So… you sponsor a child. But what does that really mean?

It’s a great question. And it’s one that we know all of our Child Sponsors must wrestle with from time to time. That’s why we’ve pulled together this list of four surprising truths about your Child Sponsorship through Baptist World Aid – to help you understand not only what your sponsorship is achieving… but how it’s achieving it too!

1. Your Child Sponsorship does NOT provide school fees, school books, or healthcare for your sponsored child.

“What!? Isn’t the whole point of my Child Sponsorship to make sure that my sponsored child can have the childhood and chances that they deserve?”

Yes, it sure is! But in all our years of doing Child Sponsorship at Baptist World Aid, we’ve learned from our experience… and our program has been adapted and strengthened accordingly.

While it’s a very valuable thing to provide children with their basic needs – like education, food, and healthcare – the impact of your generosity would be greatly limited if that was the extent of our Child Sponsorship programming.

Consider this: Your monthly sponsorship might be enough to provide one child with a few of their basic needs… but what about their brothers and sisters? Their cousins? And their friends in the wider community? Who would provide for them? And how would those siblings, cousins, and friends feel, when others were chosen to be sponsored and they were not?

While this style of sponsorship was once the norm, in practice, it just wasn’t fair. That’s why, today, your Child Sponsorship helps to support project work outside of the provision of immediate needs for individual children.

For instance, it supports the creation of child clubs in communities, that all children can attend – even if they’re not linked with an Australian sponsor. In these child clubs, children learn important life skills, like cleanliness and hygiene (which helps to stop the spread of disease in their communities!); they gain confidence to speak with their peers… and even adults (now they take part in important community meetings!); and they learn to stand up for all the things they deserve (like a safe home, education, and the choice of when to marry).

But children do not grow up in isolation. They are part of a family. They are part of a community. And that’s why your Child Sponsorship also supports the creation of community groups for parents and adults too!

When your sponsored Child’s mum or dad joins a Savings Group, not only do they learn how to best take care of their children… they also find the means to do it! Through their Savings Groups, parents receive training on effective ways to start new livelihoods and grow incomes – like better farming techniques to increase their crop yield or learning the skills to keep and raise chickens. And because of those growing incomes, parents can now afford to send ALL of their children to school and feed EVERY hungry belly nutritious meals each day.

So, yes. Your generous Child Sponsorship is still providing for the immediate needs of your sponsored child… but it’s also doing so much more! Not in the least, allowing parents the dignity of being able to care for every one of their precious children.

2. Baptist World Aid staff do NOT implement its Child Sponsorship projects themselves.

“I don’t understand… if Baptist World Aid staff aren’t in the field, carrying out the work of my sponsored child’s project, then who is?”

The answer to your question is two-fold.

Firstly, every single one of our Child Sponsorship projects is carried out by one of our Christian partner organisations in the field. We choose to partner with Christian organisations because they share our biblically framed understanding of the better future God intends for people living in poverty. And we choose to work through local organisations because of their intimate knowledge of context, language, and culture in their own communities. In short, we believe it’s the most effective way to carry out this kind of work. The role of Baptist World Aid in this partnership is to provide our Christian partners with funding, accountability, training, and the support they need to become powerful catalysts for change in their communities.
But secondly (and, perhaps, most importantly) your sponsored child’s community actually plays an important role in the project work!

At the beginning of every Child Sponsorship project, our Christian partners in the field spend a lot of time working with the community and doing a breadth of participatory exercises to help them gain an understanding of the community’s strengths and the challenges which families might face in their journey out of poverty.

The partner field staff will talk with children and youth, adults, and community leaders alike, in order to identify their needs – working together with the community to develop a program for the 9-years ahead.

In all of our Child Sponsorship projects, it is really the community itself which drives the work forward and leads their own development.

3. Baptist World Aid and its Christian partners are NOT planning to work in your sponsored child’s community indefinitely.

“What do you mean!? Why can’t I support my sponsored child until I know that they are grown and can take care of themselves?”

Our Child Sponsorship program runs on a nine-year cycle, consisting of three planned phases (you can find out which phase your sponsored child’s project is currently in, on their Annual Progress Report). This means that every project has an agreed end date – which is something to get excited about.

Why is it exciting, though? Well… let us explain!

Successfully reaching the planned end date of a project does not mark its failure, rather, it marks its success. It is the original goal that we (along with communities themselves and our Christian partners in the field) set out to accomplish at the start of every Child Sponsorship project.

If we were to provide for a community for decades, and never once invest in any work that helps to strengthen them or learn to take hold of their own development, would that be wise stewardship of your generosity? Probably not.

Will there still be challenges facing a community when it comes time for the Child Sponsorship project to end? In all honesty, yes. It’s highly likely, because we live in an imperfect world. And even in our own communities, there continue to be struggles. That’s why, for us, a successful Child Sponsorship project is one where those who are part of it are fully equipped to continue their development themselves.

It’s not about every problem being “fixed” by the end of a 9-year deadline, it’s about the community – and the children and youth themselves – now having the knowledge, new attitudes, structures and skills to organise themselves, identify ongoing challenges, and identify who (or what) can help them address those challenges.

It’s not about work ending in a project area, it’s about the responsibility for that work being phased over to a strengthened and skilled community of people who we are confident now have the ability to successfully continue existing development activities and even start new activities of their own.

And that’s the truly wonderful thing about your Child Sponsorship. What you’ve set in motion will continue to operate – and operate effectively – well into the future. You’re not fixing a problem once… you’re giving children, youth, and communities the tools to be able to keep fixing things for decades to come.

4. YOU play an important role!

“I know. My monthly donations help to make this work possible.”

Yes, you’re right… however your role as a Child Sponsor is about so much more than that!

While your generous monthly gift supports important work to benefit not just a single child, but their family and their whole community too, you (and ONLY you) have been linked with your sponsored child for a very important reason.

At the start of every Child Sponsorship project, our Christian partners in the field work with the community to select child partners… who then become your sponsored children! Their role is to act as ambassadors for their community and to help keep you up-to-date with the incredible impact your sponsorship is helping to achieve.

The selection of child partners is a community led process that helps to identify those children who will most benefit from an ongoing relationship with an Australian supporter like yourself. Through the selection process, communities ensure that different households are represented, along with the most vulnerable groups.

Most importantly however, by developing a relationship with you, your sponsored child is given an opportunity to grow their confidence and leadership as an ambassador in their community. And they really value your letters and encouragement too – that sense that they’re part of a bigger world and bigger story that comes from being connected to someone outside the boundaries of their village.