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A supporter shares how little can be big in a child’s life

POSTED April 21, 2021

A supporter shares how little can be big in a child’s life

Find out how a family project to help others has multiplied into a legacy of hope that spans generations

By Brianne Binelli, digital content services manager, Canada

Donor kids around with her grandkids

Our supporters do more than help children access life’s essentials and go to school — they plant a seed that can blossom into something amazing.

Just ask Rita Steele. The mom, grandma and advocate for helping the vulnerable has sponsored children through Children Believe (formerly Christian Children’s Fund of Canada) for 55 years. And, despite hardships she and her husband faced raising a young family in a new country amidst illness and job uncertainty, they agreed child sponsorship would be a wonderful gift they could share with their kids.

“We wanted to do something that would educate our children about giving. They weren’t very old at the time — they were nine, seven and six — and they had a small allowance each week, so we decided to start sponsorship as a family project, and they would put a bit into it, too,” Rita recalls.

Her children still appreciate the profound life lesson, which their mom notes may have been born out of her life experiences.

How positive change blossomed out of a life-threatening accident

Growing up in London, England during the Second World War, Rita didn’t have it easy, but she appreciated what she did have. This was especially true after an accident with a pot of tea burned her so severely she was hospitalized for three months.

Unexpectedly, that accident saved her life.

She explains: “Like many British children, I was scheduled to be evacuated to Canada aboard the SS City of Benares.” Instead, she lay in a hospital bed, missing the ship, which was later torpedoed in the Atlantic, killing 81 children.

Rita’s family was shocked thinking what could have happened.

Sponsor as a child

Thankfully, the recovering patient could return to her studies, walking to school, then straight into air-raid shelters before settling in to lessons in concrete tunnels. “I realize what it must have been like for my poor mother because, I was the last of her children, and the others were all away in the services. It must have been quite hard for her to send me off to school in the mornings,” ponders Rita.

But, her mom was strong, opening up the family home to people on the street who needed help throughout the years. That message of hope and community connection made a lasting impact.

Sharing the joy of helping children reach their dreams through sponsorship

For Rita, her husband and kids, sponsorship became another source of connection. They all wrote letters (including grandma living in England) and shared updates while gathered for dinner. “The letters became like an extension of our family,” recalls the joyful supporter.

After nearly six decades, Rita has sponsored 10 children from around the world. She shares that the first child the family helped would be just over 60 now. “I’m here just looking at his picture; I’ve got all the records. His name was Koting Hay,” she says from over the phone from Niagara Falls, Ont. “I’ve got the names of all our sponsored children through 1966 up until now, so they’re all in my heart.”

Leaving a legacy of support makes a lasting difference in many lives

Rita is confident her gifts reach their destination, because she’s read about the difference the support is making in letters from children she’s helped. And, she wants those gifts to continue as her legacy. She made a small investment to Children Believe in the ‘90s, which will soon be maturing, and she’s shared her gift with us, along with her desire to ensure the children she sponsors receive support until they’re grown.

“For me, it’s very rewarding. Not many of us can make a great big impact in our lives, but if you can make some little small ones they can grow into big ones.”

Rita’s already done that in the eyes of her children who grew up to help others in their life’s work and in their giving to Children Believe and other charities. Her grandson sponsors through Children Believe, too.

“It’s just been a great privilege to help,” she says. “I’d just love to get all my kids together, and give them a big hug.”

And, thanks to Rita’s gift, her legacy of hope and love will inspire new generations of children to dream big.

Are you ready to plant a seed of hope?

Sponsor a child today, and prepare your Will for tomorrow. We can help simplify the process through our partnership with Willfora, Will-writing experts. Create your Will online through their complimentary, confidential, secure Will-writing platform.

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ABOUT CHILDREN BELIEVE (formerly Christian Children's Fund of Canada):

Children Believe works globally to empower children to dream fearlessly, stand up for what they believe in — and be heard. For 60 years, we’ve brought together brave young dreamers, caring supporters and partners, and unabashed idealists. Together, we’re driven by a common belief: creating access to education — inside and outside of classrooms — is the most powerful tool children can use to change their world.

About ChildFund Alliance:

A member of ChildFund Alliance, Children Believe is part of a global network of 12 child-focused development organizations working to create opportunities for children and youth, their families and communities. ChildFund helps nearly 23-million children and their families in more than 70 countries overcome poverty and underlying conditions that prevent children from achieving their full potential. We work to end violence against children; provide expertise in emergencies and disasters to ease the harmful impact on children and their communities; and engage children and youth to create lasting change and elevate their voices in decisions that affect their lives.

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