OXFORD residents are among the most generous in the country, according to research from anti-poverty charity ActionAid.

People living in the city this year sponsored 347 children through its child sponsorship programme, making it the 16th most generous town or city in the country in terms of those giving to the scheme.

The charity produced a list of the top 20 most generous cities and towns and the top 20 counties.

Oxfordshire was among the most generous counties, sponsoring 901 children, which placed it 17th in the country.

Money donated by the people of Oxford raised £69,000, enough to equip 2,300 classrooms or provide schoolbooks for a year for 3,450 children.

And the 347 children – who live in developing countries all over the world – could fill 14 classrooms.

Matthew Sherrington, 48, from East Oxford, has been sponsoring a Cambodian child, Sophoan, nine, for the past five years. Mr Sherrington, who works in marketing, said: “I had a young family at the time and it seemed like an interesting thing to do and help connect my children to other children around the world.

“That was the big driver.”

Money from sponsorship does not go directly to the child, but is spent within their community on projects identified locally, such as improvements to classrooms, wells or seeds.

Sponsors receive pictures, drawings, letters and updates from a real child within the community they are supporting on a regular basis, and can also write back to the child and build up a relationship with them.

Student Rachel Godwin, 30, from Longworth, sponsored 10-year-old Nemneivah Baite in Senepati, in north-east India, for five years starting in 2003, and continues to support the charity’s work in India.

She also hopes to travel to the region to meet Nemneizah and see the community where her sponsorship was spent.Miss Godwin said: “Sometimes it is a little bit difficult to know how to do something and to know which organisations to trust because you hear the money doesn’t go to the children.

“With this I received regular updates, pictures drawn by the child and hand-written letters from the teacher, which told me how I was helping.”

Sponsors pledge £15 a month, 80 per cent of which goes overseas and 20 per cent of which is spent in the UK campaigning and finding sponsors.

Dawn Wyatt, from the charity’s child sponsorship team, said: “At a time when life is financially harder for most of us, the generosity of people in Oxford is inspiring and absolutely vital in supporting ActionAid’s work. We want to thank all those people who are already helping us by sponsoring a child.”

  • For more details, visit the website actionaid.org.uk.