Monday, February 25, 2013

Sponsor a Child: What to Expect

Most people give to charity one way or another. Some give up their time to help good causes, many routinely carry out acts of spontaneous charity for strangers, and most give money. And there’s a significant sector of charitable giving that opts for something very individual, involving and personal: sponsoring a child.

Sponsoring a child in need has been a part of the charity landscape for generations; the first scheme was inspired by the plight of children orphaned during the Spanish civil war of the 1930s. Since then, sponsoring a child has become a significant contributor, accounting for around US $3 billion annually channelled into changing lives.

At one level, sponsoring a child is like many other commitments to a charity: a monthly or annual payment goes from the donor’s account to the charity. There, the similarities end. This is a long-term commitment, usually lasting between ten and fifteen years, when the child is old enough to be independent. It’s worth considering this carefully before signing up.

Child sponsorships schemes vary and many are community-wide, which means the sponsored child and the community all benefit. The donor knows who the sponsored child is, where he lives and the challenges he and his community are facing, which helps to give context and a more complete picture of the child’s environment.

The sponsor and the child are in contact with one another, exchanging letters and photos and, in some cases, e-mails. Some schemes allow donors to send gifts, while other charities actively discourage this.

The sponsorship money is used in a variety of ways. Educating and raising the aspirations of the child is at the top of the list of priorities, as is his health and future opportunities. Some is invested in improving infrastructure, such as sanitation and agriculture, all of which ultimately benefit everyone in the community. Larger charities invest in the future of the community with training programmes, advocacy and economic development.

All donors receive regular updates on the child’s progress from the charity. This takes the form of school and health reports, news of events and developments in his community, and updates on the work of the charity.

A child will only have one sponsor, and it often happens that close bonds are formed between the sponsor and the child over many years, building a relationship and a real sense of connection and attachment. There are also some cases where the child’s expectations can be higher than the sponsor realises, so many charities advise sponsors to be aware of this.

Many happy and successful outcomes emerge from child sponsorships. Sponsoring a child takes commitment, and it’s as well to be prepared for more of an emotional rollercoaster than donating money to good causes in general. As in any relationship, there are rewards and pitfalls, but a good scheme is one that is run by well-trained professionals who will be happy to answer questions.

Charity is rarely out of the news, and it can be hard to see the human story behind the column inches and statistics that only tell a fraction of the story. This is charity with a human face, a name, and a life. Sponsoring a child is an opportunity to be a part of it.


About the Guest Author
Stacey is a freelance writer and is passionate about her family, two dogs, giving back to the community through volunteering for different charities and also about making a difference to young people's lives.

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