The 5 basic needs for children are shelter, food, clothing, medical care, and protection. Children need affection, touch and warmth; they’re essential building blocks for their development. Growing up in poverty, these basic needs are often lacking which can have a detrimental effect on a child’s health, wellbeing and progression at school.
Did you know that warmth contributes a lot toward a child’s growth? That the quality of a child’s sleep affects them physically as well as mentally? This photo gives you a snapshot into the reality of bedtime for hundreds of children in remote villages across Uganda. A simple papyrus mat covers the hard floor on which they sleep, and people usually cover themselves with an old sheet or khanga (or lesu as it is called in Uganda) for warmth.

Papyrus is a plant which grows wildly in swampy areas in Uganda. It's mostly associated with writing in ancient Egyptian times but is widely used across the world; even the English word paper originates from the word papyrus!

Papyrus has many uses, though the major one in most rural villages in Uganda is making mats for both children and adults to sleep on, sometimes it’s even used to cover themselves at night. Papyrus stalks are bound together using a twined sisal rope to make mats like the one you see above. These stalks are by no means easy to get a hold of, it requires heading to the swamp and often walking long distances under the scorching sun. It is not unusual to meet huge cobra snakes or pythons in these swamps as these are their territories! This game of chance is for the courageous. For the less brave, a mat can be purchased ready-made but will set you back around Ugx 5000 (approximately £1). For most to earn this kind of money in rural Uganda, it would mean a whole day's wages, usually from digging land for 6-8 hours non-stop in the heat...really hard work!

During the night, the papyrus mat is spread on the floor for children to sleep on. In most homes, the mat is shared depending on the number of children in the home, often times there can be up to 6 children all sleeping on 1 mat! It will always be a cold night’s sleep as the mat provides very little insulation from the ground and the thin sheet is barely enough to keep the children warm from the coolness of the night. It really is a never-ending cycle of broken sleep. So how can we make a difference?

We are all about giving a hand up - not a hand out! Our child sponsorship programme provides a way for families to help themselves out of poverty. Caregivers are given training in conservation farming and business skills, giving them the tools needed to sustainably provide an income and ultimately keep their children in school with a roof over their heads, food in their tummies and somewhere comfortable to sleep.  It truly is an everlasting joy when children and their families are identified to partake in this programme. Our generous sponsors also provide additional money each Christmas for families to spend on essential items, look at the wonderful foam mattresses and bedding these families received!

As a result of these seemingly simple gifts, children will start attaining better results at school as they are warm, safe and sleeping soundly through the night. And of course, better results lead to a better future! What a difference a good night’s sleep can make!