Friday 4 April 2014

Plan UK - Give Up To Give Back

The children's charity Plan UK contacted me recently to ask if I would write a blog post highlighting their latest campaign, and asked if I would consider sponsoring a child overseas - so I was pleased to be able to tell them that I already do. Her name is Joanita and she lives in Uganda, and she's three years old.
Plan - a global charity, of which Plan UK is part -  has been going for over 75 years and works with children in the world's poorest countries to help them build a better future. That includes education, access to safe drinking water, helping communities to overcome disasters, helping parents to earn a living to support their children and inspiring children to make the right decisions in life. Plan is currently running a campaign called "Because I am a Girl", supporting four million girls to stay in education and fulfil their potential; they are also lobbying around issues like female genital mutilation.
Plan has now launched a new campaign, Give Up to Give Back. The idea is simple - give something up, and donate the money that it would have cost you to Plan UK. Sponsoring a child costs less than 50p a day. There are so many things you could give up and probably barely notice, but the money you donate really would make a huge difference. Here are some ideas of the kind of things you could give up:
- smoking. It's a filthy habit and very expensive - if you do smoke, even if you do just cut back rather than give up, you would be several pounds a day better off. The NHS says that the average amount of money saved by people who give up smoking is £150 a month. Imagine how much better off you would be - and you could easily afford the £15 a month that it costs to sponsor a child through Plan UK.
- on a smaller scale, if you buy lunch at work every day, why not make your sandwiches at home? Plan UK suggests that doing this could save you around £400 a year, based on the average price of a sandwich being £1.66. Now, I don't know where they got that figure from - and I'm not disputing it as I'm sure it's an average cost - but if you work in central London like I do, you could barely buy a bite of a sandwich for that much. While the likes of Boots and the supermarkets do great value meal deals, most of my colleagues go to a posh deli-style sandwich shop or a sushi takeout, and must spend at least £5 a day on lunch. Doing that five days a week, for 46 weeks of the year (taking into account holidays) adds up to £1,150 a year. Why do you think I make my own packed lunches?
- Similarly, that morning latte from the coffee shop on the way in to the office can easily cost around £3 which would set you back £690 a year. Luckily I don't drink coffee and a cup of tea made myself from a kettle doesn't taste any different to one from the coffee shop, so there's no need for me to buy one. Plan UK suggests that if you replace your daily trip to the coffee shop with a jar of instant coffee could save you £273 a year.
- It's not all about giving up of course - you could go to the coffee shop three times a week instead of five, or make your own packed lunch twice a week and you'd still be quids in. Plan UK also points out that when you go to the pub, if you drink one pint less a week - which depending on your booze intake might be something you barely notice - you will be saving an average of £3.50 (again, more in London) but also reduce your calorie count by 193, which is even better!
In fact, £3.50 is the amount that Plan UK suggests you might want to donate per week as part of the 'give up to give back' challenge. That works out at around £15 a month, which is how much it costs to sponsor a child. They asked me if I would agree to give something up for a month and make a donation, which I said I was happy to do. It did take me a little while to think about something that I could give up though! I don't have any obvious habits I could cut back on - I don't buy takeout coffee, I already make packed lunches, I don't regularly buy a newspaper or magazine or visit the vending machine at work. What I do however is spend far too much on clothes! My wardrobe is so full that the hanging rail literally broke last month under the weight of all my clothes :-(  I'll be moving house soon as my boyfriend and I have just had an offer accepted on our first home together, and I've managed to sell my house for more than the asking price. I need to declutter anyway, so this is the perfect opportunity to go through my wardrobes and take some items to the charity shop. At the same time, I will pledge not to buy any clothes during the month of April - harder for me than it might sound - and at the end of the month make a donation to Plan UK.
I also encourage anyone reading this to consider sponsoring a child. As well as knowing the important contribution you are making to that child's community and family, you are also encouraged to correspond with the child and send them letters and pictures - and you receive letters from them in return. The little girl I sponsor in Uganda, Joanita, is too young to be able to write at the moment so I have had letters from Plan UK's representative in that area, telling me what life is like for children there, and also a letter from Joanita's father, telling me what kind of things his daughter likes to do, what kind of home they live in, what he does for a living and thanking me for my support. It's lovely to receive a letter and know that I am helping a real family, who know who I am and what my name is. Plan UK even helps sponsors to arrange visits to the children they support and there are some wonderful examples on their website of people who have met the families they have been corresponding with for years. Whether or not I will ever go to Uganda to meet the family remains to be seen, but I'm glad to be able to feel that I am helping in some small way. It's just £15 a month - what could you give up to give back?

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