A child whose mum died then his house burned down was among those in the Pacific given a brighter future by Crown Worldwide NZ Ltd.
The company sponsored 13 children in Fiji and Tonga for two years through The Salvation Army’s Child Sponsorship programme. Crown was the first New Zealand business to sponsor children through the programme, with each branch sponsoring an individual child to go to school.
In Tonga, Regional Sponsorship Secretary Captain Malia Siufanga said seven children had been sponsored by the company, with its support covering their school fees, uniform, books and other stationery. This was a huge relief for families who faced the prospect of not being able to send their children to school.
If they weren’t going to school, Malia said the children would be selling peanuts or other goods on the side of the road to scratch out a living, and without the education they faced the prospect of extremely low wage work as an adult. ‘If you don’t go to school you end up cleaning in the market or working on a farm.’
For one child and his father the sponsorship came at an especially hard time in his life. ‘His mother died and their house burned down. The Salvation Army helped them with clothes and things and I asked him, “Do you go to school?” He said, “No.” Once we got him sponsored he was able to go and buy a school bag. The other children, when they saw him in his uniform with his bag, said, “Oh, you must be rich,” and he said, “I’m rich in God, The Salvation Army helped me.’ The boy had gone on to be in the top half of his class at school, Malia said.
Another child’s parents had died and they had been taken in by their aunt. ‘She has six children and she’s taken in four extra children. It’s been so helpful for them to have support for his school costs. We also support the family.’
Territorial Sponsorship Secretary Major Helen Knowles said the Army was extremely grateful for the support. Being sponsored gave the children much brighter prospects for the future. ‘It’s a big encouragement and a weight off their shoulders for their family and it has a big impact on the children as well—it gives them a boost in self-confidence to know someone cares and is supporting them.’
The company’s sponsorship ends this month, but Helen said the Army would continue to ensure Crown’s children were looked after. She is keen to hear from anyone who was interested in sponsoring a child.