Nicholas and Carren

Saturday 1484 – February 18th 2012

 Those of you that regularly follow my blog will know that it was my birthday last Saturday ( you can read about that day here ) and I decided I would do something  that I had been meaning to do again for a long time.

That something was sponsoring a child in another country.  It was a sort of birthday present to myself . I figured there was nothing I needed that badly and a child in another country probably needed everything very badly.

I first sponsored a child many years ago, back in the late 1980’s. His name was Nicholas Tiliokoi and he lived in Kenya. I kept one of his letters for the past 22 years which you can see below. I’ve often wondered what became of him.


I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to do this again but better late than never. Or is it?

The letter from Plan ( read about them here ) arrived yesterday. I had said I didn’t mind where the sponsored child was but I wanted it to be a girl because girls are still hugely discriminated against in the majority of countries in the world and rarely have the same opportunities as boys. It happened that the child I will be sponsoring is also in Kenya.

I was expecting to be pleased that I was giving a little girl a chance for a better life but instead I opened the letter with a heavy heart and shed tears for her and for all the other children and their families that still need this kind of help in Kenya and around the world 22 years on.

Below is a photograph of 10-year-old Carren the girl I will be sponsoring for the next few years.


In a way I feel sad that she has to pose for a photograph to be sent to a complete stranger but I fully intend to keep and maintain contact with her for as long as she would like; to try to build a more personal relationship; a 2 way process.

Am I being ridiculous or melodramatic when I say it feels just a little bit like modern-day child trafficking?  Probably.

All I can do is sincerely hope that there will be a good outcome for this child and her community unlike the outcomes we normally associate with child trafficking.

I wonder what your thoughts are on this?

I thought long and hard about revealing Nicholas and Carren’s details but I am hoping that they would understand my reasons for doing so are to raise awareness.

By coincidence this week , while I was waiting to get news of the child I was to sponsor , I happened to read a post on a blog I have been following for some time. The blog’s called Echwalu Photography and is written by Edward Echwalu a photojournalist. I commend his work to you and you can read his latest post here

I have to warn you that this does not make easy reading.  I thought my heart would break as I read it and the sense of helplessness was overwhelming.. those that know me know that injustice always drives me crazy. Edward’s post is very shocking but it’s important that these things are known.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t care so much..

See you next week.

Saturday Girl

 PS. The links are iffy again this week… they do work but you need to put your cursor a bit underneath the link to make it work.


You can see my photography blog Photomania here



Addendum  – added 28th february 2012 .. I emailed Plan to ask  the following :-

“I have just begun to sponsor a child and while I am pleased to be helping in a small way I do have some reservations.

The biggest being this – how do I know that the child I am supporting Carren (number here which I’ve left out)  is free to decide whether she has contact with me or not?

Can you advise how you choose the children?”

 This was their reassuring response :-

“Thank you for getting in touch and I hope I’ll be able to explain a little more about how the Plan sponsorship programme works.

 As with becoming a sponsor with Plan, for the families in the communities where we work becoming involved with the sponsorship scheme is completely voluntary. Whilst Plan encourages all sections of a community to actively participate in their own development plan, it is not compulsory. Our staff try to make the benefits and requirements of being part of the programme as clear as possible, so that expectations are kept realistic from the beginning.

At the beginning of our collaboration with a community, local Plan staff will have meetings with the community leaders, men, women, and children, to ensure that everyone is fully aware of what Plan is and what Plan may mean for them. We make it clear that the community will work together and benefit together, rather than only individually. In this way there is no pressure on children to sign up for the sponsorship programme if they are uncomfortable with it, because they and their family will still benefit from the projects undertaken in the community.

When choosing which children are to be sponsored, we aim to involve as many families as possible in the work that we are doing in their communities. However the reality is that not all children can be sponsored. As part of this, we encourage discussion of who may benefit most from being a sponsored child, so that the community themselves can decide on who should be chosen to participate directly in this way. Some of the factors taken into account include age and the relative wealth and status of the child’s family. Furthermore, it is ultimately down to the child and family themselves to choose to participate if the option is there, and some families simply prefer not to enter into this commitment.  

We put children’s voices at the heart of everything we do and we only ask children to write once to their sponsor, when the sponsorship link is first made. After this, we only ask children to reply if their sponsor writes to them first. Again, in no way would we want children to feel pressured or uncomfortable, and if they no longer want to participate in the sponsorship scheme then they are free to stop at any time.

Although Plan places great importance on a community-centred approach, a key benefit of sponsorship is that itemphasises the importance of children in societies that may not always recognise the contribution they can make to their own development. It reminds us to make sure they are included- from discussing a community’s problems to helping carry out the projects. Encouraging children to voice their opinions about how their communities should develop, and making sure these opinions are respected, is an essential part of sponsorship.

I hope my reply has been useful and has managed to put your mind at rest a little, however please do let me know if you I can be of any further help. Thank you also for linking your blog post; word of mouth is one of the strongest ways we spread awareness about our vital work. “

25 comments on “Nicholas and Carren

  1. […] I’ve talked about Charities I support – Wateraid, Tree Aid, the Samaritans, Mind and sponsoring a child through Plan. […]

  2. […] to a post of mine from back in February called Nicholas and Carren which I invite you to read here before reading on . It tells you about my previous sponsorship of Nicholas and my new sponsorship […]

  3. […] re Nicholas and Carren Post from 2 weeks ago which you can read hereI wrote to Plan about how they choose the children for sponsorship and I have added their reply to […]

  4. hellenjc says:

    For those following this post.. I emailed Plan to ask them a couple of questions.. I have put my email and their response at the bottom of the original post..

  5. mj monaghan says:

    I think it’s terrific that you’re doing this, Hellen. Anything to help the children who are the most in need. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this approach at all. We’ve sponsored kids before and they’re so thrilled that someone around the world is interested in their well-being (their words, not mine). Good post!

  6. mimo says:

    That is just a wonderful thing to do Hellen! Wish there were more people like you!

  7. munchow says:

    What you have done – and do – is such a beautiful act of humanity. I can understand your ambivalent feelings, but what really matters in the end is the fact that you are helping a girl who desperately needs help to get out of poverty and hardship. It’s not modern time child trafficking. I think it’s plain fantastic that you care so much.

  8. In our exhibition about author Jacqueline Wilson a part of it focuses on her novel “Hetty Feather” a Victorian child left by her mother at the Foundling Hospital in London. Wilson was inspired by an etching, contemporary of the time, showing wealthy Victorians passing through the dining hall of the hospital to look at the foundling children they were donating money for. A hundred and fifty years later and nothing has really changed.

  9. Britta-Karin Engberg says:

    Dear Hellen

    Now, I could very easily say that there is no likeness, but then I would disqualify your feelings and your problem. But you can reason about it and I think you might find that the likeness is very superficial in most cases. I suppose one can look at it like this: There might be a number of reasons for one to be a giver, but most of them are actually what makes human society tick and function. It´s about philantropy and the capacity for humans to care for individuals that aren’t part of ones own group. One might get the satsifaction of feeling that one is doing something good and beneficial, but is there really anything wrong with that? I think the problem here might lie in your? suspiscion that the children are expected to participate in a scheme, with reports,letters, pictures and such,even though they might not be that interested in a contact with a total stranger. So the question might more be – how can you ensure that the child you sponsor really are interested in maintaining the contact with you and show you all his or hers progress or lack of? Is there some way the child can chose not to keep that deep a contact and what might be the terms and limits in the “contract” between you and the child? In short, how free is your gift? I don´t know your thoughts, but these would some of the questions I would have considered to adress the problem of being a giver and sponsorer.

    For short, I suppose it´s about trying to think about how the child can feel about the whole thing and what can be done about it!

    Sincerely yours

    Britta-Karin Engberg

    • hellenjc says:

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Britta-Karin and you are right it is very hard to judge whether Carren would actually welcome contact or not, though it does say in her personal details which have been collected by a community volenteer that she would like to have contact so does that mean she was asked.. I wonder? There is also another document that comes from PLan which is entitled “Life through the eyes of children and families in Maranda” when the child lives. I will email the organisation and ask how free the child is to engage or not.

  10. […] can read my other blog 1500 Saturdays here    but I have to warn you that it doesn’t make easy reading this week. Rate this: Share […]

  11. […] also going to include today’s post from my fellow blogger in the UK.  She has decided to respond to suffering and injustice by sponsoring a girl in […]

  12. I have had some of the same concerns when I see photos of children put forth to tug on the heartstrings, but they are effective, and ultimately, that is a good thing. Carren’s life and future will be positively effected by your generous gift. That is a very good thing.

  13. scillagrace says:

    I, for one, am glad that you care so much. And I’m glad that you are telling people that you care. One hallmark of compassion is deciding not to look away. May compassion one day be as infectious as the worst epidemic, for suffering will always be with us.

  14. shobavish says:

    I think you’ve made the right call in writing about this and in an earlier post about It a Big Issue. These do not make comfortable reads and it does not always make sense to click the Like button. I struggle with striking the right balance between advocacy and preaching – let me just say, you have hit the right note with this spotlight on children who need sponsors.

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