Behind Joy's journey: the real stories

You can change a life for good when you sponsor a child like Joy.

Joy’s journey is based on the real stories of people ActionAid have met, and on actual choices that girls around the world have to face every day.

ActionAid believes all children should have an equal chance to thrive. Through our child sponsorship programme we’re reaching some of these children, but we want to help many more. Your sponsorship can make a huge difference to a girl or boy in need — ensuring they have enough to eat, an education and hope for the future.

And child sponsorship doesn't just help one child, it helps other children and families in their community to transform their lives too. Our local ActionAid staff work closely with people in your sponsored child's community to decide how they want to spend the money. 

Read on to learn more about how we help children like Joy and her family, with the support of our generous child sponsors.

Keeping girls in school during a crisis

Subarna, 13, usually takes a boat to school from her home in the village of Faridpur, Bangladesh. She wants to be a doctor. But her dream is at risk of being thwarted by floods. At least twice a year, her route to school becomes impassable.

“When the storm comes I can’t go to school,” she said. “I can’t cross the big river in the small boat.”

But now, during floods Subarna can carry on studying at a child-friendly space built near her village by ActionAid. She and her friends can safely reach the tin-and-timber hall where a local tutor helps the girls to continue with their studies.

“If this child space wasn’t here then we would face a lot of problems,” said Subarna. “We wouldn’t be able to study. I’d be sat at home unable to do anything.”

Shubarna, 13, in school uniform on the boat she uses to get to school, Bangladesh

Mahmud /MAP/ActionAid

Ten-year-old Aasia fishes every day so her family don't go hungry.

Mahmud /MAP/ActionAid

Forced to fish so families don't go hungry

When there’s not enough food to go around, it’s often young girls who suffer the most - and it's not just the devastating effects of malnutrition. Girls are forced to drop out of school to help support their families during times of food shortages.

10-year-old Aasia fishes every day to make sure her family have enough to eat. Up to three times a day, Aasia trawls through the river opposite her home dragging a piece of rope attached to a heavy net looped through bamboo poles. Aasia's mother, Hajjira, said she doesn't want her daughter to go out and fish.

But the family's desperate situation leaves her little choice. "I feel bad because she's a little person and she has to pull the net," said Hajjira, "But if she doesn't do it then we would have to eat rice on its own."

Providing food and water to families in a drought

More than three million people in Kenya are affected by the drought across East Africa, and finding food and drinking water is a huge challenge for communities.

Paulina’s husband had to move away with their cattle in order to search for water and pasture, after two cattle died of starvation. Paulina cuts and sells wood in order to provide food for her children, but the work is never consistent. On average, the family go without food one or two days a week.

“When I have a buyer, then we eat. When I don’t, we sleep hungry. I’m just trying to survive," says Paulina.

During the drought in Kenya, ActionAid has provided food aid for vulnerable families, as well as carrying out repair of boreholes to access drinking water.

Rose (8 months) goes without food 1 or 2 days a week.

Alice Oldenburg/ActionAid

Children get off a boat they use to get to school in Hoa Binh Province, Vietnam


Helping children get to school safely

When children in Da Bac, Vietnam, start secondary school they have to choose between a 10km walk through the mountains or take a boat for 3km down the river. To take the walk through the mountains the children have to start their journey very early, from 4am.

One pupil told us, “I will get to the 6th grade next year. I have to travel 10km if I take the road. However, I am quite scared while sitting on the boat since I can’t swim.”

ActionAid has provided training for the children in how to manage a boat to make their journey to school easier.

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Girls are vulnerable to sexual harassment on the streets

For six-year-old Halimoon, every day presents dangers that no child should have to confront. Since her father died, her mother Rina has to work long hours to make sure that her children have enough to eat.

“When my mum is at work, I have to look after my baby brother,” says Halimoon. “To make money I pick up litter to sell." 

But the streets are a dangerous place. Like the millions of girls who are forced to work on the streets across the world, Halimoon is vulnerable to sexual harassment and abuse.

“I want to go to school. At school they read stories, play games and sing songs. When school finishes they eat rice,” she says. “If I ever get the chance to go to school I will learn lots of things and work so hard because when I’m a grown up I want to have a good job and do good things."

Six-year-old Halimoon sells litter she collects on the streets.

Turjoy Chowdhury/ActionAid

10-year-old Brenda on her hour-long walk to school in Amuru district, rural Uganda

Jakob Dall/ActionAid

Protecting girls from gang violence

The fear of violence is a reality for millions of girls living in the poorest parts of the world.

"Youths carry with them machetes, scissors and knives," says mother of eight, Annie. "They attack any passer-by, extorting money, beating them, or hitting with their machetes."

Violence against schoolgirls in particular is widespread, with an estimated 150 million girls sexually assaulted every year. ActionAid is creating safe spaces for girls within schools where they learn how access justice, as well as providing dormitories to protect girls who face violence on the walk to school.

Preventing forced child marriages

When Rashida was 13 and walking home from school a man brought her food. He then said that she had to repay him by marrying him. She refused and days later he abducted her.

Child marriage subjects girls to rape and abuse for the rest of their lives. It is a violation of girls’ rights, and denies them their childhood, the chance to go to school and to choose their own life.

Luckily, Rashida's father knew what to do to get his daughter back, demanding her release.  ActionAid co-ordinates these community based anti-violence teams to rescue girls abducted for marriage and get them back to school.

Rashida and Ama from Ghana. Rashida was 13 when she was abducted for marriage.

Ruth McDowall/ActionAid

The dark intersection in Monrovia, Liberia.

Ruth McDowall/ActionAid

Making streets safer by night

Frances and her daughter Rochelle are street sellers at an intersection in Monrovia, Liberia. With a lack of proper lighting, the intersection had one of the highest crime rates in the city.

“There are no lights and so it is dark and this means it’s not safe. You see very bad things going on.”

Women and girls have been physically and sexually attacked and harassed at the intersection, late at night or early in the morning.

ActionAid has successfully lobbied the council to install street lighting near one end, so women are now able to walk in a better lit area.

Training women how to respond during floods

Anna was in her maize fields when she saw the river rising. She ran for home, but others in the community were not able to escape.

"We were devastated when two women and their babies from our village drowned at the onset of the floods." The canoe they were using lost balance, and it overturned throwing the women and children into the river.

ActionAid is helping women and children to stay one step ahead of the next disaster by raising villages above the flood level and training women on how to respond during floods.

Anna's crops were ruined by floods in Zimbabwe.


Mehreunnessa Ruby with the girls at their Happy Home in Dhaka, Bangladesh

G.M.B. Akash/Panos/ActionAid

ActionAid local workers rebuild girls' lives

Almost all of the people and partners who run ActionAid’s programmes are from the local communities we work in. They see day-to-day how poverty affects people's lives, and so are uniquely placed to identify and support the women and girls who suffer the most.

Mehreunnessa Ruby works at an ActionAid centre for street girls in Dhaka, where her team find vulnerable girls and help them to get an education and rebuild their lives.

"We take girls in from many places. We have a lot of contacts across the area. We visit different places, select children in need and convince them to come to the home."

Child sponsorship provides nutrition for healthy lives

Jacqueline’s husband died 12 years ago, leaving her with two daughters. Jacqueline has HIV and has received training from ActionAid on how to prepare a more nutritious diet to help her fight illness.

“This year, ActionAid gave me quality vegetable, bean and sorghum seeds. I now eat vegetables every day and drink porridge made of sorghum, which is very nutritious. Before, I used to go to the hospital at least once a month for treatment for different illnesses because my body was so weak. But nowadays, things have changed; I have only been to hospital once all year.”

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ActionAid helps women in Ruyigi, Burundi to grow nutritious grains.


Page updated 5 October 2022