Child Sponsorship: 5 Reasons Why It Works

by James Addis, World Vision on May 6, 2016



You're the person who sees a need, and you want to help. At some point, you’ve probably slipped a homeless person some cash but wondered, “Is this just a short-term solution? Will this make any long-term impact?”

Maybe you've asked the same question about sponsoring a child. Right now, World Vision is in the final phase of a rigorous research initiative to evaluate the effectiveness of its sponsorship programs and answer that question.

The research is being conducted by independent academics from leading universities from around the world. It’s all part of an ongoing effort to critically examine programs and ensure sponsoring a child is one of the best charitable investments you can possibly make.

The academics will report back at the end of this year. But here's what World Vision’s internal assessments have turned up so far. 

I was lucky enough to go to Weeraketiya in southern Sri Lanka to make a short film about one of the evaluated sponsorship programs that researchers evaluated. What I found was tremendously encouraging. I encountered lots of positive, healthy children whose lives had improved enormously through sponsorship – children who were doing well at school, children who now had running water in their homes, children with a brighter future because their household incomes had soared.

Of course, in making a film like this, it’s easy to cherry pick a few success stories and make everything sound marvelous. What the research allowed me to do was verify that the children I met were not isolated examples. Researchers were able to provide hard statistics on things like education, health, economic welfare, and so forth. They even looked at children’s emotional well-being and found through questionnaires that children who participated in World Vision activities were more hopeful and resilient. You might like to take a look at the film Child Sponsorship: Does it really work? and see for yourself.

When I returned from Sri Lanka, I was able to compare my experiences there with the findings from other evaluated programs from around the world. A complete summary of the findings can be found online — including areas where they recommended improvement — but five positive elements stand out: 


1. Sponsorship lets kids be kids.

In all evaluated programs around the world, child well-being improved. Improvements were noted in health, education, psychological well-being, access to clean water, and children’s economic situations. While we can’t attribute all improvements in child welfare to World Vision programs (other factors play a part) feedback from community members indicates that World Vision programs played a significant role. 


2. It takes a child to raise a village.   

This really struck me in Weeraketiya, and it came out in the evaluation reports of other programs. Sponsorship does not just address a single problem area like education or health; It addresses a wide range of community issues that affect children. In doing so, sponsorship benefits the entire community, not just sponsored children.   


3. World Vision staff build relationships of trust.

World Vision staff identify with and live alongside the poor and vulnerable as a means of building positive relationships. Community members interviewed for the purposes of the evaluations really appreciate this. One went so far as to say the program staff were sent from heaven: “We have built a relationship of trust. We are like brothers,” he says.


4. Teach a community to fish.

Findings showed community participation and partnering with local organizations is a key element of World Vision program success. World Vision is not going to be in a community forever, so it’s essential that local people are empowered to drive further development. In Weeraketiya, a brush-making project that World Vision started is now run entirely by local people. Today, the women in charge take orders from around the world for tens of thousands of brushes.


5.  Sponsorship inspires.

It’s true. In addition to looking at community programs, researchers investigated the impact of sponsorship on child sponsors. They found:

  • 42 percent take a more active interest in issues of global poverty,
  • 38 percent educate their children on those issues,
  • 40 percent pray for their sponsored child,
  • and 31 percent take a more active interest in the well-being of children generally.

As a sponsor of two children myself, it’s reassuring to know that the money I donate each month is invested in something that already has proven benefits for children and is being scrutinized to make it even better. I can sponsor with confidence — you can too.

Your church can help change lives through sponsorship by hosting a Hope Sunday.

This article was originally published at worldvision.org.

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