Child sponsorship programs have proponents and opponents, something which I was not aware of when I began sponsoring Siba in India 7 years ago.
Siba lives in the rural community of Gajal, approximately 250 miles from Calcutta. He lives with his mother, a single parent who sometimes is able to find work on farms. To support his small household, Siba runs errands, cares for the animals, and gathers firewood. Thanks to the money I donate through Compassion, Siba is able to go to the Gajal Child Development Center. There he receives a healthy meal, medical checkups, as well as the opportunity to attend a variety of training programs. Compassion is a Christian organization, which also emphasizes Bible teachings to its children. In addition, the health education the Center provides is vital to keeping its children healthy and in school.
Siba is now 13 years old. Through the organization, Siba is able to send me letters and drawings and I am able to do the same. In one of his most recent letters, Siba tells me about doing well in his exams and what he is learning in CDC. He also drew a picture of himself with a backpack smiling on a sunny day. For just $38 a month, I have the opportunity to let this child halfway across the world know that someone somewhere cares about his well-being and future.
Although I would assume that most people who decide to sponsor a child through a program like Compassion do so with the best intentions, I can understand the arguments some make against this avenue of philanthropy.
Potential downsides to child sponsorship programs:
- When only one child in a large household is sponsored, family rifts may arise. The child may feel isolated by the special treatment.
- The future well-being of a child depends largely on the lifestyle of their parents. Donating to help a community rather than an individual may have wider reaching effects.
- Sponsorship programs can have their own political agendas or affiliations (such as Christianity-aligned Compassion). These hidden agendas may cause conflict for the child if they contradict what he or she is being taught at home. Or the child may experience some cultural confusion in their correspondence and support from someone in a different country.
Before you consider sponsoring a child, do your own research, consider the risks mentioned above, and decide for yourself where your money is best directed.