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Do Child Sponsorships Really Work?
by Julie Cramer
Posted on Tuesday, October 14, 2014
I pray for Shraddha when I open the refrigerator for milk. I close the door to bins stocked full of fruits and vegetables—and again I see her picture tacked there with a magnet. I have more than enough, but at times I wonder if the $36 a month I contribute to her care through Orphan Outreach’s sponsorship program is really making a difference in her life. How could so little do so much?

A group of economists and researchers gave me a compelling answer.

In 2013, Bruce Wydick (University of San Francisco), Paul Glewwe (University of Minnesota), and Laine Rutledge, (a student at the University of Washington), presented their findings on the impact of international child sponsorships. They studied the adult lives of children who had been sponsored in comparison to their siblings that were too old to have been sponsored.

The study is the first of its kind to measure the long-term impact of such sponsorships—and critical considering they estimate 9 million children are sponsored globally each year, with contributions mirroring that of U.S. foreign aid to developing nations, exceeding $3 billion annually.

The researchers gathered data from 10,144 adults over 2 years that had received sponsorships through Compassion International from 6 countries. At the time, only children 12 years of age or younger were eligible for the program. A few of the team’s findings in the Journal of Political Economy offered solid evidence to the value of such programs:
  • Child sponsorship raised a child’s education level by three years
  • The probability of formal employment increased from 55% to 72%
  • The probability of white collar employment increased from 19% to 31%
  • Teen marriage and childbearing decreased
  • Community and church leadership increased
  • Basic necessities such as sturdier homes, clean drinking water,
    and use of mosquito nets were more likely
  • Positive lifestyle choices increased

“You could beat this data senseless, and it was incapable of showing anything other than extremely large and statistically significant impacts on educational outcomes for sponsored children,” Bruce Wydick told Christianity Today. “The key to ending poverty resides in the capacity of human beings—and their view of their own capacity—to facilitate positive change.”

Orphan Outreach’s emphasis on the spiritual and emotional development of children leads to this type of positive change. And by involving local churches to mentor the children, Orphan Outreach is helping to build the children’s networks of support.

“All projects include Christian discipleship of the children,” the program’s coordinator Beth Galway said. “The children receive so many benefits, which often include their only meal of the day, a Christian education in most cases, and loving caregivers.” At times, sponsors can travel on mission trips and meet their child face to face.

“Of course, having all of the sponsors and mission trip participants keeping these children in their prayers is probably the most important benefit,” Beth said. “Just this morning, I had a new sponsor ask if he could help his sponsored child forever! We are constantly trying to ensure that sponsors feel connected to the child and the program. As a new program, there is still a learning curve. We struggle with how to keep non-sponsored children from feeling left out.”

For Orphan Outreach, 369 children remain to be sponsored, which would equate to an additional $16,000 monthly. Such consistent financial support enables the agency "to build quality into each program and allows them to have financial security," Tiffany Taylor Wines, director of marketing, said. Sponsorships extend benefits to all children, however, by freeing up other dollars to be directed toward overall operational costs.

So, for the cost of some milk and other groceries, Shraddha—and children such as her—can curl up in bed at night knowing there will be breakfast in the morning … and, thankfully, school.

Help a child rest easy tonight. Become a sponsor today! Click here for more information.

*Note:  In Russia, the sponsorship program supports young adults after they have aged-out of the orphanage system. Orphan Outreach is considering similar programs in Latvia and Guatemala. For more information on the “graduate program” in Russia, click here.


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