Sponsor a Child!
We think more people in Britain should sponsor a child.
It is worth knowing some background if you are thinking of sponsoring a child. There are far fewer child sponsors in the UK (across all charities*) than there should be. There are about 400,000 child sponsors at best instead of a million, compared to similar countries. The UK's entire contribution to overseas charity via regular giving is smaller than the amount which we should give via child sponsorship, and much of what we do give is small regular donations which other countries give in addition to sponsorships. Why? Child sponsorship works, and realistically must be considered as best practice in supporting the developing world. We British are not less generous to charities in general. We give a similar amount to charities as people in other places. But it seems as though Aids Orphans and street children abroad just get overlooked. People nearly as thoughtful as us around the world come to different conclusions on helping orphans. Interestingly, much of what the British public does give to is medical research (most places leave the vastly profitable drug companies to do this) and we give a uniquely high proportion to animal charities. Of course, too much of what we give is ploughed back into junk mail by the mailing-house charities as well and we do not really know what much of what we give is spent on. Children alone in the third world just don't seem as much of concern here. That seems wrong; the 600,000 good-hearted folk of Britain who could sponsor a child should!
What does sponsoring a child mean?
Actually this is quite a good question. To sponsor a child you make a regular donation (e.g. £20/month) to a charity. From the word "sponsor" it ought to mean the money is for "supporting" or "helping to pay for" a child in the third world. For some charities, like the orphan charity SOS Children, this is exactly what it is. 100% of the sponsorship donations go into a pot from which the child and their new family are clothed, fed, educated and loved. The sponsor gets information about the child, can write and visit and sees what difference their money makes. However of the largest five child sponsorship charities in the UK (see previous paragraph) as far as we know only two offer sponsorships where the funds contributed pretty much end up benefiting the sponsored child and their immediate community. It is clearly explained on the websites of each charity, so you can check but in one case the sponsorships contributions are treated as "general funds" and can be used for anything the charity wants (including UK admin or advertising). In two cases most of the funds are used to pay for projects somewhere near the child or in that country. The child may or may not directly benefit, and might only be given a small gift to agree to be sponsored. We do not mean the money is not used to make the world a better place, it is just that some charities may use the funds to say pay for a lobbyist to lobby the government on the VAT rate for school books whereas others use the funds to buy the books for the sponsored child. You can choose.
Which is the best charity for sponsoring a child?
This depends on what kind of sponsorship you want, which determines what work the best charity organistion for you does. SOS Children gives orphans a loving family and keeps families together through AIDs, war etc. So when people sponsor a child through SOS Children this is basically what they support. Charities who just hand out food or financial aid had problems in the past with creating "haves" and "have-nots" between children "on" and not "on" the sponsorship program. So they started only doing projects "for exeryone". Community development projects (say to build a well) aim to improve the life of everyone in a wide area, and the charity then asks all the children in the area to be sponsored to pay for it. These are best for you if you would like your money to be shared by everyone.
Where around the world do child sponsorship charities work, and how do you choose?
You cannot generally sponsor children in the developed world. Elsewhere in the world you can find sponsorship programs in many countries. SOS Children is in far more countries than any other sponsorship charity, with around 100 of the 123 countries where we work have children available to sponsor. The reason behind this is that most other overseas charities spend money in the world's poorest (ever-changing) 40 or 50 countries, and leave when countries improve (or other countries deteriorate around them). SOS Children grows deep local roots and supports orphaned children until they are independent. When a country improves financially the local SOS office raises funds locally rather than leave. Some of the countries where we have our largest operations like Pakistan, India and South Africa fund a high proportion of the costs of our operation from fundraising in those countries.
What about visiting, letter writing, Christmas presents, what will I hear?
Here (click on the image to the right) is a downloadable copy of the sponsorship handbook which gets sent to every new SOS Children child sponsor to explain everything clearly. Of course, lots of people phone us up with questions which are answered in the handbook and we are always happy to explain things again. And to save time on the quickest questions: yes you can write to a sponsored child, yes you would be welcome to visit them (with a little advance warning please) and yes you can contribute on their birthday to a personal savings account for when they reach independence.