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.
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.