There has never been a more important time to sponsor a child in Zimbabwe.
According to UNICEF since 1990, the under-five mortality rate in Zimbabwe has risen 50 per cent, and one in five Zimbabwean children are now orphans – a result of the severe HIV/AIDS crisis affecting the country. In Zimbabwe, a child dies every 15 minutes from HIV/AIDS.
Christian charity World Vision, one of the world’s leading relief and development agencies, has developed a child sponsorship scheme which links people in more affluent countries with individual children in developing countries around the world, including Zimambwe.
Participants in the programme say that becoming a child sponsor is a meaningful and rewarding experience for both the child and the sponsor.
The scheme is simple and easy to join. Would-be-sponsors select online, from the World Vision website, where they would like to sponsor a child – for example in Zimbabwe. The web site then brings up the details of a child according to the criteria that the would-be-sponsor specifies, with a picture, details of their age, hobbies and situation.
If the sponsor wishes to go ahead, the sponsorship can begin right there in then. Sponsors fill out a form and a direct relationship is set up between the sponsor and the child in Zimbabwe.
Sponsors are sent an information pack with further details about the child in Zimbabwe. The sponsor can, in turn, then communicate with the child directly by sending letters and cards.
The charity keeps the sponsor updated on the work that is being carried out in the child's community in partnership with local people. Sponsors receive annual reports on the progress of the child, including such information as how they are getting on at school.
The sponsor's support provides the essentials a child needs to survive such as clean water, basic healthcare and enough food. It also provides an education to try to break the cycle of poverty in Zimambwe.
But, the charity points out, the direct relationship between the sponsor and the child also gives the child hope through the knowledge that someone cares. Although each is of course different, every sponsored child has one thing in common says World Vision - the knowledge that someone thousands of miles away cares enough about their future to help them.
Child sponsors say that it is also far more rewarding than simply giving an anonymous donation; "I have been amazed by the way the rewards far exceed the contributions I send. Watching my sponsored child grow and flourish is every bit as exciting and wonderful as watching my own children and grandchildren mature" one sponsor said.
"We've given money to charity before, but this is different because you see the person that you're helping; they're not a number or a faceless person, they're real" said another child sponsor.
Child sponsorship is also entirely affordable, and shows how a little money can go a long way. Child sponsorship costs just 60p a day, which World Vision points out is the price of a bottle of mineral water or a can of soft drink.