I purposefully didn't sponsor a child before I left for Sri Lanka with World Vision. As much as I was learning and liked about the organization, I didn't totally understand the child sponsorship thing. I was hoping maybe I could help in a different way. A donation, still, but without the connection to just one person.
I wanted to see this work in action, and I asked a ton of questions over the nine days we were visiting. So far as I understand it - and I think I've got a pretty good grasp - this is how child sponsorship works:
When World Vision defines and enters a new area (referred to as an ADP, Area Development Program), people within that community can register their children to be a part of the child sponsorship program. If you are part of the sponsorship program, you receive the sponsorship benefits even if you do not yet have a sponsor. That's because the $35 month that it takes to be sponsor goes into a pool and not directly to the hands of that family. So the kids who are in the sponsorship program (who all still need sponsors in order to make this run right) receive the books and supplies for schooling, food, etc. because they're a part of the program, no one goes without just because someone didn't pick their picture. Another portion of the sponsorship money goes into the things that affect the community as a whole, like a new water well or garden training, or whatever the targeted need is as determined by the community itself who is working with World Vision.
photo credit: Matthew Paul Turner, courtesy of World Vision
World Vision does not just arrive and start identifying needs and doling out money. This wouldn't work in the long term. World Vision wants to help the area help itself, so local leaders and citizens set the goals and vision for their future. World Vision works with schools, churches, temples, programs that already exist and just need to expand. This way the people themselves have ownership in the changes that are being made, and they will be much more likely to grow and sustain them long after World Vision departs.
People and families are encouraged to set goals and World Vision helps to meet them. In Willuwa, where World Vision is wrapping up their time, we visited one of the 2,000 home gardens that has sprung into existence, providing food for families and a means of commerce. Many of these women had taken their home gardens to places I couldn't even imagine. They went from small squares in their backyard to planting five acres to harvest. It was impressive by any standard.
The child sponsorships are the bedrock of these programs. World Vision uses the sponsorship pledges to help the actual children, of course, but also to fund the bigger picture.
Two things I think are important to note:
- 11% goes to the organization's overhead (to World Vision itself to function as a company), which comes to $3.85 a month out of your $35 monthly pledge.
- if you choose to send letters or gifts to your sponsored child - which you are not obligated to do - those things DO go directly to the child and not into a fund.
Why do the monthly sponsorship pledge instead of just donating yearly? This was one of my main questions. My husband and I give annually or semi-annually to the other organizations we support, which seemed to me like something that made more sense. But in reality, $35 seems a lot more doable than writing a $420 check at the end of the year. Also, people who write a check to support causes may or may not do it again next year. People who are connected with their sponsored child are more likely to continue contributing the amount needed to keep World Vision working in the area in the long term. Continued support means World Vision can work on addressing the big picture and not only immediate need.
On that note, what happens if someone stops supporting a sponsored child? This happens, of course. As already stated, since this child is part of the sponsorship program, their needs are still met until another person is found to step in and sponsor them. This is one of the benefits of the pool model.
As I learned more about how child sponsorship actually works, and saw with my own eyes how the combined monthly pledges can literally transform a community, I got on board. On my end, choosing a child and then receiving occasional updates will also become a teaching tool for my own children.
If you have questions about how World Vision works, please feel free to ask them in the comments or send me an email. I will get them answered to the best of my ability.
If you're curious if World Vision does any work here in the United States, the answer is Yes. Our child protection laws means that they do not use the child sponsorship model, so it looks a little different. But if helping closer to home is something you're interested in doing through World Vision, you can click here for more information.
And finally, if child sponsorship still isn't your thing, there are other ways to help those in need around the world. More on that soon.
The pictures in this post are very special to me. Before I left for Sri Lanka, I told the HH readership that if they chose to sponsor a child from the area I was visiting, that I would try to meet that child. Seven of you chose to do so, blowing me away with your faith and generosity. I hadn't even yet sponsored a child myself! Time and distance didn't allow for me to meet all seven of those kiddos, but I did sneak away one afternoon to bring small gifts to Jennifer's sponsored child Dilukshika and Amy's sponsored child Apeksha. I hugged them both, from your heart through mine.