(USA/MNN) — The name Compassion International is synonymous with child sponsorship. Focused on poverty reduction by equipping local churches to focus on a child’s individual spiritual, social, educational, and physical needs, Compassion has been a leader in transforming lives in some of the poorest and most vulnerable areas in the world.
But one thing you may not know about Compassion International is what they do beyond sponsorship–from water and sanitation programs to disaster relief and HIV/AIDs efforts.
Herbert Ehresman, Program Director for Complementary Interventions, says the focus is always the wider context of the care of the child.
“Our distinctives are Christ-centered, Church-based, and Child-focused. So while we don’t do broad community development, we do serve and support that local church, but that local church then does reach out into their community.
“For example, if a church community needs clean water or they lack sanitation and latrines, or let’s say the student has now grown into a beautiful young teen or adolescent and they have an opportunity to go to vocational school or even university: that’s where funding over and above the $38 a month becomes important.” Ehresman says both sponsors and donors then invest in the additional grass-roots programs that are identified by the partner churches themselves.
The health and safety of children are always at the forefront of every need that’s identified by the local churches serving the nearly 2 million Compassion children worldwide.
With the global celebration of World Water Day, Ehresman says water is priority for Compassion’s complementary intervention efforts; but water is not a stand-alone. “Clean water is only partially effective; there’s also the sanitation side which is latrine and waste disposal. Some of the communities we work in– particularly some places in Africa and India–still practice open defecation. Flies feed on the feces, and then if [those flies] get in your food or even land on open containers of water, it will spread disease. So there is a cycle of clean water, waste disposal, and a hygiene component that are embedded into Compassion’s curriculum.” WaSH — which stands for Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene — all work together in Compassion’s complementary intervention model.
“For us in Africa, the programmatic issue is not simply about water or sanitation/toilets, but water and sanitation/hygiene. It is a false developmental dichotomy to focus on one while neglecting the other elements. Often times, the sanitation/hygiene aspect gets lost when the conversation is limited to water only.” – Sidney Muisyo, Compassion Africa Regional Vice President
While sponsorship is predominately featured on its website, Ehresman says there are other ways to get involved with Compassion’s work worldwide on this World Water Day. “Right next to the tab that says ‘Sponsor a Child’ is also a button that says ‘Ways to Donate,’ and that will open up more ways to give to more project-based work, be it clean water [or] educational opportunities.”