Why sponsorship matters
The transformational sponsorship journey of a girl named Blessing.
“I got married late, when I was 35 years old. Then, two years after our wedding, God blessed us with our first kid,” says Blessing's 56-year-old mother, Naw Htoo Leh.
"We named her Naw Blessing Htoo as a symbol of God's mercy and blessing."
Blessing's father, Saw Khu Lar Htoo, is a Christian minister, and her mother, Naw Htoo Leh, is a community healthcare volunteer and deputy leader of the Village Development Group in her village, West Thayet Kone, in Hmawbi Township, Yangon Region.
Since she was 4 years old, Blessing has been a World Vision sponsored child. She is now 18, and her 16-year-old sister, Naw Blessing Sae, is also a sponsored child.
Blessing used to be a shy girl who was uncomfortable in social situations.
“In my earlier years as a sponsored child, I recall that we had to have our photos taken for the sponsorship programme every year."
"As I was afraid of people, my mum always had to accompany me to the photo shooting event, and I always cried at the event and never did a pose for the photos,” says Blessing.
“Being a World Vision sponsored child, I became a member of our village child group and had opportunities to participate in many child group activities such as drawing and photo-taking events at Christmas time every year,” says Blessing.
“I learned about child protection and child rights, thanks to World Vision’s awareness sessions conducted in collaboration with the Village Development Group."
"I was also very happy because I had received letters of love and encouragement from my sponsor. My sponsor wrote in the letters that he wanted to help vulnerable children around the world so that they could live in a better and safer world."
"He also encouraged me to do what is right, not what is easy. His words inspired me and I always keep these words in mind.”
Blessing not only received letters from her sponsor, but also got a bicycle which made a huge difference in her school life.
“Until Grade 8, I had to walk to school, and it took about 45 minutes to get to school from my home."
"Then I received a bicycle from my sponsor when I was in Grade 8, and I was no longer late for school and could get to school on time," says Blessing.
As a child group member, Blessing participated in a variety of child group activities and events organised by World Vision.
In 2016, when she was in Grade 8, she and 100 other children took part in the 2016 YKK Asia Group Kids Football Clinic, which was organised by YKK Holding Asia and the Real Madrid Foundation to support children’s healthy growth through sports.
“With the arrangement of World Vision, along with some 100 children from World Vision’s Yangon Area Programmes, I had a chance to participate in that children’s football activity where we had to play as a group of four or five children each under the supervision of a coach from the world-renowned Real Madrid Football Club. It was a fun activity and we even got photographed at the press conference of the event,” says Blessing.
Blessing also participated in child and youth forums where she gained more confidence in her ability to communicate well with others and speak in public without fear.
“At a Yangon Zone Children and Youth Forum organised by World Vision, a role-play on family relationships that I wrote the script for was presented by children, and I was very happy and felt valued,” says Blessing.
“Throughout Grade 9 and 10 of my school years, I participated as an emcee at the Universal Children’s Day event held at a music school in our community.”
This was such a change for Blessing.
“I was afraid of people and never dared to speak in front of adults before. After getting involved in variety of child group activities, I have become more confident in myself and can communicate well with peers as well as with adults,” says Blessing.
With an affectionate smile, Blessing’s mother, Naw Htoo Leh says, “My daughter has become more interested in acquiring knowledge and skills such as computer and foreign language training.”
“After taking part in the child group activities, she has gained more self-confidence and good interpersonal skills. And she has become more ambitious regarding her future dreams."
With the support of the Village Development Group, Blessing had the opportunity to attend and complete computer courses such as Microsoft Office and advanced Excel.
With her computer skills, she is helping with designing and arranging worship programmes at her church.
She is also a Sunday school teacher and leads praise and worship programme for children not only at her church but also at nearby churches.
“I'm really glad that I can help with my knowledge and skills in my church activities and child development activities, such as video and photo production-related children’s activities, night study sessions and community clean-up programmes."
"In September 2021, I took children’s photos and videos for the International Day of Peace celebration requested by World Vision’s peace project,” says Blessing.
Blessing actively participates in social and cultural events such as Kayin New Year and Independence Day celebrations by singing at these events.
As she is good at singing, nearby churches have even invited her to sing for Christmas programmes at their churches.
Becoming a child activist
Blessing’s progress as an active child leader has paved a way for her to step up to regional and global events like the World Vision Asia Pacific Advocacy Forum, World Vision Asia Pacific’s Unmasking 11: Childhood Lost report launch and the 48th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council where she presented, as a child representative from Myanmar, about the issues and challenges facing children in Myanmar.
“I feel really glad and proud to be able to attend these important international events as a child representative for my country."
"It was a huge privilege for us because I could raise the issues and challenges facing children in Myanmar such as child marriage, the impact of COVID-19 on children, and the deteriorating economic situation of vulnerable families,” says Blessing.
“It is a great blessing for me to be a sponsored child because sponsorship has not only benefited me but also become a blessing for the children in my community through my involvement in child group activities.”
And Blessing is not alone.
“I have a friend who as well is a World Vision sponsored child,” she says.
“He once told me that he wanted to learn English so badly after meeting with his sponsor because he wanted to communicate with his sponsor directly. He was very happy meeting with his sponsor.”
Blessing is now participating as a member of the Child Protection Advocacy Group (CPAG) in her village, which is supporting the child group in collaboration with the CBO concerning child group activities, child protection and child rights issues in the village.
She recently managed the design and production of a calendar that aims to raise funding for the child group. All the photos used in the calendar were taken by her.
The blessing of child sponsorship
Blessing has a compassionate heart for other children to be able to be blessed through sponsorship programme like her.
“If all the other vulnerable children could have the blessing of child sponsorship, families who are struggling to make ends meet would be able to send their children to school."
"Families would be able to live a better life, and children would become more sociable individuals who could become a great contribution to their communities."
"And they would become advocates for children in their communities by speaking out with confidence about children’s rights and needs,” says Blessing.
The Village Development Group in West Thayet Kone Village plays a critical role in Blessing’s life progress as well as in the lives of other children and families in the community.
World Vision helped establish the Village Development Group, a community-based organisation, in 2013 and it now has 13 members.
In collaboration with World Vision, the group is working on issues related to maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH), livelihoods and child protection in the village.
“We were able to provide some vulnerable households, including female-led households with livelihood support such as chickens, pigs, and cows for breeding so that they could earn income for their families."
"Regarding child protection issues in the community, if any issue arises, we report it to World Vision."
"With the support of World Vision, we also conduct child protection and child rights awareness sessions in the village,” says Than Than Htwe, 56, a member of the Village Development Group.
“We have established a community fund with which we provide support for the education of vulnerable children including Blessing in our village such as school uniforms, textbooks, notebooks and stationery."
"We were able to provide hand pumps for 20 households who had faced difficulty in getting water and 11 toilets for needy families."
"We have also provided food support for vulnerable families and nutrition support for children as part of the community COVID-19 response. We have 100 World Vision sponsored children in our village.”
World Vision Hmawbi Area Programme was established in 2005 with funding support from World Vision Hong Kong benefitting over 3,000 sponsored children and their families, focusing on sectors such as Health, Nutrition and WASH, Livelihood, Education and Child Protection.
“I feel like God is working through World Vision in the lives of children including my two daughters in our community."
"I have witnessed how my daughter, Blessing, has been progressing throughout these years since she was first sponsored by World Vision,” says Blessing’s father, Saw Khu Lar Htoo.
“She has had many opportunities to participate in the events for children and trainings organised by World Vision which has made her into a self-reliant and self-confident girl she is today."
"I see World Vision’s sponsorship programme as a programme that is laying a foundation not only in my daughter’s life but also in the lives of other sponsored and vulnerable children in our community so that they can make their dreams come true with self-confidence.”
Blessing is now a fresher at the University of West Yangon. Universities have been closed for over a year due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and current unrest in the country.
Come what may, Blessing is determined to continue her education to be able to make her dreams come true.
"My dream is to become a singer and to do child protection works. My life has been transformed because of World Vision and now I am confident in achieving my dreams," says Blessing.
"Thank you World Vision for supporting me throughout my transformational development journey since I was four years old."
"Due to World Vision’s capacity building programmes, knowledge and behavioural change trainings and awareness sessions, I have gained confidence to make use of my talents which God has entrusted to me to serve vulnerable children and needy people."
"I will continue to help empower children in my community as well as in my church to get a better life as I have achieved through World Vision’s sponsorship programme."