About Child Sponsorship
Pros and Cons of Sponsoring a Child
There is some discussion in the media from time to time about whether child sponsorship is the best way to help children in the third world. Part of the problem is that what people call "child sponsorship" varies from charity to charity. What we consider child sponsorship is a little different from some other charities and you may find when you read this explanation that this sets your mind at rest:
First argument: "In most cases child sponsorship is a misnomer. It is community development by a different name. Sponsorship contributions are pooled with other donations and used to support projects to benefit the local community." (Quote from "A Rough Guide to a Better World)
Our view: We are not a general poverty relief charity. General poverty relief charities are very good things, but we have a specialised mission concentrating on children who are all alone without anyone to care for them. Sponsorship with SOS Children is primarily paying for the sponsored child to have a home and family in an SOS Children's Village. On average, an SOS Children's Village also supports around ten children in the community for each child who lives in the village (e.g. through providing a school, medical care and a local nurse supporting child-headed families affected by AIDS in the nearby area). Sponsors who started after March 2005 contribute towards the full cost of the village and these programmes. But most of what you pay for is the direct care of the children you sponsor. They are OUR children, they have no one else to care for them.
Second argument "It can be degrading for the family and parents of a child to be reminded of their dependency on a distant stranger. For this reason communication with sponsors is often discouraged".
Our view: The children whom we take in have lost their parents and have no family to care for them. In circumstances where children feel alone and unloved, we believe that sponsorship is actually positive rather than degrading for the child to feel there is someone somewhere taking an interest in them. We encourage contact between sponsors and children. With our special mission to children who have lost their parents, sponsorship is a positive thing.
Third argument: "The administration expenses involved in sponsorship are high and this money could be better used directly helping poverty".
Our view: If the strict alternative to sponsorship is for all the money to be used to help children, then that would be better. Some donors give regular donations without sponsorship and they are very valued. However, it has been estimated that the whole world's poverty could be cured for the amount of money that Europeans spend on ice cream. We do not accept the argument that the money which is currently spent building relationships between European adults and third world orphans is not money well spent; the alternative is more likely to be that more money is spent inside Europe on alternatives, than this money would provide in additional aid. As for the cost level, it is not that high. We pass on 100% of the actual donations received to benefit the child and cover our administration costs with recovered tax from the (minority of) people who Gift Aid their sponsorship. We cannot recover any tax from people who give us CAF vouchers, use payroll giving or do not agree to Gift Aid, but that's fine by us. We even have a little left over from those who do Gift Aid their donations.
Fourth argument: "There are privacy issues involved in publishing details of children available to sponsor".
Our view: We agree and we would not do this. Sponsors obviously get the real details of the children they support but they are not given permission to publish these. We do not post "available to sponsor" pictures. Fundraising would be much easier if we broadcast tales of children's misery but we do not give out children's details publicly, and avoid publishing identifiable photographs and names of children unless we have genuine permission to do so (for example in some instances from the child themselves once they have grown up). We take the issue of protecting our children seriously, after all that is what we are here for.
There is one other thing we ought to mention. Since we encourage relationships between sponsors and children, when we increase the "minimum" price for sponsorship we do not generally terminate sponsorships when the sponsor does not feel able to increase their contribution (unless the gap becomes very large). Ending a sponsorship can give a negative message to a child who has already had a lot to cope with. This means that our average income per sponsorship is considerably less than £20/month, nearer £10/month. The actual cost of providing a proper loving home for a child all alone varies from country to country but nowhere is it less than £60/month. Of course, the cost per child of helping children in the community is much less than this: our costs supporting a child-led AIDS family are less than £10/month per child, but although many charities would offer these type of children in the community for sponsorship, we keep sponsorship for children living in the villages. (Some donors do support children in the community by making a regular donation and entering an instruction like "for African Aids Orphans"). Therefore, although each child generally only has one sponsor from the UK (occasionally two), it is sometimes the case that they have other sponsors from around the world. Of course, all the money raised from the child sponsorship goes to that child's village and the immediately surrounding community (it isn't like selling the same thing twice). If this seems less attractive than sponsoring with a charity where each child only has one sponsor, the other thing to remember is that for charities where "sponsorship" includes children who are not directly given a home by a charity but are just visited by an aid worker occasionally there is generally no guarantee in practice of knowing whether a child is sponsored through several different charities (e.g. one paying for a nearby school and another for a medical centre in a nearby town).
You might think that this means the relationship when you sponsor a child is less unique than otherwise. However, our child sponsors recognise that sponsorship with SOS Children is already rather special, far more so than getting reports from a field worker visiting the child's school periodically. In practice the majority of sponsors worldwide do not visit or write regularly to their sponsored child. Sponsors that do so are appreciated, and can have as unique a relationship as any between people anywhere.