Child sponsorship is a popular and enduring way to help vulnerable children around the world. The BBC’s piece “Is child sponsorship ethical?” was a fantastic opportunity to highlight the important, far-reaching work done by charities who help children in the most desperate situations. But despite its title, the article took as its main focus the findings of a group of academics who reviewed the work of only one charity, Compassion.
The article was careful not to jump to its own conclusions. It stuck earnestly to the facts identified in the research, praising Compassion for the life-changing work they do while acknowledging that other charities approach child sponsorship from a different angle. But although it recognised the varied forms child sponsorship can take, it underplayed this observation, perhaps missing an opportunity to broaden the discussion into a consideration of the true variety of this powerful way of giving.
The fact is, “child sponsorship” comes in many shapes and forms. While numerous charities allow their supporters to help children through sponsorship, the assistance they provide to those in their care can be very different indeed. Some charities choose to target the individual child, working to create strong individuals whose future success will benefit a family. Others work with communities, seeking to bring change to a whole generation. And there are those charities who take on both these challenges, giving vulnerable children another chance in life while reaching out to whole communities of people who need their help.
On our website, we describe what child sponsorship means to us, unpicking that crucial word “sponsorship” to help our supporters understand how their money will be spent. To us, child sponsorship is about helping children live the life their circumstances are stopping them from leading. It is about unlocking a potential that has been shut off by poverty or exploitation or simply bad luck, and we choose to pursue this by respecting cultural values and alternative worldviews. There is no single “right way” to deliver child sponsorship. But it has as many meanings as there are charities that offer it.
Naturally, we believe that to provide a decent education and effective healthcare across communities is the best way to give vulnerable families the chance of a better life. This is our approach, and we are proud of it as a charity. It is up to you to decide whether you agree. This is why we believe that it can endanger the welfare of children around the world to imply that child sponsorship is all the same. It is not, and the difference may be crucial to the lives of disadvantaged children around the world.