sad. We buy brand new pairs of shoes for such children who has never been able to buy one before. We buy school equipment and books. Since Galle Tsunami children are well looked after now, we have moved in to rural Srilanka where poverty is unbelievable. Now our mission is to help the village schools that are under the constant threat of closure. Thanks to generosity of wonderful UKFG members like Nicky Pharoah- Colin Newbold, Neil Carson (Chief Executive at Johnson Matthey) , Sam Connelly (Australia) and Alan Hutchison (London) who has donated £6000 or more each we have so far built four different libraries and donated then to school with books. These library has become the life line of the school and also revitalised the local community. We hope some of you would donate similar sums to us to build more libraries and help village communities to thrive.
Over the last few years, more than a dozen of our sponsors have taken their annual holidays in Srilanka and met the children they sponsor and participated in our annual get together in August. They all have told me that Srilanka is a beautiful country and they have thoroughly enjoyed their trip. Valerie Chittenden has visited the country 4 times and Gill Budd twice.
Who knows, next summer you could be going there with us.
-Devsiri and Ruvini Hewavidana-