Inevitably, different charities who offer child sponsorship each think that their own way of doing things is best. We obviously understand why the three charities featured in the Radio 4 program "A child to sponsor" prefer their own child sponsorship model but inevitably we think our own is a better "third way" which balances direct support with a child most in need with their wider community fairly. We would not choose our model if we did not think it better...
"A child to sponsor" looks at child sponsorship with Plan, sponsorship with Compassion and interviews a few ex World Vision children. This much we know because they tried to arrange to visit our programs but sadly in the end didn't manage to. All of these charities have their own model of sponsorship each with its advantages and disadvantages, which we discuss on our sponsorship comparison site.
Broadly, the disadvantage of community sponsorship is that the sponsored child often feels that they get little out directly, and some donors feel that they are not directly helping the child. The disadvantage of individual sponsorship is that it creates "haves" and "have nots" locally, is said to undermine the role of the parents and sometimes is linked to the child have religious obligations which they would not otherwise choose.
SOS Children is in a slightly different position from some charities because we specifically focus on direct help for children alone without much of a wider advocacy agenda. All of the children we offer for sponsorship are children who live in our families and get a high level of direct support from us ("we are the ones who tuck them up at night"). Half of our spend in each location is towards helping prevent children in the wider community ending up on the streets in the first place. It goes without saying this is only possible because less than 25% of our worldwide income comes from sponsorship, but sponsorship is a critical contribution.
We are a bit sad that Radio 4 missed the chance to include what we think is a rather special sponsorship model and did not visit our projects in Ghana. But we hope the discussion will help more people consider sponsorship to help children who really need someone to care about them.