In some way, shape, or form, we have all been exposed to child sponsorship. It may have been at a christian music concert or at your church on a “giving Sunday.” You may have even seen an ad about it on your cell phone.
When given the opportunity to choose to sponsor or not, you find yourself staring at a photo… Often, the child in the photo looks hopeless. It leaves you to wonder: If I don’t sponsor this child and help them, what will happen to them?
Chances are…we have all experienced that, or something like it.
A brief history of child sponsorship
Early child sponsorship programs had a tendency to focus on short-term assistance for a child and avoided long-term dependency. In 1919, Save the Children was the first organization to create child sponsorship. Its goal: to provide relief for children in the aftermath of World War l.
After WWI, numerous organizations, such as Children International, Plan International, and World Vision (to name a few), followed suit with different renditions of what kind of impact their sponsorship would make.
As time went on, these programs focused more on long-term impact rather than immediate short term.
The idea was: break the cycle of poverty through sponsorship and education.
Over the years, child sponsorship has been both praised for the benefits and scrutinized for the dangers it could pose to children and communities experiencing poverty. These programs do much good around the world with the goal to alleviate suffering. However, they also come with unintended consequences.
Some of those unintended consequences are…
- Sponsored students and non sponsored students become alienated from one another within a community. The sponsorship program could create a divide between those chosen to be sponsored and those who were not.
- Perpetuating the stereotype that developing world citizens are helpless, needing our assistance in order to survive.
- Sponsorship assistance creates dependency and only perpetuates the poverty issue.
These are only a few of issues that can be found throughout sponsorship programs running around the world.
In 2019, World Vision introduced a new idea that flipped the tables on child sponsorship as we knew it. They began allowing the child to be the one who chose their sponsor instead of the sponsor choosing. It was a beautiful idea and one that we personally wanted to adopt as well.
In 2020, we launched Handpicked – a program that aims to restore agency and choice back to our students who may otherwise not have an opportunity like that. It challenges the way we think about those we have the opportunity to support and help.
Handpicked is a way for us to be even more true to who we are as an organization. Our desire is that sponsorship and giving at Canopy Life empower both our students and those who give. We want to be as healthy and authentic and loving as possible! We believe that with the creation of Handpicked and taking steps towards healthier sponsorships and partnerships, we can better serve our students and staff in Kenya, and the people we engage here in the U.S!