Choosing the best child sponsorship program

Apr 02, 2019
There are many child sponsorship programs in Canada that do great work to help lift children out of poverty. You may need help choosing the program that’s right for you. And with many factors to consider – including your family, values, lifestyle and responsibilities – doing your research is key to deciding which child sponsorship program to choose.

This article will take you through some of the considerations as you learn about the different child sponsorship programs in Canada. We’ll also describe aspects of our work to help you figure out if World Vision Canada’s offering is the best child sponsorship program for you.
 
  1. How does a child sponsorship program work?
  2. How effective is the child sponsorship program?
  3. How transparent is the child sponsorship organization?
  4. What are current sponsors saying about their child sponsorship experience?
  5. What resources does World Vision Canada provide for its child sponsors?
 
Empower a child and help break the cycle of poverty
 


1. How does a child sponsorship program work?

Understanding how child sponsorship programs work can help you make an informed decision about which organization to support. This is how most child sponsorship programs operate:
  • The child sponsorship organization develops partnerships with local agencies and/or community leaders to identify children who can join the program, their specific challenges and needs.
  • The child sponsorship organization connects Canadians with children of all ages who are waiting to be sponsored.
  • The sponsor’s monthly donation is used to provide access to basic necessities such as food and clean water, and to find sustainable solutions to ongoing challenges.
  • Sponsored children and their sponsors are encouraged to communicate with each other to help build a lasting bond. This communication, typically in the form of letters or cards, also helps sponsors keep up with their child’s well-being and development. Some organizations can even help sponsors visit their children to see firsthand how their support is making a difference.
  • Child sponsorship usually ends when either the child reaches a certain age, they move out of the area with their family, or for reasons of their own, they have chosen to end the sponsorship.
While most child sponsorship programs share the same goal of lifting children out of poverty, their approaches can be different.

A group of children in India
Thanks to generous sponsors, the children of Pali Gaon, India, can enjoy playing with their friends. Photo: Abhishek Ashish Hans

Child-centric
Some programs centre only around the sponsored child. While the child’s family and community may receive indirect benefits from the sponsor’s monthly donation or additional gifts at certain times of the year, they are not the organization’s focus. Community-focused World Vision Canada is a community-based child sponsorship program. We
  • partner with community members of all faiths to understand their needs, goals and resources.
  • work together to find long-term solutions to the challenges they face.
  • adapt our plans as changes begin to happen in children’s lives so that the community continues to meet its goals and take increasing ownership of its success.
Here’s a closer look at how sponsorship through World Vision works:


 

Faith-based
Some of the largest child sponsorship programs in Canada are run by faith-based organizations, and their religious identity may impact their programming. As a potential child sponsor, here are some things to think about:
 
  • What role does faith and religion play in the child sponsorship program?
  • Is the program open to children of all (or no) faiths?
  • Does the organization seem to impose their own faith beliefs on program participants?

World Vision Canada is a Christian organization dedicated to working with the world’s most vulnerable people regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. Our inter-faith partnerships create programs that are inclusive, without bias and respectful of all people—non-Christians are not excluded. In fact, our Christian identity helps us to build trust in communities, both overseas and in Canada.

Listen to Toronto Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia, a member of the Sikh community, speak about why he supports World Vision Canada.

2. How effective is the child sponsorship program?

There are no quick fixes when it comes to breaking the cycle of poverty. That’s why good child sponsorship organizations find solutions to the issues that affect children’s well-being today and work toward long-term community goals for a better tomorrow. Ideally, they track how their plans are progressing, evaluate the results to see what went well and what could be improved, and report their findings to appropriate stakeholders.

An adult male wearing an orange World Vision shirt gazes lovingly at a smiling little girl in West Pokot, Kenya.A World Vision staff member visits a sponsored child and her family in West Pokot, Kenya. Photo: John Warren

World Vision initiated a research study in 2013 to understand our contribution to the well-being of the children we serve.

The four-year project was conducted in three phases and collected data from communities where we operate in Bolivia, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Uganda, El Salvador, Peru, Senegal, Ethiopia and Georgia. These communities were chosen for maximum variation across important aspects of context, including faith, ethnic diversity and geography to provide valuable insights into the similar and different ways their programs operate. Programs in Arani, Bolivia, and Pottuvil, Sri Lanka, are supported by World Vision Canada.

This study looked at three key areas of our work: child well-being, Christian identity and sponsor transformation. This is what we learned:

Child well-being
Our survey of program participants across five communities affirms that World Vision programs:
  • build trust through long-term, local-level presence, and through consistent and inclusive delivery of development activities.
  • foster collaboration and build bridges that strengthen communities.
  • improve the lives of sponsored children and other participants.
  • helped deliver safe drinking water to 94% of community members in Weeraketiya, Sri Lanka.
  • saw child health improve in Samaki Meanchey, Cambodia over the past five years, according to 84% of guardians in 2014.
  • saw 75% of youth in Colomi, Bolivia, benefit from a youth network.
Learn more about the results of our child sponsorship research.

Christian identity
Through our research, we’ve been able to confirm that program participants feel that our Christian identity creates programs that are inclusive, build trust in communities and benefit all children. Examples of successful faith-based partnerships include:
  • working with Muslim and Hindu organizations in Sri Lanka to diffuse religious tensions.
  • partnering with chuches and mosques in Uganda on HIV prevention.
  • supporting pastoral counselling of families in Bolivia affected by alcohol abuse.
Read more about the results of our faith-based development research.

Sponsor transformation
Most child sponsorship programs, including World Vision, encourage sponsors and their children to keep in touch through letters to build a meaningful relationship. For this portion of our research, we used an online survey and in-depth interviews to explore sponsors’ experiences in Australia, Canada, Germany, the US and the UK. Our research has found that:
  • sponsored children report that exchanging letters with their sponsors leads to increased hope, happiness and confidence.
  • there is evidence having a personal relationship with a sponsor has a powerful impact on a child’s confidence and aspirations.
  • 96% of sponsors surveyed understand that World Vision benefits entire communities, not just sponsored children.
  • 95% of sponsors surveyed are confident that sponsorship is an effective way to make a difference in children’s lives.
Learn more about how our donors engage with child sponsorship.

Five children from Cambodia show off colorful Christmas cards.A group of sponsored children in Cambodia with Christmas cards sent by their sponsors. Photo: Maraka Earn

3. How transparent is the child sponsorship organization?

When you support a child sponsorship organization, you’re trusting them to make a profound difference in the lives of the children they serve. But how can you tell whether the organization is being truthful with donors about how donations are being used to help children in need? According to CanadaHelps, there are five ways to test a child sponsorship program’s – or any charity’s – level of transparency.
 
  1. Does the charity have a website and produce a publicly-available annual report? A website is the easiest and most cost-effective way of reaching a broad audience at minimal cost. Like most charities and child sponsorship organizations, World Vision Canada uses its website to share stories of impact with current and prospective donors.
  2. Is financial information easily accessible? World Vision Canada makes it easy to find all of our Annual Impact Reports and Audited Financial Statements going back to 2012.
  3. Is the mission and mandate clearly stated? World Vision isn’t just known for child sponsorship – we are a global relief, development and advocacy organization. We empower people to rise out of poverty to bring real and lasting change to the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children.
  4. Does the charity describe its governance structure? Get to know World Vision Canada’s Senior Leadership Team, the Board of Directors and our Key Board Policies.
  5. Does the charity acknowledge its challenges as well as its achievements? Read about our challenges and achievements in the latest Letter from the CFO.

A sponsored child embraces her sponsor.The bond between this child sponsor and his sponsored child is unmistakable. Photo: World Vision Canada

4. What are current sponsors saying about their child sponsorship experience?

We often rely on testimonials to help us decide what to buy, what to watch, where to eat or where to stay. They also help us decide who to trust. With so many organizations claiming to have the best sponsor-a-child program in Canada, testimonials from child sponsors may be the deciding factor for you.

Here’s what some of World Vision Canada’s child sponsorship ambassadors have to say about their experience:

I see World Vision’s staff put the love in actions and I’m so proud I’m part of it now. And I don’t want to be alone. I want everyone to join us. Put this love into action and change the world.” – Stephen Woo, Richmond Hill, Ontario

“I always tell everybody that, as an accountant, I classify [my monthly sponsorship] as an asset, not an expense because we’re investing in the future. I’m not doing [anything] special or extraordinary, but I can still set an example and if you just change one person’s life, it’s extraordinary for them.” – Dilpreet Gill, Surrey, British Columbia

And here’s what community members are saying about their experience with World Vision:

“The Gender and Diversity activity has brought peace to many homes because when a man helps his wife, she is satisfied and this reduces quarrels in a lot of homes. The woman is also able to rest, which is good for her health.” –Quist, community chief, Eastern Ghana.

Learn more about our work in gender equality.

“The gifts sent from my sponsor allowed my parents to buy two plots of land where they built a house, with two rooms and a lounge. Before, we shared the same room with our parents. Now, we are healthy and we sleep easily.” –Jean, sponsored child, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Learn how becoming a sponsored child turned Jean’s life around.

5. What resources does World Vision Canada provide for its child sponsors?

We’ve created many ways for sponsors to keep in touch with their sponsored children. Our Resources page will help sponsors
  • send letters, photos and even special gifts to their sponsored child.
  • connect directly to their sponsored child via email through their My World Vision account.
  • celebrate special moments in their sponsored child’s life through the ConnectingUs program.
  • plan birthday parties for their sponsored child where the whole community is invited!
  • visit their sponsored child.
  • find answers to their questions about child sponsorship.

Stories For You

Canada to Cambodia: How a glowing heart can change a life Kaitlyn Weaver talks about her experience as a child sponsor and the impact her trip to Cambodia will have on her work for children in the future.
More than enough: How one child sponsorship helps a whole community Because of World Vision’s community-focused solutions, for every child you help, four more children benefit, too. Debby and her friends are all benefiting thanks to the fact that she’s sponsored.
A force to be reckoned with: Sarafina’s Story One young girl whose broken past inspired her bright future.