Only three days left until Cait and I board our plane to Uganda and not a shred of packing has been done as yet by either of us. As a result, I have decided to procrastinate further by writing a post to better introduce you to Compassion UK’s work.
Yesterday I gave a quick round-up of the back-story with regards to our relationship with Compassion UK. It comprises a history spanning almost ten years, when we began sponsoring an 8-year-old girl in Uganda called Opisia. She is now a couple of weeks away from her 17th birthday and we are still sponsoring her, and this week Cait and I are flying out to meet her for the first time. You can get up to speed by clicking here.
As well as Opisia, our family sponsors another three children as well: a young lad called Richecarde in Haiti, also through Compassion, a girl called Wajeeda through Plan and another boy called Hilario in Honduras who is sponsored through World Vision and was the first child we sponsored only a week or two before Opisia back in 2008.
For us to be given this opportunity to raise awareness about Compassion’s work and to be able to share what we love about it is incredible. This is a charity that our family truly believes in and we look forward to discovering for ourselves the positive change that our sponsorship has made to Opisia’s life, both now and with regards to her future prospects.
During our trip Cait and I will be delving deeper into the work of Compassion and it seems that there is a lot that we will be discovering. For now, and for those of you less familiar with Compassion or who are only hearing of it for the first time, here are a few of the main questions you may have answered:
Who is Compassion?
Compassion is an international child development and Christian ministry which was founded by Everett Swanson in 1952. Swanson had travelled to North Korea to minister to American troops during the Korean war. One morning, he witnessed workers tossing what appeared to be piles of rags into the back of trucks. On closer inspection, he realised that these ‘rags’ were actually the frozen bodies of orphans who had died on the streets overnight. Feeling the need to do something to help the children that were lost, forgotten and alone on the harsh streets, Swanson raised enough money to open an orphanage to care for them. He then established a unique programme where a supporter in the western world could sponsor a particular child, providing them with healthcare, food, a bible-based education and shelter.
How much does it cost to sponsor a child?
£25 a month which equates to 83 pence a day. Or fewer than seven grande cappuccinos a month.
And does it all go to my chosen sponsor child?
This is actually one of the reasons we have complete faith in Compassion: more than 80% of sponsor money goes directly to your sponsor child and regular internal and external audits ensure that funds are being used as effectively as they can. An independent accounts firm also provides an annual report and accounts which can be found here, providing complete transparency and accountability to Compassion’s supporters. Some other charities work on a ‘community fund’ basis, whereby all sponsor money is pooled to provide help and support to the child’s community rather than the child itself. Whilst that’s all well and good, we personally prefer the 1-1 support and relationship it builds between you and the individual child you support (as well as their family). Extra donations can be made for other projects if you wish and you can also make additional gift payments for birthdays, Christmas or throughout the year, although there are limits in place on the amount you can give.
What does that money provide?
More than 60 years later and Compassion has continued to grow using the same 1=1 approach of one sponsor for one child. Each month’s sponsorship payment will provide a sponsor’s chosen child with an education at a project run by a local church, food, healthcare, clothing and social care. No child will leave a project without a vocational skill of some kind that will enable them to earn an income and support themselves. Sponsors are encouraged to write to their sponsored child in order to provide love, encouragement, support and the simple but vital message to let them know that someone cares about them, loves them and believes in them. Sometimes, a sponsor is all a child might have.
What about the rest of the family?
Usually only one child from each family will be chosen by the parents to attend a project. However, in circumstances which may be exceptional, for example, in particularly large families or if there is only one parent, up to three children might be enrolled. However, help doesn’t stop at that one child. Parenting support and education is provided to parents, as well as skills training enabling them to earn money to support their families. Children usually return home and share what they have learnt at the projects with their parents or guardians and siblings, and if a certain need is discovered which affects the family, Compassion’s RESPOND initiative is quick to step in.
Where does Compassion help children?
Compassion helps more than 1.5 million children in 26 of the world’s poorest countries as follow:
Do the children need to be Christian in order to receive help from Compassion?
Compassion was created to help children in Jesus’ name, and uses biblical teaching as its guide. However, children of all creeds, colours and beliefs are welcomed. Compassion is a child-focused charity and its aim is to lift children out of poverty, regardless of their faith or that of their parents. On enrolling, the parents are clearly informed that Compassion is a Christian organisation but children of all faiths are accepted and helped equally.
Are all the children registered at a project sponsored?
Unfortunately not. Some have been waiting several months for a sponsor. The sponsorship pages provide a selection of children who are currently waiting for sponsors along with a brief personal profile on each which includes details of how long they have been waiting for a sponsor.
Can I choose which child I want to sponsor?
Yes, you can. You can carry out a search based on country, age range, gender or even a memorable date. The last option is a wonderful way to involve your own child as they can find their ‘birthday twin’ that they can write to, enabling them to find out how other children in the world live and the challenges they face, and in turn helping them to develop compassion and love for others that they might not otherwise even know of.
I don’t live in the UK. Does that mean I can’t sponsor a child through Compassion UK?
Not at all! Just send over your name, email address, contact number and country of residence via the Compassion UK contact form and they’ll be in touch to set up your sponsorship!
How long does sponsorship last?
It lasts until your child finishes their education which may be anywhere between the ages of 16 and 23, depending on factors including their skills, their country of residence and their own particular circumstances.
Can my workplace/blog readers/club/church pool together to sponsor a child?
Yes! All Compassion ask is that one main point of contact is nominated who will provide the monthly direct debit payment for sponsorship and who will also be the main letter writer for the child. Of course, the group can all arrange individual payments to the main contact in order to fulfil the sponsorship amount for the child, and the group can all pass on their own messages that they would like included in the letter written by the main contact.
Does Compassion UK do anything else apart from child sponsorship?
Yes, there are a number of ways that Compassion UK is helping to break the cycle of poverty. We’ll be covering them in a post in the next couple of days as well as seeing them in action first-hand during our trip in the following week or so, so stay tuned for more info.
Does child sponsorship with Compassion UK really work? Like, REALLY?
Yes, really! In 2009, Compassion celebrated the sponsorship of their millionth child and within the last couple of years, Compassion UK celebrated the sponsorship of their 100,000th child! What an amazing achievement! But there are still many more children waiting for a sponsor and your question is, does it really work?
An independent study has proven that children sponsored through Compassion were more likely to complete their education and be in salaried employment. We hope to be meeting one Compassion graduate during our visit who is proof that child sponsorship doesn’t just change one life, but the ripples continue far beyond. In the meantime, why not have a read of some other Compassion graduate stories and see what the equivalent of a few coffees a month can do?
Where can I find out more?
If you still have questions or want more info, do pop over to the Compassion UK website to find out more. Alternatively, if you have any questions that you would like us to ask during our trip there please email them to email@example.com or leave them in the comments below.
Okay, I’m in! Where can I sponsor a child?
Fantastic! Pop over to Compassion UK, click on ‘Sponsor a Child’ and choose a child whose life you’d like to make a difference to. And believe me, you truly will!
We would also love to hear more if you do decide to sponsor a child so please do share with us (if you’d like to, of course), either in the comments below or via email if you prefer.
Follow our trip here on www.largerfamilylife.com as well as on Twitter with the handle @LargerFamily, on Facebook right here and over on Instagram too. We’ll also be adding videos to our YouTube channel here. And please do make sure you share, share, share and help us spread the word so we can get as many children sponsored as possible.
2 thoughts on “A Brief Introduction to Child Sponsorship with Compassion UK”
I’d love to do this, but through a secular charity. I don’t like that children and their families are proselytized as a condition of receiving aid and education. Do you know of a child sponsorship organization that is not affiliated with any religious groups?
I appreciate your concerns and did raise this question with Compassion. They reassured me that parents and children are able to ‘opt out’ of the faith teachings and aspect of the charity without any negative repercussions at all. They will still be treated the same, be offered the same opportunities and receive the same treatment even if they do not choose to participate or practice the Christian faith. However, the charity itself was founded by a Reverand and uses the church within the community as, in many countries, faith is still regarded highly and is generally practiced to a far greater level in these countries than in the UK. The church is usually the centre of these communities and so best placed to be aware of the needs and requirements, and already has the trust of the locals, before Compassion is introduced there, hence why it is a church-based charity.
We have sponsored through both World Vision and Plan International also, but we haven’t found the level of support for the children to be as high or as focussed on the children as Compassion, for example, the money tends to go directly to the community rather than to your own sponsored child or, in the latter’s case, they stopped our sponsorship without warning and we were only aware once we received a letter informing us at the same time that they had nominated a new child on our behalf, which I was not happy with. All these charities do work together though, as the main aim is to help as many children in poverty as they can, so whilst my strongest recommendation would be Compassion’s work (and it isn’t due to the faith-based aspect but in how much they go above and beyond, which Cait and I have witnessed first-hand), I would say that whichever charity you do choose, if you do so, it will be helping someone, somewhere in some way and I certainly would not try to dissuade you from doing so if this is what you prefer to do.