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They say it takes a village to raise a child. CFS has robbed my husband and I of children of our own, but we're still part of the village.

In many ways we were fortunate not to have started a family by the time I became ill. I don't have the strength to pick up a baby, I need to be in bed for all but two or three hours per day and exposure to loud noise makes me very ill. However, I love the company of children and enjoy watching them learn and grow. How could I have these pleasures without the responsibility of providing care? Several friends kindly stepped into the breach and I have enjoyed regular visits from Esther (2), Annalies (6 months) and Michael (until he recently started school). It's a win-win. The children get an extra adult who cares about them, is involved in their lives and spoils them a bit from time to time. I get their company and love.

In addition, when we have money to spare we invest some of it in the care of other people's children. At the moment we are paying for piano lessons for a friend's daughter and are sponsoring a child from a low socio-economic background to participate in the Gifted Kids Programme. In the past we have made various one-off purchases to meet particular needs in our friends' families such as buying literacy and parenting support material. And I always send at least a card, and generally a simple hand-made present, when one of our friends has a baby. It's not the same as having children of our own, and I still struggle each time I hear that another friend is pregnant, but it does fill some of the gap, and give us something practical to do.

May 2007