How I'm helping to keep girls safe from harm this Christmas | ActionAid UK

Fay Ripley

Celebrity guest blogger

You might know actor Fay Ripley as the determined and courageous Jenny in the much-loved TV drama "Cold Feet". She's also the author of several cookbooks and a proud mother to two very generous children. Here she shares with us the reasons for why her family sponsors not just one but two children through ActionAid, and describes her visit to Tanzania to witness our work first-hand, in this exclusive interview.

Fay Ripley's family sponsors not just one but two children through ActionAid in Tanzania.
Fay Ripley's family sponsors not just one but two children through ActionAid in Tanzania.

The problem is you never feel that you are doing enough or that what you are doing makes any difference. Life for us in north London was good, bar the odd bout of croup and nappy rash. My first child was just starting school and my son was a babe in arms.

As the years started to pass, I became aware of my children’s bubble of privilege, a bubble I was very grateful for but one that I could no longer ignore. Our little family wanted to make a difference.”

As the school years started to pass, I became aware of my children’s bubble of privilege, a bubble I was very grateful for but one that I could no longer ignore. The rounds of kids’ parties that cost hundreds of pounds for each and every classmate, the presents, the fuss and all the while, other peoples’ children were alone and scared in the world, vulnerable and without a voice. Our little family wanted to make a difference.

Parker, my daughter, was coming up to her seventh birthday and felt that she could do without her presents for one year. Instead she decided to have a birthday party to raise funds to sponsor a child through ActionAid.

It was a fabulous affair with a bucket at the door adorned with a picture of a seven-year-old girl from Tanzania on the front. Instead of the usual pile of plastic gifts, her generous pals raised over £300. From just one kid’s party! That was enough to sponsor a child for over a year. Imagine if the whole class had followed suit.

Visiting Tanzania to see child sponsorship in action

We felt empowered and excited. Parker started to receive correspondence from Jamila in Tanzania and soon after my son did the same thing. Now he sponsors a boy from the same area. So when the opportunity to visit the region where these kids lived came up, I decided to leave my school run and go and see theirs.

Everything about that trip was memorable. From the warm welcome I received, to the incredible work ActionAid was achieving in the villages and schools that I visited.

People with nothing offered me everything they had. They expected nothing in return because they had hope. They were going to school and starting up businesses and I saw a bright future in their eyes. That’s what shocked me, I think. I expected to weep tears of empathy, instead my tears were of admiration.

Everything about that trip was memorable. From the warm welcome I received, to the incredible work ActionAid was achieving in the villages and schools that I visited.”

Back at home in our bubble, my kids and their mates when asked what they wanted to be when they grew up answered more often than not, “I want to be famous,” or “I want to be a fairy.” These kids said, “I want to be a doctor”, or “I want to be a teacher, I want to help.”

Fay speaks with women she met in Tanzania.

Keeping girls safe form harm through education

Most girls had a long walk of many miles to school, often with the daily threat of rape on the way. But it was worth it for them, because school meant a future and my family’s small contribution was helping those kids to have a future.

ActionAid were building boarding schools to keep them safe from harm. They were working to bring rights, education, health and welfare to areas forgotten by many of us. I went there a cynical Londoner and left humbled and grateful.

Writing letters to our sponsored children

We continue to send letters to Tanzania. The kids sent a picture of Barry, our brown-and-white dog, and Jamila’s response was to ask if Barry was a baby cow? The idea of a domestic pet was an odd concept for her, but actually there are many parallels between them. They are just kids after all.

We will continue to sponsor, because for the price of a takeaway coffee each week we have a real connection to another part of the world that my kids need to feel they belong to. So are we doing enough? I don’t know, but I am grateful to ActionAid for the genuinely progressive work they are achieving for people I care about. People I don’t know. But people who need our help.

We will continue to sponsor, because for the price of a takeaway coffee each week we have a real connection to another part of the world that my kids need to feel they belong to.”

This Christmas millions of girls living in the world’s poorest places are facing abuse and exploitation. Because they are girls, they do not have an equal chance to thrive, free from violence or discrimination. That’s why I’m joining ActionAid in asking the public to sponsor a girl and keep them safe from harm. By doing so you will help provide the foundations they need to change their lives for good.

Sponsor a child this Christmas
 
 

Photos by Gavin Smith/Eyevine/ActionAid.