A tragic family death, that could have seen the lives of her children spiral into poverty, instead prompted a mum to change the lives of Australian children doing it tough.
Experiencing the loss of her husband when her children were very young, gave Marianne a unique perspective on the struggles of families.
“In 1984 my husband died suddenly when my daughters were four years and 18 months old,” Marianne explains. “As a single parent, the saving grace was that I was financially secure and could provide for my children. It was a huge relief.”
Decades on, Marianne is now a psychologist. She has seen in her job how family hardship can cause a child to disengage and miss opportunities at school. Some who fall behind will disengage forever and never achieve their potential. Marianne wanted to pay forward her gratitude for always being able to provide for her children. So, when she heard The Smith Family could match her with an Australian child in need, to help them make the most of their education, she seized the chance.
The Smith Family’s sponsorship program provides three key pillars of support – financial support for school essentials; guidance from a Learning for Life Coordinator who works with the family to identify the specific needs of that child; and access to out-of-school learning and mentoring programs.
Today, Marianne is a proud sponsor to two students facing complex challenges at home and school. Thanks to Marianne, the parents of her sponsored students can buy learning essentials. Things like books, stationery and uniforms, they might otherwise go without.
“Not having basic things to fit in, like the right school shoes, can affect a child’s self-esteem. It can make it hard for them to pay attention and learn,” she explains. “But when a student can walk into school in proper full uniform, they can feel good. They know ‘I’m part of this, I have a right to be here’.”
The out-of-school learning and mentoring programs enable her students to build the skills they need to thrive in class and beyond. “They have one-on-one homework help, they have extra tuition,” she says. “They can focus on specific areas they’re behind in.”
Marianne realises it may shock some people to learn one in six children and young people live in poverty in a supposedly rich country like Australia. “If you live in a more affluent part of the city, you don’t necessarily recognise how many people do live in poverty,” she says. But understanding the hurdles these students face, Marianne feels a personal responsibility to do something. “It’s just a regular withdrawal on my credit card: it’s so easy yet makes such a difference.”
She invites others who can, to do the same. “It’s really important that children know that they matter, not just to people in their personal lives, but by the wider community,” she says. “My sponsorship can have enormous impact, boosting a student’s confidence, and ability to learn, and giving them a brighter future. It’s a simple way to make an enormous difference.”
While we’re all excitedly labelling our children’s school books and fitting them out in uniforms, it’s worth asking ourselves if we could help support other Aussie kids to feel that same start of school buzz.
To find out how to become a sponsor and make a lasting difference to a child in need, visit The Smith Family.We may get commissions for purchases made using links in this post. Learn more.