Many people have a dream that the child they sponsor in Africa is going to be the next president or the one who brings electricity to their village, or perhaps one who becomes an internationally-renowned artist or popstar. Often, though, sponsorship stops or you lose contact with the child you sponsored or simply you can no longer afford to continue sponsoring, as fees increase or your own circumstances change.
Often the intermediary organisation is less than transparent about the money that is paid over to them, or they refuse to connect you to the sponsored student for fear of losing their “commission” or because they do not wish you to know what their commission is.
Chrysalis is a new system from Social Enterprise Africa, which tries to increase the social impact achieved through child sponsorship, by firstly finding children who have ideas about how they can change their community living in communities with an interest in development, then showing them how other communities have achieved similar goals, then helping them be the catalyst to achieve those goals over a period of years.
While they participate on our project, which we call the Butterfly Project, as well as supporting members in a good school, they are trained in a range of different areas:
- Ethics, through a specially-designed Ethics curriculum
- Empathy, by supporting them in the delivery of activities to their peers
- Vision development, through activities, which show the path from where they are now, to where they might be
- Communication, by training all members in ICT and linking them to specially-chosen mentors around the world
- Project Management, by developing a long-term project with them, which impacts a community
- Accountability and transparency, by involving them in financial management within our project
- Creativity and problem-solving, through “thinking” sessions and other confidence-building sessions
- Entrepreneurship training, through participation in small businesses, such as poultry rearing or liquid soap manufacture
- Specialist poverty alleviation training through agriculture for rural members living in remote villages
- International citizenship, by discussion of international issues, such as women’s rights and biodiversity
- Activism, by teaching them how young people can make a difference in the world, showing them examples like ten year old Yvonne Namaganda
Chrysalis takes a view that it is individuals that change our society, through their vision, inspiration to others, drive and ability to solve problems and so this is the ethic that they train in their “transformative” programme. Members are rewarded for initiative and encouraged to bring solutions, not problems and in this way the members come to realise their place in the transformation of their communities, usually remote villages or impoverished slum districts. They are expected too to deliver a project that they devise themselves, which historically has been anything from an athletics club to an ICT training programme for their peers.
How sponsorship works is a little different, as it is open ended. Sponsors are encouraged to club together into syndicates to support the development of the young person and their village environment. They can communicate regularly through Skype and send money over for specific village or slum initiatives undertaken by the young person, who can then record the activities on camera and post them on a community web-site, such as Citizen Media. On this site, the member will post the ideas they have for their village and people around the world will be invited to comment, but new ideas will be developed alongside the Uganda staff team, for costing and assessment of potential effectiveness.
While some ideas could be related directly to poverty alleviation, others could be about children’s activities in a village or slum area, or perhaps a long-term music project, where young people can learn and earn by performing at special events like weddings. The opportunity is there for the syndicate to help foster the development of the individual’s skills and talents but also to enable them to support real projects, reacting to contemporary problems. For instance, the Northern Uganda group are currently learning about nodding disease and will be taking information back to their villages during the school holidays, which could prevent future cases or help treat existing children suffering from the disease.
Each syndicate must pay a minimum amount each month, but clubbed together this could be less than £10/month. Syndicates could be set up in any gathering – workplaces, schools, churches, Lions clubs and the like – or a family could at a stretch take one on, if they are determined. Social Enterprise Africa offers this service voluntarily, so 95% of the money supported goes to Uganda (5% for bank transfer) and is split between school fees, support for the empowerment activities that take place and the core costs, such as internet and staff, roughly a third to each.
During a typical year, the members will visit different places and some specific skills, relevant to their environment. For instance, if there was a lot of nearby water, then fishfarming could be important to the economic empowerment of a community. In another area the problem was lack of firewood and so a member was sent on training about biogas installations, as this is another way to cook food, without the need for significant investment.
The intention is also to set up co-operatives in every village and slum community and specialist training is being lined up for this during 2012. Members will work with their own families in the development of the co-operatives and select the type of produce to grow, product to manufacture or service to deliver.
So, the sponsorship is taken to a new level and becomes less about the individual, than the people that they can impact or have access to. By teaching the child how to develop a village or raise standards in a slum, one can teach their peers, their parents and over time the vision is to impact large areas of rural Uganda and many slum districts.
“The children develop so much confidence from the programme, that they start to believe in themselves”, says Ben Parkinson, Director of Social Enterprise Africa. “And when you find children that have a passion to change the lives of others for the better, there is little more satisfying than giving them the chance to do just that.”
Peter (13), who features in all of the above photographs, is one of the project members and part of the Syndicate Sponsorship Programme.
More information about the Syndicate Programme can be found here.