Child Sponsorship… good or bad?

I have have just finished listening to a 30 minute radio program on child sponsorship, it looked at the positives of child sponsorship and also the negatives. It is definitely worth a listen too yourself and you can do so clicking here (this may only be available for people in the UK, so sorry if you are trying to listen from around the world).

There were a number of queries raised about how different charities ran the child sponsorship program and I though I would write a little post to explain how we run our sponsorship program at Hope for Life. You don’t have to listen to the radio show to follow the post below though.

The issues raised were:

  • Is the admin cost of running a sponsorship program really expensive?
  • Does it really help change the individuals future?
  • Surely sustainability is helping to change a community not just an individual?
  • What happens when the sponsorship comes to an end?

So here’s an insight into how we differ from other charities…

Is the admin cost of running a sponsorship program really expensive? 

This questions is definitely aimed at huge charities as opposed to localised charities like us. Big charities need to consider staffing costs to maintain the program, including the links back and forth to the western sponsor. There are also transport and other admin costs involved.

We don’t hire any additional individuals to maintain the sponsorship program (not that this is a problem, if child sponsorship is such a benefit to the individual/community then it is worth hiring more people), although it is part of our Education Officers job description to oversee that all the children’s school fees are paid each term and they are progressing well in school.

Our costs to maintaining a sponsorship program is extremely minimal.

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Does it really help to change the individuals future?

One of the co-founders of Hope for Life, grew up being sponsored by one of the charities mentioned in the radio show. He testifies to how that sponsorship program changed his and his families life, explaining how he got an education as a result and how he now has the life to be able to support him, his wife and his family back in the village.

There were things that he noticed, whilst growing up in the sponsorship program, that he would change/alter how specifics were carried out. It is invaluable to have his insight on the team and we have implemented/are implementing these thoughts into ours.

I have heard a number of testimonies from people who grew up as a sponsored child, of how their life has been transformed as a result, escaping severe poverty and now in a position to get a well paid job.

We are into the 2nd year of our sponsorship program and are already seeing the change in individuals that have been sponsored. This has of course been backed up by the few years they have been attending our catch-up program, instilling the basics of education. If you compare these children to how they were before they attended our catch-up classes, or even to other children the same age, which currently don’t go to school, it is unbelievable how much they have progressed. Throughout the year our staff send us report cards of the children sponsored into school are getting on. It is always a joy to read them, thinking back to Sept 2011 when we first started teaching them in our catch-up classes.

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Surely sustainability is helping to change a community not just an individual? 

Well yes and no.

This has been a big criticism of charities who are only focused on child sponsorship but as it was reported on the radio program, “One way of changing the community is to empower and change individuals, which then in turn changes the community” (I paraphrased slightly as I didn’t write the quote down).

We however differ in that alongside our education program we run our Livelihoods program. This link is huge, something that we focus most of our time and energy on, working with the parents of the children in our education program in helping them to earn a sustainable income for them and their families.

This means that we hope each child will be sponsored for approximately 5 years, by which time, we have given a loan, training and/or other support, to the parents to earn a sufficient income to then go on and pay for their own child’s education.

Because this is how you change a community isn’t it? By empowering families to look after themselves, free from poverty.

So if you sponsor a child with us, on year 4 of your sponsorship, we may ask you to reduce the amount you give, this is because we have hopefully empowered the parent of the child in such away that they are now in a position to be able to start paying a small amount towards the school fees. In this way the parents slowly adapt to paying for their child’s education as their income increases.

We feel this gets the best of supporting an individual as well as, supporting the family, all the while boosting the micro-economy within Katanga, helping to change the community.

Other ways we support the community is providing education, healthcare, support in their businesses and jobs, guidance and counselling. We are also continuing to look for a sustainable way to provide clean water and better sanitation.

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What happens when the sponsorship comes to an end?

There is a feeling that sponsorship creates a sort of financial dependency. As you have read a few paragraphs ago, we hope help the parents slowly adapt to paying school fees for themselves. After that the child should be in a family that is now able to support their needs sufficiently. 5 years later, both the child and the family will be in a better position to be able to maintain a lifestyle free from poverty.

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So I hope that gives you an insight into how we run our sponsorship program. It was quite a long but hopefully worth reading.

Perhaps it’s a dangerous thing for a charity to talk about the negatives of child sponsorship but I would be interested to hear your views, ideas and concerns about such a program. You can leave a comment using the comments section below this post.

If you are interested in sponsoring a child with us for £20/month then send us an email at hopeforlifekatanga@gmail.com.

Just to finish, I love that line from the little girl from Ghana (on the radio show), “I am surprised that someone so far away loves me so much”.

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