Five Myths about Child Sponsorship

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.

greenhouse kids blog crop

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?


4 Reasons Why I Am Excited To Be Working With Feed the Children

At Feed the Children, we are so thankful for the gifts of our loyal staff that has served with us for so many years and countless others who recently have decided to join us. They have heard about our passion for our mission and plans for even more innovative programing around the world and wanted to support us! We recently asked one of our new staff, Lindsey to share with why she’s excited about joining the Feed the Children team.


In November, I joined Feed the Children as a part of the newly-created Artist Program based out of Nashville, Tennessee. In Nashville, I work alongside two other staff, Crystal Hutchinson and our vice president of Child Sponsorship and Media, Ben Greene. Here are 4 reasons why I am excited about my new position and Feed the Children.

1.     The opportunity to connect two worlds that I love.  I have spent the majority of my professional career in the retail book and publishing industries. During that time, I found great friends and mentors who get to use their words to influence people. I go to a lot of conferences. I read a lot of books. I hang out with a lot of bloggers. And so one of my favorite things about my job is that I get to partner with authors, speakers, and bloggers, and enlist them in the incredible work that Feed the Children is doing.

A kind big brother carries his little sister up the hill on his back.
Piggy-back ride up the hill courtesy of big brother

2.     The opportunity to be a part of organization that feeds over 350 thousand children around the world every day. One of the distinctives that I love about Feed the Children is that while we work on long-term sustainable development solutions, we begin by building relationships and fulfilling a critical and immediate need – feeding children. On a recent trip to Guatemala with Feed the Children, I got to visit two different feeding centers where we partner with mothers to provide nutritious meals for children in the community so that their brains and their bodies can develop properly.

3.     The opportunity to help those in need, not just across the world, but down the street. For the past several years, I have been a strong advocate for global development and orphan care.  During that time, I was able to travel and learn a lot about the complexities of poverty in Africa, in Asia and in Latin America. But truth be known, I have a lot to learn about poverty in my city, in my state, and across the United States. I have read the statistics. I know families that are struggling to make ends meet. I look forward to better understanding the complexities of poverty within the United States. 

4.     The opportunity to be a part of a “new day” at Feed the Children.  Change is afoot at Feed the Children. Kevin Hagan, our President and CEOrecently announced 4 new initiatives that are underway. The first is to revamp domestic programs to build self-sufficiency {two of my very favorite words}. The second is to renew emphasis on child sponsorship {this is a huge part of what the Artist Program team that I work on is responsible for}. The third is to launch a new Feed the Children brand {it’s coming this summer, and I cannot wait}. And the fourth is to focus on customer service. It is such a tremendous privilege to be a part of the organization during such a pivotal time.

What Makes Feed the Children Unique? A Look at Kenya

Feed the Children recently interviewed Ben Greene, Vice President of Sponsorship and Media, after his first trip to visit the communities we serve in Kenya. 

FTC: Could you tell us when you joined the staff at Feed the Children and what your role is on our team?

BG: I joined Feed the Children in November of last year. I serve as the Vice President of Sponsorship & Media. This simply means that I work with our child sponsorship team to find ways to ensure even more children in developing countries are given the opportunity to thrive in life.

FTC: You recently traveled to Kenya to visit our staff and field programs there. Could you tell us when and why you made this long journey?

BG: Yes, from January 28- February 5th I traveled to Nairobi alongside one of our artist partners, Warren Barfield and his team. As a new member of the Feed the Children staff I was eager to get to the field and see the work myself. And because artists like Warren will be telling the Feed the Children story at events to potential child sponsors, they need to see and experience firsthand what we are doing on the ground. Together with Warren, it was wonderful to see the children we serve in the Dagoretti Children’s Center orphanage, those we serve in the slums in the city of Nairobi, and also those in Maparasha, a rural community.


FTC: You came to Feed the Children after having worked with two other similar large international non-profits. What stood out to you as you experienced Feed the Children’s programs first hand in Kenya that distinguishes Feed the Children from other organizations?

BG: In my work with organizations, I have been all around the world. And I know this: it seems that most organizations choose to either meet immediate needs and deal with the pressing issues of a community, or they decide to participate in development which helps the communities think long-term. I see a unique distinctive with Feed the Children in that we do both.  We do feed children, especially in schools. Full tummies means effective learning for the day. But we also work with community leaders to develop better systems of healthcare, agriculture and education as well as livelihood development for the future. While in Kenya, it was wonderful to see communities engaged in all sorts of projects dealing with beekeeping, greenhouses, and water and sanitation. We truly are doing the work of holistic development— or as many folks in our industry like to say “giving a hand up and not just a hand out.”

FTC: Could you tell us more about a memorable experience you had while you were in Kenya.

BG: Being in this line of work for a while now, I’ve always said I aim to support the work of an organization that looks after the most vulnerable in our world. But, what an eye-opening experience it was visiting with the “Hardy Boys” in Nairobi! I realized I still had much to learn about what this means. The Hardy Boys are a group of 10 young men in their 20s who have aged out of our orphanage, but for whom Feed the Children will have a life-long relationship with because they are unable to care for themselves on their own due to certain disabilities.


As soon as we walked into their home, I was overwhelmed by their joy as the smiles never left their faces. After sharing a meal together, Warren began to play his guitar as we sang the song, “Everlasting God.” When we got to the words that said, “You’re the defender of the weak and You comfort those in need” I couldn’t help but think about the poignancy of those lyrics in that moment.  I realized that these “boys” are what my work is all about. You can’t get much more vulnerable than living with special needs in the developing world. But even with all of their challenges the Hardy Boys couldn’t help but sing. This is what my work at Feed the Children is all about—protecting the most vulnerable like them. I think about them often now.

Your Valentine Is Waiting

Every February, retailers across the U.S. unroll yards of pink and red bunting, tack hearts on every flat surface, and load their shelves with chocolates, flowers, and jewelry. And every February, those who feel left out of the love holiday complain that Valentine’s Day should be named Single Awareness Day or call for a boycott of the manufactured holiday with such impossibly high standards.

Love (and the lack of it) can be awfully hard on the soul.

But as uncertain as love can seem, it’s still the single best thing we can allow ourselves to feel… and to give. This Valentine’s Day, whatever your situation, take a moment to consider this:  you have options. If you live in a developed country, there’s a good chance that you can take steps to change your circumstances, explore possibilities, and shape your life. We are taught this from childhood.

Ask a child in the suburbs what she wants to be when she grows up. Her answer could be “I want to be a pilot” or “I want to be the President of the United States” or “I want to be a rock star.” My kids dream of making people laugh or forging careers as professional musicians.

Try asking that question of a child in one of the poor communities where we work. These children have no such dreams. Often, they respond, “If I grow up….” The future is by no means guaranteed, and these little ones figure that out at a tragically early age.

sideways smile blog crop

When I visited a family carving out a life from the side of a mountain in Bolivia, it was this inability to look ahead or look up from the desperate striving to survive that surprised me. I cannot comprehend a life without hope and without dreams. But when we talked with the mother and father in the yard between their house and their kitchen (they cooked in a hut separate from their sleeping area), it was clear. They had potential but no ability to see it, let alone the margin to cultivate it. They were just trying to stay alive.

In our work with those at the poorest levels of society (both here in the United States and overseas in developing countries), we define poverty as a lack of options, lack of margin, and lack of hope.  The people in the poorest parts of the world have lost the ability to dream. They spend every ounce of energy just trying to survive the day. Stepping back to take stock, look for alternatives, or imagine a different life? That is a luxury they can’t even conceive of.

You can give these children that hope. You can open the door to choices, help their families build a little margin so they can bounce back from setbacks, and create an environment in which they can dream… and love. The quickest way to feel love is to give love. And there are few things more loving than opening your heart to a child in need.

Sponsor a child. Your Valentine is waiting. Visit our child sponsorship page today!

Ten Simple Ways To Help Children in 2014

The numbers are overwhelmingOne in five American households with children were unable to put adequate food on the table at times during the year. One in eight people around the world regularly do not get enough food to live an active life. These numbers represent precious human lives and millions of children who lack what they need to reach their potential.

If you find yourself looking at these numbers, concluding that the problem is too big, and turning away, you aren’t alone. But just for today, don’t. Sit with it for a minute. Then know this: Hunger is a big problem both in the United States and around the world, but you can help.

We asked our staff to suggest simple things that ordinary people could do to help, not to feel better about ourselves but to truly make life better for the people around us who are going without.

ten easy ways slideshow

You will also find many great ideas for schools, Girl and Boy Scout troops, churches, and more on our Special Projects page. If you need help putting a fundraising project together, we have a team standing by with experience and resources to make your project a success. Learn more and fill out the project application to get started!

We know you have some fantastic ideas, so share your ideas in the comments. Throughout this year, we will feature some of you and the ways you are making a difference every day. If you’re on Pinterest, pin your ideas to our board!

Submitted by Robin Wood
Give your time (Four hours a week would be a tithe if you work a typical full time job) to serve a local rescue mission or food bank.

Submitted by Jayme Cloninger
Leverage your skills in accounting, graphic design, business, etc., at your local community anti-hunger organization.

Submitted by Tony Forrest
Sponsor a child in a developing country through Feed the Children. If you have them, involve your own children by sending letters and pictures to the sponsored child.

Submitted by Tom Davis and Jayme Cloninger
Track your grocery and other food costs for one week. Then take the Food Stamp Challenge, living on $4/day/person for your food, and donate the money that you save that week to a local food bank. If you can’t make it on $4/day, spend more, but commit to donating the same amount you would have given otherwise plus the amount that you went over the limit.

Submitted by Tamara Johnston and Justin Shumaker
Go in with your coworkers on a purchase from the FTC gift catalog.

Submitted by Trevor Moe
Tell your member of Congress that together we can end hunger, and ask them to make a commitment to end child hunger. Call 1-800-826-3688 or find contact forms for your elected official here.

Submitted by Jayme Cloninger
Host a movie night in your workplace, faith community or school to show a documentary on hunger (e.g., A Place at the Table). Follow up with discussions and brainstorming about what your group can do together to help.

Submitted by Jayme Cloninger
We recommend (e.g., Closing the Food Gap, When Helping Hurts, A Place at the Table, and Beyond the Food Drive). What books do you recommend?

Submitted by Kristen Mills and Minna Suh
Even if you don’t normally use cash, select certain purchases to pay for with cash this year. Save all the change (or, for an extra challenge, save your singles too). You will be AMAZED at how quickly this adds up.

Submitted by Hogan Thomas
Workplace activities are fun! Participants pay a small fee that you donate to a local charity. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • sell 15-minute naps
  • host a game tournament (players pay a fee to participate)
  • allow employees to pay to take their dog to work
  • host a cook-off or bake-off (people pay to sample and vote),
  • host a Pay To Wear a Hat Day or a Wildest Tie or Most Outlandish Earring contest (entrants pay a fee)

You Can End Hunger

smiling boy with bowlI remember donating a few dollars and even helping raise money after listening to a speech about the famine in Ethiopia and the horn of Africa. The speakers berated our leaders for not doing more and for the weakness of the UN in its efforts to feed the starving masses. One comment I’ll never forget: “In these times no one should go hungry. Famines don’t happen overnight, so we should be able to prevent them!”  No, this isn’t a “We Are the World” mid-eighties flashback – it’s from my college years in the mid-seventies!

During the Ethiopia famine of the mid-eighties, we heard an outcry around the world to stop the dying. After all, we had plenty of food worldwide, so how could this happen AGAIN just 10 years later?  We were upset that once again millions were starving. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people had already died when news of the famine finally broke.

Today, we see all the signs of a world food crisis again: increasing food prices, lower production of edible food due to weather, emerging economies consuming more than anticipated (India and China), and the poor getting less and less because their money doesn’t stretch as far as it did just a few months ago. Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa have once again been in the headlines.

As the developed world heads into the indulgence of the holiday season, I cannot help but think about those who don’t experience a holiday from hunger. I think about the mother in Haiti who, on nights without food, would boil small rocks and tell her children supper would be awhile. She encouraged them to go rest, hoping their wait would cause them to fall asleep.

Operation Home Front Carolinas helps provide food and essentials for American families of servicemen/women.
Operation Home Front Carolinas helps provide food and essentials for American families of servicemen/women.

Even without widespread famines, children in places like Honduras, Guatemala, Kenya, Uganda and the Philippines are just days away from personal famine because their family livelihoods are so fragile. This kind of famine is not confined to a particular geography, and it doesn’t have a cultural face; it isn’t caused by one crop failure or a drought in one region of the world; it’s not the result of a greedy or uncaring government. It’s many of these things all coming together.

To stop it, we must come together, too. Caring individuals like us need to identify people groups who are the most at risk, and we must act. We – individuals – need to step forward and be first to aid the poor. We need to influence our leaders to help keep grain and rice prices at reasonable levels, and we need to motivate our brothers and sisters in other developed countries to take hold of this chance to help the poorest of the poor.

girls and boxBefore you say that you can’t spare anything this holiday season, take a look at yourself. If you own a device on which to read this blog, you have enough extra to give.

Almost 1 billion people live in extreme poverty. I know that this number is overwhelming. Each of us has wondered how one person can do anything to put a dent in 1 billion hungry people. The fact is, most of us can’t, but we each can make a difference in the life of one person. You can help one child get at least one healthy meal each day, go to school, and maybe break free from poverty thanks to the chance you gave. If you are ready, we have a child for you.

Matt Panos is the Chief Development Officer for Feed the Children and has served the poor and hurting people of our world for more than 30 years. He’s traveled to more than 40 countries in his service with the poor.