Friday, September 20, 2013

Should You Sponsor A Child?

It has been three months since I left for Kenya.  A little over two months since I've come home.  Time passes so quickly.  It feels like I was only there yesterday, hugging on kids and watching the Lord transform lives in every tribe, tongue, and nation.

So often, when I mention child sponsorship to friends and strangers, I get a lukewarm response.  "Yeah, I'm not so sure.  How can I know if the money actually goes to the child?  Is it possible for $35 a month to actually make a difference in someone's life?" 

I'm an intern for Christian Relief Fund, a non-profit relief organization with a focus on rescuing orphans and vulnerable children from poverty.  Looking behind the scenes, as well as visiting CRF programs, has opened my eyes to the huge impact that child sponsorship has on children living in poverty. 

If you have questions about whether or not child sponsorship is meaningful, let me add my two cents.

CRF works.  

A few months ago, Christian Relief Fund posted an article on its newsletter and blog called: Does CRF Work?  While I encourage you to read the entire thing, let me summarize for you a few points from the article.

Dr. Bruce Wydick, a professor of Economics, recently studied the impact of child sponsorship.  His results showed that:
  • Sponsored children stay in school longer than non-sponsored children.
  • Sponsored children are more likely to be leaders in their communities and churches.
  • Sponsored children score better than their peers on happiness and hopefulness. 
Christianity Today also recently did a study on the effects of child sponsorship and found that:
  • Sponsored children tend to marry and have children later in life.
  • Sponsored children are less likely to live in a home with a dirt floor.
  • Sponsored children are more likely to live in a home with electricity.
They also found that the most cost-effective strategy for helping the poor was getting clean water to rural villages, which is a major focus of CRF's ministry.  In fact, we have recently been celebrating the arrival of a new water well drilling rig in Turkana, Kenya!

The beneficiaries of Christian Relief Fund are children whose lives are being daily transformed.

CRF is a big believer in holistic growth for children.  Sponsored children receive:
  • Nutritious food
  • Basic medical care
  • Clothing
  • Schooling
  • Spiritual training
CRF partners with local churches and helps to plant churches when needed in order to equip disciples and leaders in communities.  We connect children with churches that they attend weekly.  Many go to Christian schools.  The children in the CRF programs I've met can quote Scripture well, know the Gospel, and often serve in their church.

Christian Relief Fund is transparent in its financial accountability.  90% of donated income goes directly to programs and reserves.

I've seen the impact of child sponsorship with my own eyes. 

I've visited CRF programs in Africa twice now.  Both times I was astonished by the sheer magnitude of transformation that sponsorship has on these kids.

When I was in Kenya in June of this year, I met many children who delighted in sharing their stories of sponsorship.  The kids in Bungoma were eager to make sure I knew how blessed they are.  Most of these kids were AIDS orphans or survivors of a harrowing tribal war.  They have each experienced indescribable violence and the desperation of hunger and abandonment.

Despite all of this, when I met them this year, I saw so much joy and hope.  "Please tell my sponsor that I'm not hungry anymore.  I eat three meals a day here!  Please take a photo of our delicious food.  Taste it for yourself!  Look at how nicely we are dressed.  See, we have beds now!  See, we have mosquito nets!  Look at how healthy we are; we aren't hungry!  We are very thankful."  I mentioned to one young lady that her name came from the Bible, and she quickly replied, "Yes, in Luke 9, verse 36!" and then proceeded to quote the verse without hesitation.

Sponsorship isn't just handing out charity; it's equipping children through education, nutrition, and discipleship so that they can turn around and transform their own communities. 

I am a child sponsor.

I have sponsored a girl named Lavin since she was nearly ten years old.  Now she is sixteen.  I have seen the transformation in her life, face-to-face when I visited her at her school and through letters and photographs over the years.  Lavin has grown tremendously in education and maturity.  Her letters reflect a love for Christ and a fierce desire to learn. 

My family sponsors two other children through CRF named Faith and David.  While we have recently begun sponsoring Faith, I've been able to see David grow from infancy.  His future looked bleak when he was a baby; his widowed mother had ten children that she could not afford to keep.  She was resorting to prostitution just to keep the family from starvation.  They had no crops, no way to afford school fees, no hope at all.  Four years later, David is healthy and growing.  He's eager to start school next year.  He's talented at drawing pictures and knows about Jesus.

I am a child sponsor.  After seeing the impact that sponsorship has made on my three Kenyan children, I never plan to stop.

$35 a month is manageable and it makes a huge difference.

I am a college student.  "I'm in college; I'm poor," is an excuse I've used to get around expenses at least a hundred times.  The other day, a friend of mine committed to sponsoring a CRF child.  She told me, "This month, I spent $35 on concert tickets.  If I have enough money to do that, I can provide for the basic needs of a child."
Have you spent $35 this month on coffee?  Movie tickets?  Soda?  Clothes you don't need?  If so, consider spending that much on transforming the life of a child.

It's Biblical.

The Lord is the biggest advocate for the fatherless.  His heart beats for orphans and widows.  Raising up children within their communities to be healthy and Gospel-focused is such a Biblical concept.  I'll leave you with a few verses.

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  -James 1:27

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families, He leads out the prisoners with singing.  -Psalm 68:5-6

Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  -Isaiah 1:17

Sponsor a child today.

One year ago: Wonder
Two years ago: Here's the mail. It never fails. It makes me want to wag my tail.
Three years ago: Movie Monday and Garbonzo Beans


  1. Emily, I urge you to search on the Internet for responsible critical examinations of child sponsorship, and study and ponder them.

    One example of what I mean is “CHANGE A LIFE. CHANGE YOUR OWN”: CHILD SPONSORSHIP, THE DISCOURSE OF DEVELOPMENT, AND THE PRODUCTION OF ETHICAL SUBJECTS" by Peter Ove. Another is "Images and the ‘Other’: Motivations behind NGO Fundraising Imagery and their Impact on Public Perception." by Jessica Wishart.

    One thought that came to me after looking at those myself, is to appeal to you and to your readers, whatever you decide about child sponsorship, not to be satisfied that it's all we need to do, to fulfill our responsibilities towards the people all over the world, including in our own back yards, who are being plundered and ravaged, to provide us with the comforts and conveniences we enjoy.

  2. I got some new ideas myself, from looking at those articles. It actually improved my view of the motivations behind child sponsorship fundraising. Some people promoting it might see it as the best way to raise funds for development projects, with the best of intentions, without being aware of how those projects, and child sponsorship fundraising campaigns, help perpetuate the ravaging.

  3. Another example: "Ideological Outcomes of Marketing Practices: A Critical Historical Analysis of Child Sponsorship Programs" by Leighann C. Neilson and Robert Mittelman.

  4. Emily, I'm sorry. Never mind. You don't need to know what might be wrong with child sponsorship or the ways it's promoted. Or maybe you already do know. It doesn't necessarily mean that you, or anyone else, shouldn't be doing it. There are some other things that I'd like to see people doing more, to help reduce the ravaging, and counteract its effects. I'm struggling to learn to promote solutions without needlessly highlighting problems.