Real Life

Radio star’s family mission to help give kids a helping hand

These caring kiwis are looking after those less fortunate

Radio presenter Bjorn Brickell has always had a close relationship with his father-in-law Andrew Durrans, but their bond reached a new level when they both got to meet the children they support as part of World Vision's child sponsorship programmes in Tanzania and Bangladesh.
Bjorn travelled with his station, Life FM, to Luguru in Tanzania as part of Chosen, a child sponsorship campaign in which children choose their sponsors, instead of the other way around.
Bjorn says he was moved to tears when his family was picked by a seven-year-old boy, Martini, who lives with his parents and two siblings.
"It was so special to watch him go through all the photos and choose our family," says Bjorn. "Afterwards, he told me he liked the photo of our family because we were holding our cat!"
Bjorn's wife Libby stayed home with their children Jay, five, and Leo, two, but she was delighted that the boy they sponsor will benefit from the work the organisation is doing to support children, including those like Martini, who has physical and learning disabilities.
Bjorn and radio co-host Kat McCormack with Luguru locals.
"In a society like Luguru, there's not a lot of safety nets for kids with disabilities, so I was stoked he will get that extra support specifically to live his best life," tells Bjorn.
While Bjorn was in Luguru, Jay had his first day at school – a momentous occasion for the Auckland family – and a day Bjorn was sad to miss, but one that he was philosophical about.
"I was sacrificing that moment with my own family to give other parents the opportunity to send their own kids to school," explains Bjorn. "Although he's only five, Jay knows we are sponsoring a child in Luguru. We want our kids to grow up aware of the importance of supporting those less fortunate than us."
Bjorn's father-in-law echoes those sentiments. He travelled to Bangladesh to meet 13-year-old Tanisha, the child he has sponsored for the past seven years.
As an only child, Tanisha lives in Mirpur, a slum area, with her father, a handicraft maker, and her mother, a homemaker. Tanisha attends secondary school, where her favourite subject is her national language, Bengali.
"When I met Tanisha, World Vision staff were telling me about all the work they are doing in her community in child protection, water supplies, sanitary cleanliness and health training," says Andrew. "It was 40 degrees and we were sitting inside a small corrugated iron building.
Andrew meeting Tanisha and her mum at their home.
"I was sitting next to Tanisha and I started crying as I was so moved by everything they were telling me. Tanisha tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Please don't cry', but she didn't realise my tears were tears of joy."
He says seeing the gratitude in Tanisha's mother's eyes when he first met her will stay with him forever.
"Her mum spoke very little English, but her whole face lit up. I was so humbled as I feel as though I'm doing something relatively small, but she is so appreciative because Tanisha now has the opportunity for an education and healthcare that she never had herself. We spoke to each other with a smile."
It's not the first time Bjorn and Andrew have bonded over child sponsorship. Seven years ago, when Bjorn and his wife Libby travelled through Central America, they visited another child that Andrew and his wife Kay were sponsoring in Nicaragua.
"World Vision picked us up and we spent the whole day with them. They took us up a river on a boat to show us the impact they are making in communities there. We met Lisbeth, then aged 17, who Andrew and Kay had sponsored for 12 years."
You've got this, Bjorn: The water weighs 15 to 20kg.
Supporting the world's most vulnerable children is a common theme for the family. Andrew and Kay have sponsored four different children over the course of 40 years, while Bjorn and Libby support five children around the globe in total, two through World Vision and the others through different aid organisations.
And now Bjorn's mother Cindy, who signed up for the Chosen campaign while Bjorn was in Luguru, is a sponsor to a boy called Rameck.
"I was so excited when I saw Mum's photo pop up and Rameck selected her!" enthuses Bjorn. "It was great I was able to meet her sponsored child too and then we did a video call with Mum so she was able to say hi! It was a really lovely moment."
For more information or to donate, visit worldvision.org.nz/chosen.

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