I was recently doing some research on other Child Sponsorship programs as we work to strengthen our own and came across a new study done by the University of San Francisco analyzing the effectiveness of such sponsorship programs and whether there is a notable difference between children who participated in them with those that didn’t. The report focused primarily on the work of Compassion International, one of the biggest child sponsorship groups out there with over 2 million kids sponsored between 26 different countries. They’ve been in the business of child sponsorship for 65 years and the report seems to have focused on them mostly because they were the most willing to share all of their records. Having worked with Compassion before myself, I was familiar with their methods and was definitely influenced by them a little over 3 years ago when Living Media decided to make child sponsorship one of our very first programs after the need was exasperated by the earthquake. The fact that we only sponsor 120 children so far in one very specific geographic area of one country, means that there are many very obvious differences between what we do and what an organization as experienced and developed as Compassion does, yet this report from USF provides a lot of very powerful evidence for the effectiveness of such programs and I can only hope that years from now our program can be seen to have similar results.
The study looked at over 1,850 formerly Compassion sponsored students in 6 different countries and showed that:
- Former sponsored children stay in school 1 to 1.5 years longer than their non-sponsored peers (In Uganda, the numbers are much higher—2.4 years). An extra year of schooling could have long-lasting impact on a child’s future employment possibilities as an adult.
- Former sponsored children were 27-40 percent more likely to finish secondary education than those who were not enrolled in the child sponsorship program.
- Former sponsored children were 50-80 percent more likely to complete a university education than non-sponsored children.
- As adults, former sponsored children were 14-18 percent more likely to have salaried employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- As adults, former sponsored children were roughly 35 percent more likely to secure white-collar employment than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former sponsored children were 30-75 percent more likely to become community leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers.
- Former sponsored children were 40-70 percent more likely to become church leaders as adults than their non-sponsored peers
The researchers also noted that what also really set Compassion’s program apart from the other popular sponsorship programs out there was that children spent time every week in after-school programs covering spiritual, physical, social and emotional development. The study is to be published later this month in the Journal of Political Economy.
Neither Compassion or any of the other large sponsorship organizations (World Vision, Plan) work in our area of Mizak which is why we set out to create our own program when the need was identified back in 2010. We in fact reached out to both Compassion and Plan International before starting our program to see if they wouldn’t consider working in the area in an attempt to not reinvent the wheel, but it wasn’t possible for either of them at the time. One of them even used to have a program in the area that they had to close down a couple years earlier and some of the children now registered in our program are children who were previously sponsored through that program. Now 3 years later we are still sponsoring 120 children in elementary school as the only organization in the community offering such an opportunity to parents who struggle to afford their children’s school payments.
Our goals with the program are similar to the results found in the USF study, that these children would have the educational foundations that they need to be successful in both higher education and future employment so that they may become the creative leaders that their society needs to develop. This is why we too partner with local extra curricular clubs for our children to be involved in so that they may grow in ways beyond just academics, such as the Living Media Kids Club at the Baptist Church of LaVoute and the Children’s Cultural Club of Mizak held at a community school in Mizak. Another thing that we share in common with these larger groups is our commitment to support unsponsored children from the moment that they are registered in the program so that they may have the same chance at success as the rest. You can see that although we have 120 children registered we do not have all of them sponsored yet. But their registration in the program is based upon their need, not by their potential to find a sponsor, so we have systems in place to ensure each child registered in the program gets the support that they deserve to succeed in school. Yet the sponsorship of each child is still essential because it sets up that relationship that is so crucial to the child’s emotional development as well. This is one aspect of the program that we are continually working to improve on as we encounter difficulties as a young organization with very limited resources. However we also strive to add elements to our program that are unique such as the connection that it has with our more mature, Sponsor A Dreamer program, through which the children interact with older role models who are also pursuing their educations at the university level.
We thank everyone who has joined us on this journey with these children. Although LMi never intends to sponsor 2 million children around the world, for those children in southern Haiti that benefit from this program, your support is making a huge difference in their futures. We hope to continue to offer this program as long as there is a need and there are sponsors interested in joining us. If you are not already a sponsor, please consider looking through the photos on our Facebook page and selecting a child to sponsor today.
Thank you very much! Kenbe la.
Lee Rainboth, Executive Director