By: Willow Welter   |   Posted: May 30, 2017

How sponsors and donors enabled the Church in India to transform lives over nearly half a century.

Silver Linings

How sponsors and donors enabled the Church in India to transform lives over nearly half a century.

Written by Willow Welter
Photography by Chuck Bigger
Children praying in India
Compassion reluctantly ended operations in India on March 15, 2017, after serving children in the country for nearly half a century.

This meant an end to benefits for more than 147,000 children, young adults, and babies and their caregivers in our programs.

Our fight to continue serving India’s children began in February 2016, when India’s government added Compassion to a list of organizations needing prior approval to send money into the country. Since 2014, more than 11,000 nongovernmental organizations working in India have lost permission to accept foreign money, part of a push to stop funding of activities India’s government sees as “detrimental to the national interest.” To avoid becoming one of the 11,000 organizations, Compassion appealed to Indian lawmakers, worked with lawyers and accountants, joined thousands of sponsors in writing to U.S. lawmakers for help, and dedicated countless hours of prayer about the situation. But although Compassion had broken no laws in India, its government wouldn’t grant the necessary approval.

The immense loss has devastated sponsors of Indian children — the supporters who helped transform so many lives in the country. Here’s a look back at Compassion’s lifesaving work in India, which was possible only with the support of sponsors, donors and partner churches.

A family walking through garbage

Pavithra, a girl who was sponsored in Compassion’s program, and her parents walked along a riverbank in Chennai where many people dump their trash. More than 1.2 billion people live in India, the second-most populous country after China. And while India’s economy has been growing and poverty falling since the early 1990s, 22.1 percent of its children and 14.3 percent of its adults live on less than $2.15 a day.

PRAYER: Pray that God will use Christians in India to continue to serve the most poor living there.

More than 30% of the world’s poorest children live in India.

Children in line for a health exam

Kids at a child development center in Kanchrapara received biannual health checkups. Compassion partnered with churches across India to provide sponsored children with food, tutoring and safe places to play. Children also received regular checkups to monitor their growth and health. These checkups were crucial in India, where nearly half of children under 5 exhibit stunted growth, a symptom of malnutrition.

PRAYER: Pray that meaningful ministry and support will continue in some manner for the children Compassion was serving in India.

More than 280,000 children benefited from Compassion’s years in India.

Children in line to receive food to eat

Kids lined up for a warm lunch at a Compassion center in northern India. Church staff and volunteers cooked and served regular nutritious meals to sponsored children at child development centers there. Many children’s parents couldn’t afford to feed them adequately. So the meals served at Compassion centers helped fight undernutrition, which puts kids at a greater risk of dying from common infections.

PRAYER: Ask God to provide necessary food for malnourished children.

A baby laying next to her mom as she practices writing

A baby in Compassion’s Child Survival Program relaxed at a church center while her mom practiced writing in English. Church workers offered food, supplements, education and home visits to pregnant women, babies and caregivers through the Child Survival Program. This baby’s mom was taking a literacy course offered through the program in West Bengal.

PRAYER: Pray that the lessons mothers learned through the Child Survival Program in India will help them continue to raise happy, healthy babies.

When the program ended in March 2017, it affected 147,000 children, young adults, babies and caregivers who had been receiving benefits.

A group of boys learning auto mechanic skills

Teenagers at a Compassion center in India worked on an engine to learn valuable mechanic skills. Sponsored children received tutoring and vocational training that helped them excel in school and prepared them for steady jobs as adults. Sponsorship covered many expenses related to school, including enrollment fees and the costs of uniforms and school supplies. These expenses keep many children in poverty from attending school.

PRAYER: Pray that teens who learned vocational skills at Compassion centers will use that training to find stable jobs as adults.

Compassion partnered with 582 churches to implement the program in India.

A girl pumping water

Mona, a girl who was in Compassion’s program, collected safe water from a well on the outskirts of Kolkata. A lack of such improved water sources in some communities put children at unnecessary risk. About 526,000 children a year die of diarrheal illnesses, and almost 60 percent of those illnesses are caused by unsafe drinking water and poor sanitation and hygiene. So Compassion’s work in India included educating children about hygiene, sanitary practices and avoiding unpurified water. We also intervened to provide water sources in communities in need.

PRAYER: Ask God to increase children’s access to safe drinking water and water-treatment facilities.

Until March 2017, 130,000 sponsors had been offering monthly support, prayers and letters to children in India.

A group of children helping each other with schoolwork

Children gathered to write letters to their sponsors at a Compassion center in Kolkata. Replying to their sponsors taught the children valuable writing skills. Through their letters, sponsors provided desperately needed encouragement to children in India whose lives often lacked hope. Many children will keep the letters forever.

PRAYER: Ask God to bless sponsors for advocating for vulnerable children around the world.