For those of you who have not read the article, “Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child,” in the June 2013 issue of Christianity Today, I strongly recommend reading it at your leisure. I’m sure most of you are familiar with those heart-wrenching commercials on television showing children suffering in poverty whose lives could be changed for just a few dollars a month from viewers. Some of you may even raise an eyebrow to such commercials, questioning the effectiveness of such “sponsorship” programs. Well, the aforementioned article written by Bruce Wydick, a professor of economics and international studies at the University of San Francisco, certainly validates the claims of organizations, including Bethany Christian Services, that sponsoring a child can be life-changing (for the giver as much as the recipient).
Professor Wydick and several of his graduate students recently conducted a comprehensive study to determine what impact, if any, sponsoring a child living in poverty has on their future. Working with Compassion International, a leading Christian child advocacy ministry, the study looked at outcomes in six countries where the organization runs its sponsorship program – Uganda, Guatemala, the Philippines, India, Kenya, and Bolivia. The results from the study were extremely encouraging with sponsored children up to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school and up to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education.
As a result of the increased likelihood of completing secondary school and attending university, the children also are far more likely to obtain a salaried job – up to 35 percent more likely, according to the study. Why, you may ask. I’m in complete agreement with Wess Stafford, then president of Compassion International, and his brief response to Professor Wydick on what was happening to achieve such remarkable results—“Try hope.” Sponsored children participating in the study consistently had significantly higher expectations for their own schooling and dreams than unsponsored children.
Sponsorship programs, such as the One Family sponsorship model developed and run by Bethany Christian Services, not only provide families with the resources that will allow them to send children to school, but they also enable those students living in poverty to eat healthy meals full of nutrients so that they remain focused throughout their lessons.
Bethany’s One Family sponsorship is unique from other programs in that it about meeting the needs of children through families, customized care, and professional social services toward self-sustainability—or “graduation.” It’s powerful and effective because it addresses the family’s specific needs and supplies specific resources to help them through a crisis, and provides the parents with training to move them toward self-sustainability. Bethany’s goal is to serve each family, sharing the love of Jesus Christ. It’s about empowering families to care for their children.
If you get a chance, I encourage you to read Professor Wydick’s article in Christianity Today. More importantly, I encourage you to sponsor a child through Bethany’s One Family initiative or a similar sponsorship program run by reputable organizations such as Compassion International. If we are ever going to truly have a long-lasting impact on poverty and the orphan crisis, it will be by making educational opportunities more accessible to children in developing nations, and empowering families so that they are able to stay together.