A RYEDALE man is encouraging people to help others this festive season by sponsoring a child.

Alan Henderson, 50, who lives in Slingsby, has sponsored children for 15 years through the charity Action Aid.

A locum optometrist working in the local area, Alan is currently sponsoring three children - 12-year-old Carla in Mozambique, nine-year-old Mohammed in Afghanistan, and Seavyean in Cambodia, who is also nine.

Last month, he spent a week in Nepal with ActionAid and some of the charity’s other child sponsors, rebuilding a school that was damaged in the 2015 earthquake. Two years ago he also met Carla, one of his sponsored children, while in her village with ActionAid to help build a centre for women and girls who have experienced gender-based violence. Next May he will return to see how the centre and Carla are doing.

Alan said: “By doing something as simple as sponsoring a child, a simple, small gesture, it’s like an antidote to all the world’s negativity and we are not that different. Family and friends listen to what I’m doing, and some are supportive, but some are quite the opposite. They say that charity begins at home and that I should be supporting charities at home. I won’t be bogged down by where I live. The world is a bigger place, and you have got to realise that what you have here at home may not seem like much to you, but there’s people out there who have so little, and you can make a difference.”

Alan said that while people were enjoying the festive season they should also consider giving the gift of friendship by sponsoring a child.

"I remember vividly the first letter I received, from a child I used to sponsor in India, which arrived just before Christmas," he said. " It was a particularly difficult time – I had just lost my brother. This letter arrived from India. There were drawings, pictures, stories about his family and friends - it was wonderful. It really touched my heart. It’s just nice to connect. That’s what makes all the difference for me.”

For more information, go to actionaid.org.uk/christmas-appeal-no-girl-afraid