International (MNN) — Child sponsorship is a popular way for people to give to ministries. But child sponsorship is also surrounded by misconceptions and wariness.
A study by Grey Matter Research and Opinions 4 Good shows 54 percent of current child sponsors think it’s “mostly a gimmick to get donations.”
However, Gary Edmonds, President of Food for the Hungry (FH), says this assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth in their ministry.
“Sponsorship is more than that. The big thing that sponsorship does is, yes, it helps donors to connect in personal, meaningful ways, but it has a major impact on the children and the families of those children where the children have been sponsored by somebody from another country or another context.”
Child sponsorship is a key part of what FH does. When you sponsor a child through their ministry, you directly improve that particular child’s life.
FH does a lot of monitoring and follow-up with sponsored kids and their families. One thing FH monitors is the measure of hope for the kids — both before and after they are sponsored.
Edmonds says hope assessments look at several factors: “How do they view the future? How do they think about their own life? Is it a fatalistic environment where they seem to feel that it’s helpless or do they believe that they’ve got skills, abilities, [and] empowerment that has come from God to make a difference?”
Their findings show that child sponsors have a significant influence, and it’s not just temporary.
“We have found that where there is child sponsorship…actually, hope rises. They have a growth in [their] sense of self-worth. They have a sense that they can make a difference in their community and in their own lives.
“They tend to go much, much farther in school. These children, all of a sudden, rather than getting only a first-grade or second-grade education as I have seen in some contexts, they have aspirations to go on to secondary school…. Some of them [go] to college and beyond. So education is significantly higher in those who are sponsored.”
Edmonds continues, “Later, after they finish school, the children who have been sponsored actually seek better jobs. Rather than menial, manual labor kind of jobs, they seek skill jobs. They say, ‘We can make a contribution here.’”
FH works in several extremely impoverished contexts where the average income is less than $1.90 per day. The kids here are often in survival mode, fending for themselves while their parents or caretakers work and sometimes even going to work with them.
“It’s very basic; very hand-to-mouth for most of them,” Edmonds explains. “As I go into those places too, for them to get one meal — hopefully, two meals in a day — that is great. For many of these people too…they are often having to walk one to even two hours to fetch water.
“I remember one time meeting one of the children I was working with, and I [asked], ‘What difference does it make that you have now been sponsored?’ The child and the parent began to cry and their comment was, ‘We know now that we matter to God because you have responded to God’s call and are becoming our sponsors.’”
As FH ministers to impoverished kids and their families, the staff seeks to address all forms of poverty — physical, relational, intellectual, and especially spiritual. Everything FH does is in the name of Jesus and families often end up engaging ministry workers in spiritual conversations.
“One of the things we do in these kinds of environments is we work with the kids [and] we address the issues. This is a part of the rising hope. [We] address the issues of their own belief systems and consequently their behaviors. So it looks at spiritual matters.”
It only takes $38 a month to sponsor a child with FH. Doing so provides that child with food assistance, clean water, medical care, and an education through their community!
Edmonds explains, “You’re going to get a photograph. You’re going to get something of a biographical sketch of the child, the family, [and] the community where they’re at. You’re going to become known by the child and in the process, the child is going to know you. They’re going to see you as a person who cares for them, who is expressing love.”
“If you were to consider sponsoring a child, you can be about literally changing the trajectory of life for many of these young people by being in that kind of a relationship.”
(Header photo courtesy of Food for the Hungry)