As the end of the year approaches, it is natural to take stock of our lives and to count our blessings. Sitting here in Dakar, yet connected to the rest of the world through Plan International, my blessings are many. But this year, I take my inspiration from the children and sponsors with whom I have worked over the last 30 years.
Going into a new community, explaining Plan and sponsorship is not always easy. Sometimes, it takes several conversations to convince a village and the parents that this can be a positive thing for everyone. Whenever I visit a new community, I remember Oumar Sow. He and his family were the first to be enrolled in the sponsorship program in Senegal nearly 30 years ago. I’m not sure that anyone believed that all of the positive changes for the community would take place, but they did. Oumar was a pioneer, paving the way for all sponsored children in Senegal than, now and in years to come.
Khady Diop works with Plan in Senegal as a community health educator. She is also president of the health committee in FassNgom, a role usually held by men. It seems like only a few years ago, she was a sponsored child. Now, she is a mother and a leader, helping others. The pride I feel in her accomplishments is no less than if she were my own daughter.
Plan’s connection with children is special. Watching them as they learn to use their voices is almost magical. The children with their promise for the future, energy, and laughter are indeed what motivates me to do more.
A special source of pride for me is the changes child sponsorship can have on the parents, especially the mothers. Because of the relationship the community has with Plan, the women can access adult literacy programs, learning to read and write so they can better provide and care for their children. They are empowered, recognizing their and their children’s rights.
Through sponsorship, I feel connected to people in faraway places I only dream of visiting, because they support a child here in Senegal or across West Africa. The fact that individuals who are probably not wealthy have concerns about the well being of children in our countries is a real source of motivation for me.
American Mary Austin had no children of her own however she sponsored nine children with Plan, one in Senegal. When she died, she made provisions in her estate to continue to provide for her sponsored children, their families and communities. Her sponsored child in Senegal now attends university.
These sponsors are generous; they trust Plan to make a positive impact on their behalf in a child’s, indeed a community’s daily life. Every day when I come to work, this high level of trust from strangers inspires me to do as much as I can to improve the lives of children.
This connection, between children and people far away is something unique about Plan. It always amazes me how generous of spirit and support people can be. Over time, sponsor contributions really can make a difference in the life of a child and a community, which is why it's such a privilege to work for an organization like Plan.