40 before 40 #2: Sponsor a child

I had often thought about, but never quite got round to, sponsoring a child in need of support in Africa, and so it made total sense to add this to my list of ’40 before 40’ challenges and tasks.

2 - Equipe map

I carried out some research online as I really wanted to find an organisation where the money I donated would go directly towards helping a child, rather than into a big pot of money which then got spent in different ways.  This was just what felt right for me.  After working my way through a long list of possibilities, I also decided that I wanted to support a smaller charity as opposed to one of the large organisations, as I felt that small ones often get overlooked as they don’t necessarily have the means to promote and publicise their work.

Eventually, I settled on an organisation called ‘Equipe’, whose aims revolve around partnership working in order to make a difference to the lives of people in East Africa.  Their child sponsorship scheme is £15 per month, and Equipe promise that every penny of this money goes directly to a child in terms of assisting with their schooling, including books, stationery, uniform, school meals and any required medical care.  In cases where children are resident at a school it also pays for additional food, clothing, bedding and other basic essentials like toilet paper and simple grass brooms.

Soon after applying to take part in the children sponsorhip scheme, I was contacted by email by John Gasston, who is based in Uganda and runs the programme, along with his wife Sue.  John sent me a copy of their latest newsletter, and told me of a tiny six-year old girl (who I shall refer to as ‘C’) who is based at a school in Kampala and had recently lost her sponsor.  He sent me a photo of C and gave me some brief details about her achievements at school.  It was really lovely, and unexpected, to receive such a personal response and know that John and Sue are so well placed to provide updates, and to keep an eye on the various Equipe projects and how the children are doing.

I may be very slightly poorer money-wise each month, but I am certainly much richer for knowing that my contribution is directly supporting a child in need.  If you are interested in finding out more about Equipe, you can visit their website, which is updated periodically due to internet availability.  The best way for those out in Africa to keep people up-to-date is via their Facebook pages Maranatha Gateway and Equipe 1, so do have a look/like if you are on Facebook.

It has long been on my bucket list to travel to Africa myself to volunteer for a period of time, and Equipe organise for groups of sponsors/volunteers to go out each year.  So, inadvertently, I have also managed to make a great new contact for the future. I am away next week on a trip that I may not have got round to booking had it not been for my ’40 before 40’ list, so there will of course be an update on that in a few weeks.

For now, love and very worthy causes
sm x

Links to previous blogs in this series
#1: Eat an oyster


40 BEFORE 40 #1: Eat an oyster

Having been inspired by a television programme, I recently decided to write a ’40 before 40’ list of things that I would like to do or achieve over the next two years and four months (to be exact) before I hit that big ol’ milestone. I don’t have a problem with turning 40 (as yet, anyway!), but having created a bucket list in the past and finding that a long-term list is too easy for me to put off or forget about, I thought that something shorter-term might work better for me.

I found it pretty easy to come up with at least 30 things for my list straight off the top of my head, and for the rest I obtained inspiration via Google.  It has ended up being a mix of exciting challenges and the more mundane but nevertheless important (to me) things that I have often thought I really want to do one day, but haven’t yet got round to organising.  I won’t share the whole list now – instead I thought I would write a blog post about each one as I tick it off the list, as a way of keeping a record and incentivising me to work through it.

What I was surprised to realise when looking through the lists of others for inspiration was just how many things I have done – from big things like taking a gap year to travel solo, to challenges such as the London Moonwalk, to one-off occurrences like firing a gun (on a firing range in Vancouver, all very safe and above board!), and a myriad of things in between.  So I also ended up writing a ‘things I have done’ list, which I think will be lovely to look back and reflect on in years to come.

So, back to item #1 and the purpose of this post…

The weekend before last I found myself in Machiel in northern France for the weekend celebrating a friend’s birthday at the family holiday home of another friend.  Having written it just days beforehand, I shared my list with my fellow travellers and they suggested that I aim to tick the first one off that weekend.  That’s encouragement for you!  On the Saturday afternoon, we visited the village of Saint Valery-sur-Somme, a picturesque commune situated on the estuary at the mouth of the River Somme.  After a pleasant wander around the medieval ramparts and the Gothic church at the top of the hill, we descended to the waterside where we followed a boardwalk past restaurants and pretty houses.  As the weather was glorious we decided to sit outside and have a beer in the sunshine.  Lots of people were eating moules mariniere, and someone suggested that we should order oysters with our lunch as it was one of the items on my list.  I am not a huge lover of shellfish as I’m not keen on overly strong tasting fish, nor on the prospect of potential food poisoning, plus they just look revolting!  But I wanted to say that I had at least tried one, so on the list it went.

I tried to put up a fight and delay the challenge, knowing that we may visit the local oyster festival back home later in the year, but the boys were having none of my excuses and the oysters were duly ordered.  I was actually panicking at the prospect and felt rather sick and shaky about it…totally over reacting to what is, for most people I’m sure, not a big deal.  I will say now that one of the items on my list is to do a skydive, and it did cross my mind that if I was panicking this much about eating an oyster, how on earth was I going to manage that one!?  But that’s a worry for another day.

1 - Eat an oyster1


After a tutorial in the art of oyster eating from one of the lads, I dove in…sprinkled with a little salt and a generous amount of lemon juice, that slippery sucker was in my mouth, chewed once, and swallowed within a few short seconds. And…it wasn’t that bad at all!  Fishy, salty, slimy, but over and done with quickly, and washing it down with some beer helped I’m sure.  When I said it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be a disappointed groan resounded from my travel pals – who were secretly hoping I would gag or do something equally dramatic I’m sure!  But I was just elated to get my 40 before 40 challenge off to a positive start.

1 - Eat an oyster2

I look delighted beforehand, don’t I!?

At the time of writing, I have already ticked off another item from the list, as well as booked an exciting trip in June that will see another item completed, so it’s certainly keeping me busy. Already I am discovering that my self-imposed challenge is providing me with a sense of focus and purpose that I have been severely lacking in life in recent months (years), so I am really looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

For now, love and life challenges
sm x