International Program Child Sponsorship Director Emily Sarmiento spoke to advocates and sponsors at the Chicago Advocate Conference last month and some of what she shared is captured in this question and answer article.
Who implements the program?
A local church partner is always the implementer of child development work resourced through Compassion. This is due to our belief in the church’s Biblical mandate as salt and light in its community and our desire to equip for the church to play its role. No matter how NGOs come and go, the church will always remain. Compassion’s model of over 60 years well aligns with a first-of-its-kind UNICEF report entitled “Partnering with Religious Communities for Children”, released January 2012, which affirms ideal global child development implementation partners as indigenous faith communities.
What is the actual program?
Global program is a long-term, Christian holistic child development and discipleship model, carried out by a local church with support from Compassion. The program targets desired outcomes in the physical, spiritual, cognitive and socio-emotional areas of life. It involves a holistic curriculum that builds content over time, it provides life skills and vocational training, and facilitates clear interventions and services (casework, health exams, academic support, nutritional support, counseling, etc.) Critical within the program are child development workers who are mentors mobilized from within the church.
Who benefits from the program?
The individual child registered and supported by a unique sponsor is the primary beneficiary of all of Compassion’s programs. That said, research indicates indirect impact extending into families and communities through our child-focused model. Direct, secondary impact is documented for churches that are equipped and raised up with Compassion’s support and capacity building on both child development and on community mobilization methodologies for broader local initiatives.
What is the frequency of monitored participation in the program?
The minimum global standard is for 4 to 8 hours per week (varies by age) of child participation in church-facilitated programming that currently runs 44 weeks a year. This is the global minimum; we have countries that run up to three times the minimum weekly hours for some ages. This standard “core contact” time is for program beyond traditional Sunday school or Bible study activities. Attendance is taken for each child at each program activity; absences are used as opportunities to further minister through child/family casework.
Is my sponsored child a Christian?
Implementing churches register children of all faiths (e.g., Buddhist, Muslim, Hindu, Animist, etc.) into Compassion-assisted programs. Parents consent to their children engaging in spiritual education in church-run program activities. We have waiting lists around the world for potential church partners who crave opportunity to minister in the community via Compassion’s model as this provides an entrée to reach individuals who would not otherwise be open to the church. In this sense, Compassion truly enables local evangelism and discipleship. Because of the wide range of backgrounds from which children enter the program, we encourage you to pray for your sponsored child that they may know the salvation and love of Christ. More than 163,500 Compassion children and moms invited Jesus to be their Savior during the past 12 months.
What is the sponsor's role in the program?
Whereas other agencies may consider it an administrative burden to have sponsors so involved, we believe the sponsor has a critical role to play in speaking words of life over children in poverty. Sponsors are requested to engage in a grace-based ministry of encouragement through letter writing. We also allow developmentally appropriate cash gifts to children, families and churches. Sponsors are invited to visit children and churches in the field. This stems from our desire to create a genuine relationship between sponsor and child, rather than just a source of financial commitment from the sponsor. In return, churches in the field and children are invited to invest in sponsors by educating them, praying and inviting prayer, encouraging them to represent and become active in living their faith.
What about unique needs of the individual child?
Because our partner is always the church who knows and ministers to the child and family, and because our model ensures child contact 44 weeks a year, with limits to the length of breaks between program activities, Compassion-assisted programs are poised to note changes in physical state, behavior or family situation and to trigger intervention as a part of church ministry. Church partners are also poised to identify and invest in high potential. Funds complementary to child support exist to address unique incidences and opportunities as detected.