Do you remember those terrible commercials where Sally Struthers would come on the screen and cry about children in need of sponsors? Nothing makes me change the channel faster than a well-paid celebrity guilting me into donating. Don’t get me wrong, I know the need is real, and it breaks my heart. And I love the idea of sponsorship – the letters, the pictures, making an investment that impacts one life instead of being spread thin across an organization. But I’ve always wondered if those things were legitimate or if everyone gets the same little form letter and picture.
I don’t know which organization Sally Struthers was crying for, but I know legitimate sponsorship exists – it’s called Compassion International. I first learned about Compassion when Christian rock band Audio Adrenaline talked about it at concerts back in the 90s. Then my parents, sister, and a couple friends started sponsoring kids, and they all had great things to say about it. So about eighteen months ago, when my church held a Compassion sponsorship drive, I sent my son to the table to pick out a child.
His name is Edouard. He’s six, and he lives in a farming community in Burkina Faso. He likes to play soccer, and he has the most beautiful brown eyes. Every month, Compassion International charges me about $40, and they use that money to provide Edouard with education, including school fees and uniforms, health care, and an introduction to Jesus. He doesn’t write yet, but his teachers at the Compassion center read our letters to him and help him write to us. We’ve gotten pictures of him several times, and it’s fun to see him grow. He has drawn us pictures and asked questions about our lives (he was rather concerned last winter when his teachers told him about how cold it gets in Minnesota). We got a letter from his pastor once, and recently we got a picture of him with his parents. I am confident that he is a real child who really benefits from my sponsorship.
Charity Navigator backs me up on this. Compassion International is a four-star rated organization. Their income has been expanding each year, and their output has followed suit. 84% of money donated to Compassion goes to programming, and the other 16% goes to advertising and administration costs. That’s pretty good. The CEO makes under $200,000/year, which in the world of CEOs is pretty much minimum wage…
One of my favorite things about Compassion is that they organize missions trips every year, and if you go along to your child’s country, they will arrange for you to meet them and their families, and to see their Compassion center. They will also help you arrange a meeting if you visit your child’s country on your own.
I would love to meet Edouard someday, and who knows, maybe I will. But even if we don’t meet on this side of heaven I will enjoy exchanging letters and pictures with him and watching him grow up healthy and educated because of our little gift and the work of Compassion International.
If you’re interested in sponsoring a child or supporting the work of Compassion, visit their website at www.compassion.com.
Do you have a Compassion child? Tell us about him or her in the comments!