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Celebrating the graduation of a sponsorship program

This Universal Children’s Day, our Canadian communications manager shares memorable moments from India

By Bonar Bell, communications manager, Canada

It was a 10-hour bus ride to Sivakasi, a community in southern Tamil Nadu, India, I visited as part of my time meeting and learning more about the children I write about as the communications manager at Christian Children’s Fund of Canada’s (CCFC) Canada office.

When I arrived, a CCFC child-sponsorship program was ending, after decades of community-development work, and children and families greeted me as they celebrated their success.

Twenty-three years ago, child labour was the norm in Sivakasi. Children as young as nine were working in firecracker and matchstick factories, trading their childhoods for a meagre income.

The practice of child labour was largely flying under the radar for years, until a bus accident killed several children coming home from work in the factory. In response, CCFC and local partner SPEECH began a program to end child labour in Sivakasi.

Fast-forward to today. After years of programmatic intervention, children in the village are no longer going to work, instead, they’re attending — and completing — school, furthering their education and enjoying meaningful careers.

Similarly, the majority of families are no longer struggling to survive. They don’t need to send their children to work, nor do they feel compelled to marry their children off at a young age. They understand the value of education.

In two days, I visited projects aimed at improving the life of community members in Sivakasi through early-childhood education centres, clean-water and sanitation projects as well as income-generating programs.

I was fortunate to celebrate the Sivakasi program graduation. Children and family members showered me in flowers, smiles and, of course, fireworks to show how excited they are to move into this new phase of life.

They no longer rely on donations, rather, they will continue to progress with their own resources. And, while it may be difficult for the children in the sponsorship program to say “goodbye,” they are so appreciative of those who brought positive change to their lives.

“I am so grateful for my sponsor,” expressed one emotionally-charged youth from CCFC's sponsorship program (pictured above, holding a photo from when she first joined the program). “Now, I can attend school, I can make friends and I have such a bright future.”

It was so meaningful to be part of the celebrations in Sivakasi. But, I couldn’t help but wonder what my sponsored child’s new CCFC community will look like in 10 years. After seeing what I have, I’m certain it will be filled with children who are healthy, nourished, educated and using their voices for change — and that’s exciting.

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About Christian Children’s Fund of Canada:

Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC) is a child-centred international development organization and a member of ChildFund Alliance. For nearly 60 years, CCFC has worked with children, communities, donors and other partners — changing lives through improved health, education and clean water. CCFC works in 12 countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas, to support more than 700,000 children, youth and community members.