Five Myths about Child Sponsorship

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We are very careful not to create a dynamic of haves and have-nots in the communities in which we work.

As we work and talk with people across the country and around the world, we run across many misconceptions about child sponsorship.

Perhaps you’ve heard of (or said yourself) some of these:

Myth #1: Sponsorship-funded programs feed children only, nothing more.

In fundraising speak, this myth claims that these programs operate on a very low cost-per-beneficiary budget that leaves little room for development work.

Fact: Sponsorship-funded programs feed kids and also address the root causes of hunger.

This myth is partially the fault of messages that emphasize feeding a child for pennies a day without mentioning working toward longer-term solutions. We want to provide the kind of help that enables communities to become self-sufficient. We don’t want them to need help forever!

Myth #2: Sponsorship-funded programs are mostly about letter writing between sponsors and children.

This is another myth implying that sponsoring a child doesn’t provide much in the way of tangible or long-term benefits.

Fact: Sponsoring a child encompasses far more than being his or her pen-pal.

Letters mean so much to the children in our programs. Research tells us that children who receive letters from sponsors go further in school and have better self-images than those who do not get letters. But sponsoring a child provides much more: food, water, health care, education, and livelihood training with a focus on the child, the family, and the whole community.

Myth #3: Sponsorship’s main purpose is to make donors feel good.

Sponsoring a child DOES feel good. But this myth claims that is the main purpose, not addresing the needs of the child and his or her community.

Fact: The goal of sponsoring a child is to develop individual, family, and community independence.

Again, this is the fault of messages that focus on telling donors how good they are for donating and failing to follow through with reports on the work being done and the results in the lives of the children.

Myth #4: Sponsorship only helps the sponsored child.

And this, if true, would result in some children receiving more than others.

Fact: While some child sponsorship programs may work this way, ours does not. 

We can’t speak for all child sponsorship programs, but at Feed the Children, we are very careful not to create a dynamic of haves and have-nots in the communities in which we work. We never want some kids to receive benefits while others suffer.

Myth #5: Sponsorship programs don’t work/You can’t evaluate sponsorship programs to show objective results.

Some people don’t think there’s any real scientifically-based way to assess the work being done and determine whether it’s actually improving conditions and child wellbeing. The underlying gist of these myths is the claim that the child sponsorship model hinders development organizations from designing effective community development programs.

Fact: Child sponsorship program DO work, and we have the research to prove it.

The Journal of Political Economy published the study “Does International Child Sponsorship Work? A Six-Country Study of Impacts on Adult Life Outcomes” in April 2013. This study uses the scientific method to show that child sponsorship programs do work.

While some poorly-designed sponsorship programs may hinder community development, the flaws are not inherent in child sponsorship itself. The weaknesses lie within certain program designs.

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This is Feed the Children’s child sponsorship program:

  • A reliable way to fund community-based programs that help all children – even if the effects take a while to ripple out to everyone.
  • Community-based programs that improve the entire community without bias or leaving people out.
    For example:
    • A safe clean community water source leads to better drinking water for the sponsored child and all the others
    • Improved livelihoods for parents generate more income to pay school fees for all children, including the sponsored child (if their parents are involved)
    • Health promotion targeted at mothers of all young children results in healthier school-aged children later
  • A platform to educate and transform the donor. The long-term sharing of updates, progress reports, and program success creates a more knowledgeable, savvy, and engaged donor. People who understand community development not only support it themselves but become evangelists and educators of others, too!
  • A long-lasting, steady, and larger income source for organizations to fund holistic community development programs.

Your turn. What misconceptions have YOU heard about child sponsorship?

 

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