Since the earliest days of Lesedi, it has been apparent that some families are unable to pay even the nominal school fees of US$34 per term. To continue at school, many of the children need financial support.
To address this issue, we introduced a sponsorship program for children requiring assistance. The program started in early 2018 and immediately made a dramatic difference. Many of the children attending Lesedi Primary School face considerable struggles and challenges in their day to day lives and without sponsorship their education would be extremely limited, with most not able to complete primary education. Sponsorship gives them a unique opportunity to improve their circumstances in life.
Initially we restricted the program to those children in most need. However, the deteriorating economic situation in Zimbabwe means that nearly everyone is now struggling, so we are continuing to expand the program and envisage arranging sponsorship for most of the pupils.
Financially, sponsorship covers the cost of school fees, breakfast and lunch each day and uniform. The fee includes a contribution to our welfare fund, enabling us to arrange medical care and ongoing treatment for pupils with health issues, who otherwise wouldn’t be seen by a doctor. However, the benefits of sponsorship are proving to be far broader and deeper than the financial support alone. The relationship between each child and their sponsor, with the realization that they are valued and loved, is proving to be the biggest gift of all.
How to sponsor a child
Please contact Fiona if you are interested in sponsoring a child at Lesedi. We will provide details of a suitable child, including a photo and some background information.
Sponsorship costs $25 per child per month for our USA supporters. In the UK the cost is £15 per month, assuming we can reclaim gift aid. It is possible to make one annual payment if preferred.
We endeavour to make the sponsorship experience as personal as possible. The children write to their sponsors (or the younger ones do a drawing) once per term. Mostly we send these notes/drawings by email to minimize costs. However, we normally send a card and photo at Christmas by regular mail. We encourage sponsors to write if they wish to do so. Our pupils love to hear from their sponsors, who they call their “special friends”. Exchanging letters and photos is a great way to build a relationship with your sponsor child.
We obviously hope each sponsor will build a long-term relationship with their sponsor child and continue sponsorship for many years, but we recognize that circumstances change over time. Should a sponsor decide not to continue, we would ensure another sponsor is found for that child. There is certainly no obligation to continue sponsorship throughout a child's education!
How does it really work?
We are sometimes asked how sponsorship really works, rather than the "marketing spin". There can be an initial assumption that sponsorship is just a good fundraising tool or that several sponsors are allocated to each child. This is certainly not the case at Lesedi. Each child is matched with just one sponsor and we encourage a relationship to build between them over time. Some of our sponsorships are arranged on behalf of children or grandchildren of sponsors, with the kids becoming pen pals.
Although it is possible that a child would remain in school without sponsorship, attendance is likely to be intermittent as the family try to find school fees each term. The child would also be attending school in the knowledge that their education is unlikely to continue past primary level. Just weeks after introducing the sponsorship program at Lesedi, one of the newly sponsored Grade 4 girls tugged at Fiona's sleeve as she walked through the class taking photos. She stopped and crouched down, anticipating a request for a photo. Instead, in a soft voice and perfect English the girl thanked her for the school, the computer classes and the chance of an education. The children instinctively understand the opportunity that sponsorship gives them.
A book that made a big impression on us recently is "I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives" by Caitlin Alifirenka, Liz Welch, and Martin Ganda. This is the true story of an all-American girl and a boy from Zimbabwe who started a pen pal friendship which changed both of their lives. The story demonstrates what an incredible difference it can make to have a helping hand in life and someone "in your corner".