Growing Global Citizens through Child Sponsorship

I spend a lot of my time daydreaming about the relationship between childhood/ family life and social justice/ a better world. I doodle slogans while we drive “A just society begins at home!” and picture bumper-stickers that would infuriate the overpopulationists “Change the World: Have Babies!”

In honesty though, I don’t believe simply having babies can change the world… we have to actively engage ourselves and our children to this purpose.

We need to very intentionally treat our children with the respect we feel is important to a harmonious society. We need to honour their human rights, just as we hope they will stick up for the rights of others. And we need to grasp opportunities to help them see their role as a global citizen.

I think Child Sponsorship is AWESOME for this. I think of child sponsorship as kind of old school, but the fact is that it makes an ENORMOUS difference in the lives of communities across the world.

More than nine million children around the world are part of child sponsorship programmes run by charities such as Plan UK. In a study undertaken by the University of San Francisco, it was found that child sponsorship was key in ensuring that children stayed in school longer and became leaders in their communities.

Child sponsorship works because it is more than just simple charity. Instead of giving the money to the child or their family, the money is invested in that child and their community in order to break the cycle of poverty. Initiatives such as building wells for clean water, providing improved nutrition and tools for agriculture all combine to make poor communities more independent and help them to thrive, which in turn benefits the children of those communities.

Child sponsorship money goes towards ensuring that some of the world’s poorest children have everything they need to be the leaders of tomorrow. This also includes teacher training and school fees, so that children can stay in education longer and be encouraged to go on to university.

However, child sponsorship does not only have a physical impact on children. Psychologically, World Vision and Compassion found that the spiritual aspect of sponsorship is fundamental to transforming the lives of children trapped in poverty. Simply knowing that someone hundreds of miles away, someone they’ve never met, cares for them – this knowledge has an enormous motivational and inspirational impact on a child, encouraging them to achieve.

This benefit is amplified when a child sponsor chooses to stay in touch with their sponsored child through an exchange of letters.

But this exchange isn’t one sided. I don’t believe we should see the world as “us” and “them” and simply talking about how a child benefits does kind of do this.

Here are just a few ways that I think our children can benefit from sponsoring a child:

1- A friend on the other side of the world
What a cool chance for children to build a friendship with someone on the other side of the world! Friends are crucial for our children’s hearts and also their view of the world. Having friends from different cultures and experiences can shape our children’s futures.

2- A glimpse into a different life
The letters and photos I have received over the years from sponsor children have painted a picture of a different life that no news article can do. Being able to talk about the different experiences of birthdays and celebrations had by people in different countries becomes much more powerful when our children know someone from there.

3- A tangible idea of global connectedness
Crucial to global citizenship is knowledge of how we are connected. Understanding where different fruit originates, where our jeans were made and where a song comes from are conversations that help our children understand this. Having a friend at the end of this global connection, attached to a wildly different country can be incredibly powerful.

4- A sense of efficacy
Understanding that a child is able to EAT because of the money contributed by my family is a pretty incredible way to experience agency. What better to instil in our kids then a sense that we can actually change the world?

5- A penpal
I can dearly remember penpals from my own childhood. They were a massive motivator in learning to write and draw. For both children in this relationship having a penpal can be a real and amazing, literacy and writing experience.

It costs less than 50 pence a day, but this money has the power to transform a child’s life in the developing world, rescuing them from a life of poverty and disease and instead empowering them through education and independence.

Child Sponsorship can’t change the world solo – but as one tool in developing our own children’s sense of global citizenship and raising a generation who hope and act for a more just society I think it can be incredibly powerful.

To learn more about child sponsorship, visit Plan UK here.

This is a collaborative post with the wonderful Plan UK. Please see my disclosure for more on this.

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3 Responses to Growing Global Citizens through Child Sponsorship

  1. ThaliaKR says:

    Thanks, Lucy, for this.

    I, too, am a huge fan of child sponsorship. I’ve sponsored kids through Tear Fund, and now through Bangladeshi Baptist Fellowship we have an even more direct connection with some kids in Bangladesh. I was lucky enough to visit one of the school hostels BBF funds through overseas sponsorship – just tremendous.

    A new thought to me while reading your post is how to frame the relationship between our family and the children overseas – how to frame it for our child.

    I LOVE thinking of it as a penpal relationship. Penpals were a huge part of my childhood too, and they, I imagine, have gone the way of the typewriter for digital natives generally. But not so if you want to communicate with someone in Angola or Lima or Brahmanbaria, right? So if I never write any other snail mail letters in my life I’ll still be putting pen to paper to talk to sponsor kids.

    Anyway, my main point is that one of the benefits of framing it as a penpal relationship is to avoid setting my child up as the helper and the overseas child as the dependent. That might be true for *my* relationship with this child, in a sense, but it certainly isn’t for the younguns, and I would much prefer that they make a real, equal friend, whom we happen to help out with a bit of cash, rather than that my child ever get a sense of how holy and righteous he is for oh-so-kindly helping the ‘poor people’.

    It’s late at night and I’m not articulating this very well, sorry! I’m keen for him to develop a true and real sense that a) he can do something real to make the world better and b) he can be friends, on equal terms, with someone who is unlucky in terms of their poverty.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Anyway. Go Plan UK and all other fab child-sponsor organisations!
    ThaliaKR recently posted…Co-sleeping Converts: Series Round-UpMy Profile

  2. Pingback: 6 Ways Kids Can Change the World [Blog Action Day] | Sacraparental

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