I started sponsoring children through World Vision 6 years ago when I was 15 or 16 years ago and it was always a rewarding experience for me. I would write letters to my sponsor kids and they would often write back. Currently I sponsor 5 children (2 of them are my moms kids who we have a co-sponsorship with, I write to them, and I sponsor the other 3 on my own). My own personal situation as a student allowed me to be privileged enough to do this.
I would get updates from these kids. 2 of them started going to school after I sponsored them – one of them was 12 and not attending school so you have to understand that I see that as significant.
Continuously I would hear people criticize child sponsorship. It was the age old “How do you know they’re giving the money to the kids?” problem.
I’d like to point out that, for starters, not all of the money goes right to the kid – a lot of it goes into the community and some goes into advertising and employment costs because those are things they need to keep running World Vision or Plan or what ever other organizations you sponsor through. I don’t begrudge them spending 15% or what ever to actually keep the organization going because if the organization can’t employ anyone then they’ll never be able to help those kids and really, the overhead costs aren’t that ridiculous
Also, I don’t begrudge them spending a certain amount on the community. A lot of the problem in many of these countries is the lack of infrastructure. I’ve been to some of these places – there aren’t enough schools, there are children who aren’t wearing shoes in situations where the kids should be wearing shoes – the kids who’s families can afford shoes have shoes on. I’ve seen peoples homes who don’t even have bathrooms and there are no communal bathrooms either. There aren’t enough jobs and it is hard for many people to access the training they need to get training for jobs. So yes, they need to put a certain amount of money in the community so that they can fund small businesses, bakeries, clinics and schools, bathrooms and wells (seriously, some of these kids have to walk 30+ minutes just to collect water!). Otherwise you are paying for these kids to go to non-existent schools, or these kids STILL have to travel really far for a clinic and they still have to walk long distances just for a drop of water. The communities that these kids live in have to be able to grow, as well as the opportunities for these kids.
I don’t have an illusions about all of these kids becoming extremely wealthy people just because I helped them, but I do believe my sponsorship will be a part (no matter how small it seems) that will help relieve the poverty in these communities. There will be more opportunities for jobs and many other things such as wells, bathrooms and many other things that are essential to a better life for my sponsor children, their families and their communities. After all, it’s all fine and well if, because i sponsored them, they got to go to school. But then what? Are they supposed to move away to work? I know a lot of people do that, but I do think it is important to deal with underlying issues of poverty (primarily health care, education, and access to employment, access to clean food and water, etc.) – so kudos to World Vision, Plan and so many other organizations for addressing these issues.
This summer I met 2 of my sponsor children who live in Ecuador (the other 3 live in Ethiopia, Egypt, and Mongolia). The one girl lives in the Andes with her grandparents. She had dropped out of school because of family problems (specifically her father). It was a problem that World Vision was helping them to resolve. It made me happy that even though she’d run into some problems that it was made sure she’s be ok. The other girl lived on the coast, and she’s going to be finishing school in a few years and wants to be a secretary. I find it a strange career choice – most girls I knew/know who are her age (13) wanted to be doctors, teachers, vets, nurses etc. – but I also see a reality in which she’ll be so much better off when she “grows up” because she has a good career choice by being a secretary. She also had braces, which I am guessing World Vision helped pay for. I also saw bathrooms that World Vision had helped build. Finally, there was a bakery that World Vision had helped build, they brought in all of the equipment and the local people run it – it’s about 15 cents for a bun, which is wildly cheap (the same thing would probably have been minimum $1.50 in Canada, but hey, I’m not complaining).
I’ve seen first hand the impacts that World Vision has (Plan does similar work – but my kid with them is in Egypt and i haven’t had the opportunity to go there as of yet).
Recently I started sponsoring a new child in Cambodia. She is 12. I don’t really know anything about her because it only happened a few days ago. Basically what happened was that the girl in Ecuador who wasn’t going to school moved away to attend school in another community where World Vision doesn’t have any staff – I think she moved to the capital cause I know she has some family there. Do I worry something will happen to her without World Vision? Yeah, sure, but at the same time she moved so that she could go to school, it’s not like she moved to that she could work – she’s a young woman who has managed to find a way to finish school when she couldn’t do so because of the family situation in her home community. So good for her for not quitting on her education because of those difficulties.
Because I have seen the impacts of child sponsorship, I plan to continue sponsoring for a long time and I look forwards to being a part of this new girls life who lives in Cambodia. I know that for a lot of people, my telling you that child sponsorship isn’t some kind of scam isn’t going to make a difference – for some (or most) of you, I am probably just a stranger on the internet, but I hope that by using my voice to share about my experience that I will be able to help some people begin to understand the difference it makes. If you are on the fence about child sponsorship, please feel free to send a message or reply here and I would love to discuss it further 🙂