Questioning Child Sponsorship

I love that Compassion International is doing this blogger’s trip to Uganda. I applaud them. But it also raises a lot of important questions for me. As I read through the entries and the comments, almost everyone responds with tears and a broken heart and an eager need to sponsor a child. That’s great. But I hope it’s not all. I hope there’s more to it than emotionalism.

I hope we still ask the tough questions. I’ve been doing that—though I sound like a heartless bastard—and Anne Jackson has been gracious enough to respond.

My first question was if the disparity between sponsored children and unsponsored children causes problems. Anne explained that the benefits a sponsored child receives extend to their entire family. She also said that culturally it’s understood differently:

“the way the sponsorship impacts the child, the child’s family, and the community is something to celebrate. when all you have is god and your fellow man, it comes a lot easier when someone you love is blessed.”

Update: Shaun Groves also weighed in on my comments, offering further insight. The most encouraging bit he offered is the fact that local Compassion projects are run by local people: “Let’s, first of all, trust that they know what works best in their own communities.” That makes sense.

3 thoughts on “Questioning Child Sponsorship”

  1. came across this from the CMS site…

    I have been told by someone partnering with a similar organization (World Vision) that the money given in sponsorship of a certain child goes toward the whole community. The point of sponsoring a specific child is to give the sponsor an individual to pray for and write to, and know that their money is making a difference in an individual’s life.
    That may not be 100% accurate, but that is what I have heard. But maybe Compassion International does things differently…

  2. Thanks for your comment, Eric. From what I’ve read, Compassion International does indeed do it differently. The child you sponsor is a specific child (hence some of those bloggers got to meet the kid they sponsor). It does sound like a Compassion sponsorship still helps the community in general and the specific child, so a lot of people benefit.

    Almost every child sponsorship program is different, so you need to compare them.

  3. Yes, Kevin, Compassion does it differently.

    Compassion International was the first to offer child sponsorship (given kudos in the recent book Made To Stick for it even) realizing that a one on one relationship with a child is not only good marketing (let’s be honest) but also tremendously beneficial to the child and the sponsor. The child sponsorship has always been “actual” at Compassion. With World Vision and others it is “symbolic.”

    The sponsorship is not just financial (80% of the $32 a month going to meet the needs of the child) but also relational. Children who receive at least two letters a year from their sponsor, a recent study from the Ethiopia Compassion office recently revealed, performs 20% better in school. These kids treasure their sponsor’s letters – wrap them in scrap plastic and hide them in a safe place like the crown jewels or something. Cash means very little to a five year-old, but words of encouragement and a picture of my cat, for some reason? Priceless.

    Perhaps someone besides me could weigh in at some point about the ethics of symbolic sponsorship. Interesting topic to explore – one I’m unqualified to examine.

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