Nine network personality and World Vision Goodwill Ambassador Livinia Nixon shares her Chosen story.
As a child, my brothers and I were often joined at the dinner table by interesting people - artists, sportspeople and one evening, refugees from Vietnam.
My parents wanted to instil an idea of giving back, so they were always hosting people with interesting stories to tell and we met so many people from backgrounds much more challenging than our own.
Our family always sponsored children through World Vision, which was something I wanted to continue with my children and husband. We’ve had a few sponsor children which has been an invaluable learning experience for our sons Henry, 10, and Ted, 7.
Our boys are so lucky. They want for nothing. So, to be able have those conversations with them about other people who aren’t so fortunate, and who need to feel loved and wanted, even if it’s from the other side of the world … it’s really important. Over the years we’ve formed a connection with a girl from Haiti called Tamenlove, and we also sponsor a girl from Sri Lanka called Tekla.
And now with COVID-19 devastating already vulnerable countries around the world, I felt an obligation to do more. After making that decision, a wonderful thing happened.
From 10,000kms away, a 13-year-old girl in Zambia called Annia chose me to be her sponsor!
Annia found me as part of a radical new way of sponsoring children called "Chosen".
Instead of Australians picking a child through profiles at a World Vision stand at a shopping centre or on their website, children can now choose their own sponsor.
I felt quite emotional when I saw the video of her at a ‘choosing party’, where children are given a host of sponsors to connect with and Annia felt a connection with me. Annia says she thought I looked ‘kind’ and I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I saw she likes maths – well, that makes one of us!
In Zambia, there are many challenges for girls like Annia - including limited access to clean water. Only 65 per cent of people can access safe drinking water, but before the aid organisation arrived, it was even less in her area (44 per cent).
As a mum, I find it devastating that nearly 10 per cent of kids under five in the country die from diarrhoeal diseases.
Children often have to walk an average of 4km a day to fetch water and many are at risk of sexual abuse on these long walks. It’s unthinkable. Thanks to the work of World Vision, life in communities like Annia’s is improving.
Water and sanitation projects in recent years have meant nearly two thirds of households in her area are able to use an improved drinking source. Girls are being shielded from sexual abuse because the boreholes are within 500m from their homes.
When the time is right, these are the kinds of discussions that I will have with Henry and Ted.
Child sponsorship has prompted us to look more into the countries that vulnerable children live in and discuss the issues they face, the foods they would eat, and explain that sometimes they don’t even have enough food to eat.
We’ve also shared that sometimes children even need to work to supplement their parents’ income - a whole range of issues that haven’t even occurred to my boys.
You can see the surprise on their faces to hear that other children in the world aren’t as fortunate as they are. They just assume that everyone lives like them.
What I really like about Chosen is how World Vision has flipped a sponsorship model that has been so successful. It puts the power back into the child’s hands. And perhaps that child hasn’t had a lot of choices in life – a life constrained by poverty or circumstance.
COVID-19 has really widened that gap between the haves and the have nots. That’s why it’s even more important to step up and help others. We have all been affected, but some have been far more affected than others. We are in the position to help. We all need to look after each other.
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