In 1995, Evelyn’s mum made a decision that would change the future for her daughter – and for future generations. She decided to enrol Evelyn, who was nine years old, in Plan International’s child sponsorship programme in Uganda.
It was a decision that divided Evelyn’s parents. Aware that his daughter could bring in a dowry for the family, and uncertain what child sponsorship involved, Evelyn’s father was reluctant for her to take part. But her mum felt differently.
“She saw it as an opportunity to let me have a chance in life, bearing in mind the poor economic situation of my family,” Evelyn explains.
Through her sponsorship, Evelyn was able to access healthcare and get support going to school. She learnt to speak English and made friends with other sponsored children, and saw the impact of sponsorship extend far beyond the school grounds.
“It was amazing when I was enrolled on the scholarship programme. I was so happy to be in a town school, something I could never have hoped would happen to me.”
“Plan International improved the health of the community by constructing a health centre and establishing safe water sources,” Evelyn says.
“They also improved learning spaces through education programmes, constructing and equipping schools with learning materials and creating awareness about children’s rights through child protection programmes.”
Plan International supported Evelyn to continue her studies when she finished secondary school. Today she’s a trained primary school teacher – and is encouraging her students, and her three young children, to dream big for the future.
“My parents, especially my mother, do not regret the decision to enrol me in the sponsorship programme. It made me what I am today. I will never forget Plan’s role in my life.”
When you sponsor a child, you support the entire community to lift themselves out of poverty
Knowing someone, somewhere cares
The story of Plan International’s child sponsorship programme began in 1937.
This was the year John Langdon-Davies, a British journalist and broadcaster, decided to act, after witnessing first-hand the impact of the Spanish Civil War and seeing the children it had left vulnerable or orphaned.
In response, he founded the Foster Parents Scheme for Children in Spain, the organisation that would later become Plan International.
He asked people to donate, so they could provide food, shelter, and education to the children in Spain.
He also asked them to write letters and send photos, so each child would know that someone, somewhere was thinking about them – and what we now know as child sponsorship was born.
Creating lasting change
Today, our sponsorship work takes place in some of the world’s poorest communities across Asia and Africa, as well as in Central and South America.
We work with local partners to provide access to the essentials children need to have the best chance in life, to promote children’s rights, and to secure equality for girls.
From our years of experience, we know that to truly transform a child’s life, you have to look at the needs of their community and their country.
That’s why sponsors help to fund sustainable, community-based development projects, from building schools and digging wells to training teachers and providing life-saving vaccinations.
It’s also why we make sure sponsored children and their families are involved in planning, creating and making decisions about our programmes.
Not only does this ensure they have a lasting impact, it also gives children the chance to learn new life skills that they can take with them into the future.
Sponsorship: giving every child a chance
When you face poverty or violence, the odds are stacked against you. When you’re a girl, it’s even harder to be safe, to be in school and to be in charge of your body.
When you become a sponsor, you help give a child the chance to defy the odds – and transform daily life for entire families and communities through:
In Haiti, a boy takes part in a carnival to raise awareness of children's rights.
Elizabeth’s journey as a sponsored child has taken her through school and into work – and given her the confidence to become a gender equality champion, spreading the word about girls’ rights in Guatemala.
“My parents always said that their children would have the opportunities they didn’t have,” explains Elizabeth, who became a sponsored child when she was six years old.
“They didn’t have the same chances we did due to the lack of resources, and because it wasn’t considered important for girls to go to school.”
Through Plan International, Elizabeth and her younger sisters learnt about girls’ rights. Our classes also enabled her to talk about subjects that were previously considered taboo in her family.
“When my mother started puberty, no one told her about the things she would experience – she was so scared. So when I became a teenager, she made sure she told me about the changes that my body would undergo. But she didn’t tell me anything about sex,” Elizabeth says.
“I first learnt about sex education and reproductive health from Plan International. It was only then that my mother and I were able to openly talk about these issues.”
Importantly, this knowledge empowered Elizabeth to make choices about her future and to understand the impact of getting married and having children while she was still young.
“I have learnt a lot about my rights and responsibilities, about what I am able to do and the opportunities I have if I don’t marry young,” she says.
“I have learnt how to say no and know that nobody has the right to force me into doing anything I don’t want to do. I have the knowledge to understand the kind of life I want for me and my family.”
As a gender equality champion, Elizabeth and her friends travel to different communities in Guatemala, talking about the issues that affect girls in their country – including violence and child marriage.
“Getting involved with Plan International is a great way to help the lives of young people,” she says. “It opens the door to different opportunities and helps parents support their children.
“I have seen for myself how adults have changed their minds significantly regarding the importance of education for girls and that women have the same rights as men. We are the voice of all the girls we meet.”
Below: In Uganda, we’re working to improve primary education and child protection systems, to ensure every child has the chance to go to school.
Tort was one of the first children in her village to become a sponsored child.
She received her first letter from her sponsors when she was ten years old. Today, she keeps it in a plastic cover to protect it and keep it safe.
“I would tell my sponsors what my village looks like and what I eat and do in my daily life,” she remembers.
Tort lives with her family in a small village in Cambodia. Although the country receives millions of tourists every year, Cambodia is still one of the poorest countries in the world, following decades of civil war.
But Tort is determined to make a success of her life: in ten years’ time she wants to be a high school teacher in her favourite subjects, English and Khmer literature.
“Tort is very motivated. Even when she had to herd the cows, she took along some books.”
Tort’s mother Kheny remembers her daughter, who was born with one arm, was often sad when she was younger, because she wanted to be like other children.
But now, Tort has decided to show everyone that she can do more than people thought she could. ‘I can still make it’ has become her motto.
Already a trained primary school teacher, Tort now has a job in a school library. With the money she’s earning, she’s supporting her parents and saving to continue her studies in the capital, Phnom Penh.
She also volunteers, teaching English to the younger children in her village three times a day.
“English is an important subject, it is the second language in this country,” Tort says. “With these lessons I want to give something back to my village, for having received so much in my life.”
Below: In Togo, Enock writes a letter to his sponsor.
In Uganda, Ronald grew up with his mother, two younger sisters and two younger brothers.
His father was still at college, and life was a struggle. Ronald wasn’t able to go to school and the family often didn’t have enough to eat, which took its toll on his health.
Then Ronald became part of our child sponsorship programme. He took part in a whole host of projects, from learning to promote good hygiene to raising awareness of the rights and responsibilities of children in his community.
And while materials like books, pens and mosquito nets made Ronald’s day-to-day life happier and healthier, he also saw everyone around him benefit.
A new toilet block and water tank were installed in the local school and hygiene improved amongst the children, creating a better learning environment and encouraging more children to join – and stay – in education.
Today, Ronald has built his own house on his parents' land. He’s studying for a degree in Development Studies, as well as managing a small piggery of twenty five pigs.
With the income from his piggery, he’s paying for his younger sisters and brothers to go to school and making sure his family have all the necessities they need at home – and his ambitions don’t stop there.
In the future, he wants to support other vulnerable children and young people in his community to access education and healthcare, so they can improve the standard of living for their families, just like he has.
“The generosity of my former sponsor has caused lasting improvements in my life, family and the entire community.”
Education means change. Parents who have been to school ARE MORE LIKELY to see its value for THEIR Children, helping to lift entire generations out of poverty.
Become a sponsor
Every day, amazing sponsors – people just like you – are giving children around the world the chance to grow up with the essentials they need to have a happier, healthier future.
From life-changing benefits such as a new classroom, a new well or access to vaccinations, to the inspiration children get from the letters they receive from their sponsors, there are so many elements that make sponsorship a magical experience.
Each child is usually sponsored until they turn 18, so many sponsors see their sponsored child right through childhood and into early adulthood, with regular updates, letters and photos to share along the way.
Some sponsors have even made the trip out to their child’s community, to see first-hand how their support is changing lives.
To find out more and to become a sponsor yourself, visit
In Sierra Leone, we’re helping girls, including 14-year-old Mbalu, to stay in school, by providing uniforms and educational materials. Child marriage is one of the reasons for the high drop-out rate for girls in the country.
Eliza Powell, Hannah Gurney
Eliza Powell (Evelyn and Ronald, Uganda), Stephan Rumpf (Tort, Cambodia), all other imagery Plan International
Created by Plan International UK
Published November 2018
In Cambodia, Metrey’s whole school has benefited from our support, with a refurbished library, new books and a new water pump, so children have clean drinking water.