A young Kiwi student may never have realised his dream of studying for a career in architecture if an anonymous husband and wife in Wellington had not decided to support him through his formative years.
Despite working hard Daniel's (not his real name) parents, like many Kiwi families, struggled to make ends meet and were unable to pay for his basic school needs like uniforms, shoes, stationery and camp and sports fees.
When Matthew and Margaret Wilson (their names have been changed to protect privacy) decided to sponsor a child through the Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme (KKS) run by Variety, the Children's Charity, the couple offered Daniel an educational lifeline.
Daniel says the monthly sponsorship has given him opportunities he would never have had otherwise. In addition to their regular $50 per month, the Wilsons also paid for Daniel to attend an art design course during one of his summer holidays – an act of kindness that may change his life.
"That set me up well for doing art design in school," says Daniel. "Now I'm leaving school I plan to follow my dream of doing a Bachelor of Architecture (degree). I have so much to thank my sponsors for."
Daniel's story comes as Variety launched a campaign seeking sponsors for 600 children on its waiting list. CEO Susan Glasgow says since the pandemic started families living in hardship have been under even more pressure.
"Those who are already under considerable financial strain are feeling the impact of high inflation," she says. "Applications to Variety's KKS programme have increased steadily; poverty shouldn't keep a child from the classroom."
She says so many more children like Daniel face the same struggle. "For $50 a month, we can provide a school uniform, stationery and funding towards a digital device. These basic items go a long way to helping a child feel confident and able to learn."
The Wilsons decided to support a child through Variety after Margaret saw first-hand the plight of many struggling families in her role as a teacher aide.
"She saw kids missing out on the essentials and Variety appealed to us as a project rather than putting money into a white bucket in the street," says Matthew. "They give us regular updates and it feels more real.
"To be honest I have been amazed at how fine the margins are to get a kid across the line. For the sake of modest dollars kids get the opportunity to thrive - and it is very satisfying for us to see kids succeeding."
Wilson, who works in finance, says life has been good to him and Margaret (they have two adult sons aged 28 and 20 and an 18-year-old foster daughter) and the Kiwi Kid Sponsorship programme was a way for them to help someone else.
"We felt a real need to do this," he says. "If given an opportunity kids will tend to thrive and make real progress in their schooling. We wanted Daniel's family to know that communities matter and that others care about them even if they cannot be seen.
"We enjoy the success of Daniel's story and although we only know his christian name we have sent him notes (through Variety) wishing him all the best from time-to-time and have had cards back from him along with pictures he's done at school.
"It's a nice experience for a student to tell you – a stranger – of the progress they are making and the pleasure they gain from having the same opportunities as their peers."
Wilson says they decided voluntarily to increase their monthly sponsorship to $75 when Daniel got to secondary school and are pleased to know he is planning tertiary study.
"If you are reading this, it seems likely you are considering offering support to a child through Variety," he says. "We urge you to follow through and make it happen and open the door of opportunity to another child."
Daniel says the sponsorship has given him what he needed for school and extracurricular activities. "Playing sports helped me learn skills and make good friends that I still have today.
"I'd like to thank my sponsors for being so generous. They've always been really encouraging, telling me to keep up the good work and go for my dreams."
For those interested, 600 children are waiting for sponsorship. To sponsor go to: www.variety.org.nz/donate/sponsor-a-child/