My replies are not always prompt, yet I answer just the same. Sometimes it’s hard to know what someone in Haiti would want to know about the United States.
People who have only met me after I’ve been married sometimes ask if I have children. Those who have known me longer know that I do not. However, my husband and I do support a teenage boy in Haiti through Compassion International.
I have been able to watch him grow up since he was about nine through pictures and letters.
I first started sponsoring him soon after my high school graduation. Despite not being the best example of a Compassion sponsor, I have read the joy in his letters at the chance to write to me and his thankfulness for gifts for birthdays and at Christmas extra.
In his letters, he asks for prayer about health and school.
He says he prays for me, which may seem odd to those of us with so much, knowing that someone with so little would take the time to pray us.
I still have the first picture I ever received of him. He was about nine or 10 at the time. He had been on the Compassion sponsorship list for at least six months before I became his sponsor.
I decided to let Compassion assign me a child who had been waiting the longest.
The sponsorship ensures my sponsored child’s participation in a local program that provides after-school food and activities and other support for children. Everywhere Compassion starts a child development program, they partner with a local church.
I cannot know how much of an impact my sponsorship has made on Wisben. But, here is what I do know.
Haiti is an impoverished country. We’ve probably all seen pictures of the conditions of some areas of the country.
Compassion child development centers and support from their sponsors can bring a child out of poverty and give them a successful future.
I will never forget a story I read by Wess Stafford when he was the Compassion International president.
He was visiting a church sponsor in an area with a Compassion program. He met a man who had been in the program when he was a child. The man and his wife had recently celebrated the birth of their first child — a girl.
As Stafford looked at the child, he instinctively asked if she needed a sponsor. The father’s reply reminded Stafford why he enjoyed his job as president of Compassion.
The father replied with emotion that the child did not because he and his wife could provide for her.
In short — the cycle of poverty was broken.
(This story was originally told in a letter to sponsors included in an issue of Compassion Magazine.)
This story reminded me that my sponsorship was vastly important and could make a lasting impact on at least one life in Haiti.
It showed me that Compassion’s model was not just throwing money at a problem, but it was a strategy for change.
According to the Compassion website, there are more than 6,000 churches that partner in some way with the program. There are 1.3 million children who are sponsored through the program in about 26 countries.
Compassion is also known for its financial integrity and has been recognized as a Four Star charity by Charity Navigator for more than a decade.
Most recently, Charity Navigator gave Compassion an overall score of 65.30 out of 70. It received a 63.36 out of 70 for financials and a perfect score of 70 for accountability and transparency. Eighty-three percent of funding goes directly to the sponsorship program. The remaining is used for administrative and fundraising expenses. Any additional monetary donation given by sponsors specifically for their child goes entirely to meeting a need for the child’s family.
Compassion is also a charity accredited by the Better Business Bureau.
While these would have been great reasons to choose Compassion from the various child sponsorship programs available, I didn’t know any of this when I decided to be a sponsor.
I had wanted to sponsor a child in another country ever since I was a child. Almost every night I would hear a commercial for child sponsorship while listening to Focus on the Family’s “Adventures in Odyssey.” Hearing what less than $40 could do for a child in another country must have inspired me because I remember wanting to do it. I can still hear the announcer’s voice in my head saying “clean water” and “medical care” as he described the support given to children in the program.
Believe it or not, the commercials were not for Compassion, but for another child-sponsorship program. When I was able to start a sponsorship, the other ministry no longer accepted checks. Checks were the only form of payment I had at the time.
The more I find out about Compassion, the more proud I am of the organization and the work it does.
My sponsorship has given me a window into another culture while giving me a chance to share more about mine.
Sometimes it also puts things in perspective. Few bad days I have will compare with living in poverty without help in a Third World country.
There are more stories of the success of child sponsorship and details about getting involved at http://www.compassion.com/.