Often the most life-changing events can be sparked by the most inoccuous of things.
Sam Tinney was driving along, listening to the radio, when he heard a piece about the charity World Vision.
Hugely impressed by the charity’s aim of helping change the lives of children in the poorest parts of the globe, he discussed it with wife Sue and they began sponsoring a child.
It led them on a journey first to India, and then the hustling, bustling, colourful streets of Africa, from where Sue, 70, has just returned from a life-affirming trip to see the child they have sponsored for the past six years, 17-year-old Laurent.
World Vision is such a huge part of their lives that they are now ambassadors for the charity.
This week Sue, of Orchard Road, Havant, was in Westminster trying to encourage MPs to support their cause to help those who are most in need.
They don’t go in, throw money at something, then leave the next day. They spend time setting up projects and stay for about 18 years,Sam Tinney
Sam said: ‘Over the years we had donated to charities here and there but something about World Vision really struck me.
‘But what struck me about them is they’re not a fly-by-night organisation.
‘They don’t go in, throw money at something, then leave the next day. They spend time setting up projects and stay for about 18 years.
‘By the time they have finished the community can fend for itself.
‘The communities can produce food and sell it. They become self-sufficient.’
At first the couple’s involvement was through monthly subscriptions.
But in 2013 Sue was asked if she would like to visit Senegal to see how projects they were sponsoring were doing.
Sue, a former teacher, said: ‘I lived in Africa in the 1970s and someone once said to me that it gets in the blood.
‘When I arrived in Senegal, straight away the familiar smells and noise hit me. It hadn’t changed. It was refreshing to feel that again but sad that there was still so much poverty.
‘Dakar is a hustling bustling, noisy, polluted city. But rural areas have very little infrastructure. It’s just as you see on Comic Relief.’
Sue admits she found the experience so emotional and overwhelming that she burst into tears when Sam picked her up from the airport upon her return.
She says: ‘They have so little but they’re so happy with it, although not with their circumstances.
‘It’s because they’re not cluttered up with material things.
‘They have nothing but they are very generous. On my last visit in February Laurent’s uncle disappeared for a while.
‘He returned with his shirt for me to give to Sam. I couldn’t believe it. He literally gave me the shirt off his back because it was the only thing he had that he could give.
‘It’s just how they are. There is a happiness there.’
On Sue’s visits to Senegal she has given Laurent and his family presents from home – Manchester United FC merchandise and an Emsworth tea towel for his mother.
She has been amazed by the progress that World Vision has made to the rural communities.
‘I visited a pre-school expanding the opportunities for the younger children’, says Sue.
‘And a new project set up to teach the national curriculum in the children’s own tribal language with French as the second language which will increase literacy and numeracy levels.
‘They took me to a mother and baby food programme at a health centre, a recently installed stand-pipe at a junior school, a women’s livelihood project which is training women how to use local resources to produce goods to sell at market then re-invest the profits.
‘Another project I visited was a women’s savings group set up only seven months ago.’
Sam, 77, and Sue have four children and four grandchildren.
They all support the charity now and even sponsor communities through World Vision themselves.
They couple love to travel and have been to exotic places such as China and Peru and are about to embark on a trip to America’s south – Nashville and New Orleans.
Their deep religious faith has also played a part in wanting to support those far less fortunate than themselves.
But Sam says: ‘It has certainly put our lives into perspective.
‘We have moved away from materialism – which I think people seem to thrive on over here – because you realise they have nothing over there but they are so happy.’
Sue adds: ‘World Vision have offered me some wonderful opportunities and I am very thankful for this.
‘They have helped my personal development and increased my knowledge as to how they work and I have met some wonderful people, who give me much encouragement and support.’
Sam continues: ‘World Vision make a difference. Their commitment to communities is long-term wherever they are across the globe and they do not force things upon them but work with them.’
Sue Tinney is an ambassador for the charity World Vision.
It is the world’s largest children’s charity. Although it is Christian staff do not seek to convert but work with communities of all religions.
They work to build sustainable futures for communities and also respond to disasters.
Sue has been fundraising for the charity’s Barefoot and Coatless campaign for Syrian refugees.
She has been raising money by not eating meat during lent.
She regularly gives talks about the charity’s work.
Sue says: ‘I am very passionate about World Vision because of their core values, their long-term commitment and the amazing results which are achieved as a result of sponsorship funds – 75p per day. You can’t even buy a coffee for that.
‘A sponsored child does not get the money, but has been selected by the community to be their representative, hence the funding provides for all the community – classrooms, water supplies, food projects and health centres.
‘I would love to hear from organisations who would like to hear more about World
To contact Sue to arrange a talk email email@example.com.
If you would like to sponsor Sue with her lent challenge worldvision.org.uk/get-involved/barefoot-and-coatless.
And if you would like to find out more about the charity’s work go to worldvision.org.uk.