People often describe Dr Graham’s Homes as a “home from home for children”. And that’s a good description. Some of our youngest pupils are just three or four when they come to the Homes. They board in a unique Cottage System. Their full-time carers are known as “Aunties and Uncles”. The goal is to help them feel part of a wider family – for some, the only family they have ever had.
But ultimately, of course, every child will graduate and leave DGH. This usually happens in Class 12, after they’ve taken their ISCs (Indian School Certificate exams). So, what then?
That’s where DGHUK’s Extended Sponsorship comes in.
What is the Extended Sponsorship scheme?
Extended Sponsorship recognises the fact that young people need support as they take their first steps beyond the Homes. Graduating from high school is daunting for any pupil. For a decade or more, life, meals and timetables are mapped out for you. Suddenly, you’re thinking about how to build a career and stand on your own two feet – often in a big city like Kolkata, hundreds of miles from Kalimpong. As Lydia, one of our sponsored children, puts it: “In the Homes, they make everything easy for us. But when you go out into the world, you have to do it yourself. It’s hard!”
But it’s especially challenging if, like many of our young people, you don’t have a family network or financial support to fall back on. So the Extended Sponsorship programme is our charity’s way of helping these young people make the best possible start in their adult lives beyond DGH.
How does the scheme work?
Up to 15 or so of our sponsored children may graduate from DGH each year. Many will want to carry on their education by enrolling in college and training courses across India. All of these students are eligible for the DGHUK Extended Sponsorship Programme. Our aim is to help fund their teaching, welfare and accommodation costs as they go through these years of tertiary education.
How much does it cost? Course and subsistence costs vary, so it can be hard to put an exact figure on the sponsorship support needed. We work with each student on a case-by-case basis. But as a rough guide, we say that on average approximately £1,500 per year will cover most student sponsorships – or £1,200, if the donation is given with Gift Aid.
How can you get involved?
If you don’t already support a child at DGH, a Student sponsorship is a brilliant way to get involved in the DGH cause. Like Child sponsorship, it’s a very personal programme. You’ll be linked to a specific student. And we’ll encourage you to keep in touch as they go through their studies. This is done with oversight from our Sponsorship Secretaries. Going on the above figures, it will cost about £125/month (£100/month with Gift Aid) to provide your student with everything they need during this phase of their education.
But the truth is that any donation you can offer is hugely welcome. Every donation, however small, will make a difference. That’s something we were reminded of this month when Kyra – one of our recent student graduates – wrote to tell us how she had just started work in her first job.
“Thank you so much for the support for all these years,” she explained in her message to the Sponsorship Secretaries. “It has been a lifeline for me during challenging times. It has given me the courage to keep going, even when I felt like giving up.
“Thank you for being there for me, and for reminding me that there is always hope. Your support has been a gift that I will always treasure.”
To find out more about Extended Sponsorship, or to make a donation, please visit the Sponsor a Student page.