About this time last year, to help assauge the guilt of getting a generous payrise I felt was grossly undeserved, I decided to channel a little of my fatter pay packet into sponsoring a child through the Smith Family's Learning for Life program.
My $35 a month helps a low-income family pay for things like school uniforms, excursions, books, music and sports activities, the sort of stuff that can help kids to feel like they fit in and to enjoy being at school. It also helps to fund literacy programs and mentoring support.
I am on to my second sponsor child (the first left the program due to improved circumstances). His name is Jamie and he's in year 9. This morning I opened a letter from The Smith Family which enclosed his updated student profile. It lists things like his favourite subjects, books and movies and what he likes to do in his spare time.
Under "I would like to tell my sponsor that...", Jamie has written "I'm very happy with my life". It makes me tear up a little when I read that.
If anyone reading this wants to put some money towards a good cause, please consider becoming a Learning for Life sponsor (or making a donation). It really costs very little - less than the price of a meal at a nice restaurant each month - but the difference it can make is enormous. It's an Australia-wide program and it provides support for children from pre-school age right through to university.
The thing I like about Learning for Life is that it's preventative and built on the premise that education is the best way of breaking the cycle of poverty. It helps to prevent kids from underprivileged backgrounds ending up under-educated, unemployed, alienated and worse. It gives them a real chance of reaching their potential and leading happier, healthier and more financially secure lives.
If you need more convincing:
* Every year of schooling completed increases adult wage by about 10%;
* Poverty rates among those aged over 15 decline sharply as education qualifications increase;
* Young people aged 16-18 who are not participating in education are more likely to experience depression and poor physical health by 21;
* The rate of Learning for Life students progressing from Year 10 to Year 12 continues to rise - from 44% in 2005 to 53% in 2007; and
* In 2008, more than 50% of Learning for Life students who completed Year 12 progressed to tertiary studies, up from 21% in 2005.
Imagine thinking you would never be even finish high school and then getting to go to uni! Being a part of that really is an amazing feeling.
You can read some real-life case studies here.