Plan International is turning the very distinguished age of 80 this year. While this means we have decades of experience under our belt, it certainly doesn’t mean we’ve stopped learning and growing, particularly in a complex and ever-changing world. We share this milestone with a number of our loyal supporters, including long-time sponsor and slightly less long-term volunteer Lindsay Sparrow.

Lindsay has a long connection with Plan and has just started volunteering in our office but there’s another thing he shares with us: this year, like us, he’s turning 80.

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Linsday stuffs envelopes for us one day a week. The other four days he spends at CSIRO, where he has worked for nearly 48 years. Right now he’s working on proteins. He tries to explain it briefly: “We’re characterising proteins with the idea of designing a new drug. I’m just doing a little bit of the characterisation part which is determining the structure. We’re aiming for a cancer drug if anything comes of it. However I will be finishing up at the end of this month.” The prospect of a change is exciting and significant after 48 years. Lindsay seems keen to still fill the time, though he admits “I can’t do two days a week stuffing envelopes!”

Given his skills, Lindsay is keen to find ways to lend them to the cause, but also stresses he wouldn’t want to take away the work of an employee. And the work of our volunteers is incredibly valuable to us, whether it’s working in our mail centre, entering data into our system or simply having a diverse group of people in the office. “What I was very pleased to see in your annual report is that volunteers are actually valued,” Linsay adds.

Lindsay also sponsors children with Plan International in Laos, Zimbabwe and Malawi.

“Once I started earning a regular living I thought  I should do something to help people and I looked around and because Plan was not religious, I went with them.”

Lindsay and Plan International are both turning 80 this year. We were keen to hear what changes Lindsay has seen in the state of the world.

“I’m concerned about inequality; I think many people are at the moment. Our standard of living has gone up dramatically in all those years, but I’m not sure that people are any happier. And I think it comes from inequality. You can imagine people at the other end of that would be quite upset about the whole business.”

Lindsay supports a host of organisations, and he’s quick to say he doesn’t know the names of the children he sponsors. For him, it’s more about giving than personal connection.

“My attitude is there’s going to be a lot of need and really I don’t need the personal contact with the children so long as the money I give them is helping somehow. More recently I’ve taken a lot more interest in what Plan’s doing seeing as I’ve been working here.”

Lindsay’s interest extends to the way we work as an organisation. He brings up an article he recently read that questions the approach some organisations have to sponsorship. “[it] says you support the children until they get to a certain age and you don’t know what happens to them after that.” It’s an important point, and one that’s front of mind for Plan International as we look at ways we can help young people, who we’ve encouraged to choose their own careers, to make sure the career they want is possible and accessible to them. Plan International’s Youth Employment, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment program aims to enable one million vulnerable and excluded young people, especially girls and young women, to find work or self-employment of their choosing.

As a volunteer and a long-time supporter, Lindsay has the opportunity to give us feedback on about how we’re doing, from how often we ask for donations, to the amount of mail we send out. We’re always learning and growing, and our supporters play an immense role in making that happen.

Lindsay will keep finding new ways to help close the gap in equality. “I’d like to go on supporting as long as I can and being involved.”

Read more about our 80 years of learning, growing and building a fairer world for children.

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