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10 Tips for Sponsoring a Child
There are many ways in which you can sponsor a child. It can be through an official organization like ChildFund, Save The Children or World Vision; but you can also choose to “sponsor” a child in your own neighborhood with whom you feel an unique kinship. In any case, your sponsored child will feel special if you pay him/her exceptional attention. I sponsor a child through ChildFund, and it has been a rewarding experience. Below, please find some things I have learned from my sponsorship of “K” in central India:
1- First, Choose From Which Country or Region You Would Like to Sponsor A Child
Choosing the child you want to sponsor can be a daunting task. I found that it helps to think of a region of the world that has special meaning for you or “calls” to you. As strange as this may sound, I felt “called” to sponsor a child in India. I’m not sure at what age sponsorship ends at ChildFund, but my sponsored child, “K,” is now fifteen years old, and I know that the official sponsorship will not go on forever. I am already feeling stirrings to sponsor a boy in Africa when my official sponsorship is over with “K,” and I am planning to act upon these feelings.
2- Tell Your Sponsored Child Why You Chose Him/Her
After looking through photos and reading biographies of children from India, I had to choose just one child to sponsor. Though it was difficult to just choose one child, I ended up choosing “K” because of the very serious look upon her face. I was also drawn to her for reasons which are difficult to articulate; however, in my first letter to “K,” I did my best to explain to her that when I saw her photo, she entered my heart, and I knew that she was the child I wanted to sponsor.
It might not be so dramatic for you, and you could say something like, “I saw that math is your favorite subject at school. Math was also my favorite subject at school.” Telling your sponsored child why you chose him or her will forge a stronger bond between you.
3- Though There Are A Myriad of Needy Children Who Want A Sponsor, First Concentrate on One Child
Looking at all of the needy children in the world may make you want to sponsor a number of children at once, especially if you have the means; but I recommend that you start with just one child to see if the process suits you. It may prove to be too sad for you. I know that at ChildFund, there are people who sponsor several children at once; they have found it that rewarding. But not everyone is made for this. The sponsor organizations also take just straight donations, which may be better for your nature. Giving is still giving, and funds are desperately needed.
4- Sometimes Making Small Sacrifices for Your Sponsored Child Is Very Rewarding
Though I’m no Mother Theresa, I am glad that I make a small sacrifice to sponsor “K.” I almost always order a regular coffee over a latte or cappuccino. This small sacrifice leaves more money in my sometimes waning coffers, (they wax and wane for various reasons), and it is good to know that I can go without something to help someone else. I’m sure that parents are used to doing this on a regular basis, so it is no surprise to you that the little things you do to save money can add up!
5- Write To Your Child!
Not writing to “K” on a regular basis is the biggest mistake I have made during my sponsorship. Even if the money is flowing, your sponsored child still wants to hear from you. Imagine my guilt when “K” wrote and asked me if I forgot her! I was sending extra money but not more of myself. Your sponsored child wants to hear from you. We may think that the money going to serve them is our biggest gift, but children normally don’t see it that way; it’s the personal attention that we give them which makes them feel special.
6- Remember Your Sponsored Child’s Family
In my last letter from “K,” she said that she and her family speak of me a lot at home. That was extremely humbling. Not only are you important to your sponsored child, but also to his or her family as well. I received a photograph of “K’s” family from India. I was surprised how much it touched me. Their faces bespoke nobility as well as a life of hard work. In one of her letters, “K” mentioned that her father got a job. This was extraordinarily significant as her father had been previously unemployed. I wish that in one of my letters to “K,” I had congratulated her father.
As an option, ChildFund permits that the sponsor can give a special gift to the sponsored child’s family. Though I have not yet done this, I am planning to do so. After speaking with my mother who had five children, I believe that I am going to save my more generous donations in the future for “K’s” family rather than just “K” alone; that way, the whole family can benefit. Although, I was quite touched when “K” bought her sister a gift with part of the extra money I sent especially for her.
7- If You Can Afford It, Send A Special Gift for Your Sponsored Child On His/Her Birthday
A birthday gift is the most personal way you can show your sponsored child that you care. I have found it easier to send extra money through ChildFund than to send an actual gift in the mail. However, if you interact with the child in your neighborhood, a tangible gift is likely the better option since children typically respond more to concrete tokens of appreciation.
8- If You’re Comfortable, Use Diction Similar to Your Child’s Diction in Your Correspondence
If your child is from a different culture, it is likely that his/her diction is different than yours. For example: “K” refers to God frequently in her letters. Though we don’t refer to God as much in American culture, I decided to refer to God more in my letters to her (Most of the time I believe; Lord, help though my unbelief). By doing so, I hope to be able to relate to “K’ more fully.
9- If Your Sponsored Child Is In A Foreign Country, The Translations of the Correspondence Will Not Be Perfect
What a joy it is for me to receive a letter from “K.” Her handwritten, Hindi script accompanied by a typed, English translation has added a dimension in my life I have never before known. Part of the fun has been the English translation. The translators are doing their absolute best, but I believe that some of them are volunteers and don’t have advanced degrees in English. Though the wrong word is occasionally used, don’t let it stop you; you will get the gist of the meaning and it will make you realize just how many people are involved in helping you to sponsor your child. Though it is imperfect and human labor, it is still a labor of love.
10- You Are More Important to Your Sponsored Child and Child’s Family Than You Think
As I previously stated, I have been very humbled to find out from “K” that I am frequently spoken of in her home. I certainly don’t feel worthy of such an honor, but “K” tells me it is so. Though none of us can change the suffering of the entire world, we can relieve some part. It may occur to “K” and her family that I am a distant and wealthy woman living in a privileged land. Though I certainly feel my deficiencies, both spiritually and temporally living in the West, it must appear to “K” and her family that my life is sweet indeed. The world swims in a sea of uncertainty and poverty, and those who suffer most must ask themselves why it is they who hurt when others seem to have so much. It is easy for resentment and anger to flourish in these conditions. But if just one person from the West remembers those less fortunate, doesn’t it in effect augment the possibility of world peace? Moral responsibility weighs heavily on the shoulders of those in first-world countries or on those who simply have more. As war rages within ourselves and on our planet, it’s good to know that there are distillations of love misting over and cooling the fires of discontent; for it has been my experience that there is always someone somewhere who needs you. Sponsorship of a child is not for everyone, but perhaps it is for you. In any case, may we all find that which we can do to serve.