We scrolled through the images on the child sponsorship website. Boys and girls with dark hair, shirts buttoned all the way to the top, serious expressions. My son stopped me. “That one, Mom. The one who likes soup.” The boy’s name was Jesus Lopez, an impoverished child growing up in rural Mexico. And there was something we could do to help him.
There were other reasons we chose Jesus: my children could practice their Spanish by writing letters to him in Mexico. He was about the age of my son, so the children could relate to him. And Jesus had been waiting over a year to be sponsored.
My parents had been enthusiastic sponsors of multiple children, but a June, 2013 article in Christianity Today magazine convinced me that my family should do it too. You may have wondered “Do the kids really get the money? Does sponsorship make a difference? What happens when the children become adults?” To answer those questions, economist Bruce Wydick of the University of San Francisco launched a study of over ten thousand children sponsored through Compassion International, the results of which were published in the Journal of Political Economy. In summary, child sponsorship is astonishingly effective. It truly changes the lives of sponsored children for the better.
Research shows sponsored children are:
- 27-40% more likely to complete secondary education
- 50-80% more likely to graduate from college
- Likely to stay in school 1-1.5 years longer
- 40-70% more likely to become a church leader
- 35-75% more likely to become a community leader
- 14-18% more likely to attain salaried employment
- 63% more likely to become a teacher
- 35% more likely to have a white-collar job
What has been the result of child sponsorship in my family?
- Poverty has a face. When we read about people who live in poverty, it is no longer abstract. We see his handwriting and his tattered shirt, we read his thoughts, he tells us about what he learns in his after-school program and the games he likes to play. Jesus is included in our prayers just like a family member. You can’t ignore children in poverty if you love one.
- It’s educational. His pastor communicates with us to tell us what the lives of children in his program are like, the challenges they face, and the culture they live in. Compassion’s children’s magazine has activities and photographs that help my kids learn about the ways their life is the same (and different) from other children around the world.
- The effort to change a single life is worthwhile. We can’t change everything, or maybe even much, but we can change the situation for one child. And the ripple effect to his family, his siblings, his parents, his church, and his school mean that really, this investment in one child is changing many people.
- The news breaks your heart in a fresh, appropriate way. Children escaping gang violence in Mexico who end up imprisoned in Texas? They look just like our Jesus and are just as precious. This gives our hearts extra reason to pray for families in the headlines and take political action on their behalf.
Should you consider child sponsorship?
- pray for others
- donate items
- provide food for the needy
In other words, families who care for the very poor are (or perhaps become) more caring in general!
There are many ways to sponsor children. Some families sponsor through organizations like Compassion International or Save the Children. If you choose to go through one of the many child sponsorship organizations, first make sure it shares your values and is financially responsible by checking Charity Navigator. Some churches, like Holy Trinity Southbridge in Massachusetts, choose to corporately sponsor a child, with parish families taking responsibility for different months. Others, like St. Martin’s Episcopal in Houston, sponsor Costa Rican children in partnership with the Episcopal Diocese of Costa Rica’s Hogar Escuela mission.
If your desire is to encourage caring and empathy as virtues in your family, child sponsorship may be a meaningful way to practice and cultivate that Christlike compassion.
[Image Credit: Logo used with permission from Compassion International]