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Lucy Lawless - My Life Changing Journey

New Zealand Woman's Weekly

30 January 2006

Her career is bubbling along with a regular guest role on Battlestar Galactica and plans to record an album.
But for Lucy Lawless, last year's highlight was a trip to visit the child whose life she helped save.


 Article written by Lucy Lawless

I began sponsoring Banik through World Vision around the time my daughter was born but sponsoring has gone on in my family for a long time. When I was a kid we had this little blue-and-red box in the kitchen that said, "Two cents saves lives." We'd take it to school when it was stuffed with two-cent pieces. My parents still have that box.

I had a very privileged upbringing in New Zealand with good, loving parents. We were an average middle-class family but we were extremely privileged compared to the rest of the world. So I wanted to go outside my environment and help someone else. I didn't know much about Bangladesh before I went - except that I didn't want to come home with a belly full of worms! I knew it had terrible floods and that politically it's very volatile.

When you donate to a charity, it's very rare that you get to see what your money does. Usually you pay up and take your chances so it was a real privilege for me to go to see Banik.

I've been sponsoring Banik since he was just a cute little kid and now he's grown into a fantastic young man. He is a great scholar and is very good at maths. He is hoping to go to university to study accountancy. A few years ago he had a health problem, which was one of the most horrifying medical afflictions I can think of. I can't remember its name but it was an awful flesh-eating disease. The staff at World Vision were absolute heroes and took him to India for treatment. When you get ill out there, you have to be careful. People die of really simple stuff.

When I met Banik and his family in Kaliganj, the very poor area where they live, they responded to me as if I was an angel. To them, my little contribution was a big thing. They felt huge love and gratitude and that was very humbling.
If it wasn't for my sponsorship, as far as his parents were concerned, Banik would be dead. Even if he hadn't fallen ill, he probably would have been illiterate, working at whatever menial job he could get. The fact that he may now go to university is amazing.

I was thrilled to see how his family have taken the ball and run with it. That is part of what World Vision does - it opens people's horizons and gives them a chance to dream. When a family is focused solely on earning a few cents to buy food, their needs are so of-the-moment that they don't dare to dream they could get an education. Forget university when you are trying to get a bowl of rice to feed your children.

I also met a little girl called Bina, also from Kaliganj, who wasn't part of the World Vision programme. I saw what it was like for kids who don't have sponsorship. I didn't take it very well - in fact, I coped very badly. Her mother has three kids and all of them are in ill health. The reality is, people have a lot of babies because half of them die or wind up on the scrap heap.

But there is great hope for Bina - she's a bright, attractive little girl - so if we can keep her alive and get her to school,
then perhaps somebody will want to sponsor her and change her life too. It's crazy when you think 10 bucks
a week will make such a difference - and it's so easy for many New Zealanders to afford that small amount.

I saw five-year-old children holding on to their younger siblings, all of them living on the street. These kids are almost completely naked - they don't even have a box to cover themselves. I saw those kids and thought, "My family have it too easy."

After meeting Banik, I rang my daughter and read her the riot act about helping out her brothers in the morning. I was about to threaten to ground her on Friday night, even though I was in Bangladesh!

I promised myself that, when I got home, I was going to trim the fat from our family life a bit. I am now focused on making sure we all contribute to the wellbeing of our family. Banik is now a young man and able to stand on his own feet so I'm transferring my sponsorship to a little girl named Fatema.

For most people in Bangladesh, life is about bare survival and it's horrifying to see that. When people are not eating and are not healthy, they will do things like sell their kids - literally. People are so busy surviving, there is no room for love. As awful and harrowing as these things are to see, I believe the experience has made me a better human being.

* See more of Lucy's life-changing trip on Lucy Lawless: Five Days in Bangladesh at 7.30pm Tuesday 31 January on TV2.



End of Article

Advert for World Vision

Lucy Lawless - "Bina has a meal a day, it's not enough."

A small bowl of rice a day ... is not enough. "I will never forget Bina and her family... some of the poorest people in the world. I wanted to meet a child who isn't sponsored. I really didn't expect to be afffect so much, but the poverty is quite overwhelming. Her mother is out of her mind with worry. Bina's brother is severely handicapped. It's terrible. Such a desperately poor family.

"It was a real shock... but my spirits were lifted by the joy of meeting my own sponsored child. Healthy, well-fed, it's fantastic.

"The smallest glimmer of hope is all it takes to give these kids a better life."

Watch "Five Days in Bangladesh", TV2 7.30 pm Tuesday January 31, as Lucy Lawless experiences the huge difference child sponsorship makes. You can make that difference for someone like Bina by sponsoring a child.


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