At only 5 years of age, Michelle had to say goodbye to one of the places she loves the most: her child development center.
Michelle has been sponsored since she was 3. She was raised by her grandmother, who registered her in our Child Sponsorship Program. But when Michelle’s stepfather found a job in another city, they decided to move there.
Often, children and families don’t tell church staff they are moving. The children suddenly disappear, so the tutors have to go look for them.
Whenever a child stops coming to a development center, the tutor or social worker will visit the child’s home to find out what is happening. The tutors even go to the schools, and usually that’s where they find out the child has moved to another place.
When Michelle stopped attending the center for a couple of weeks, her tutor went to visit Michelle’s home. The tutor was told Michelle wasn’t coming back.
“Sometimes the mother or the father travel to work to Argentina, Brazil or Spain, and they are left with an aunt, so they have to move to another house. Sometimes the parents take the children with them, so we have to remove them from the program because there is no place to transfer them. Others have to move away because the house is not their own, they are either in a rented house or temporarily taking care of a house.
“Other reasons a child stops attending the center activities are because sometimes the child or youth starts working, and either they lose interest or don’t have time or because the parents don’t want their children to become Christian,” says Elda, the Director of Michelle’s center.
Our church partners do what they can to keep the children at the centers. At Michelle’s center, staff members have brought back many children by speaking with the child’s guardians (e.g., aunts and uncles) letting them know the benefits the child will receive.
When a child moves to a new area that has a child development center in the community, the child can be transferred to that center. The staff works hard to make this happen.
Rather than moving, there are cases where the parents just don’t let the children continue attending the center.
“We recently had a case where the mom is a Jehovah’s Witness. When we visited and called her so the child could come, the mother got mad. The tutor said that the child is desperate to come but the mom won’t let her.”
At times, the youth or children themselves decide to leave the center for various reasons. Sometimes it’s because of pressure from parents to work or because they lose interest as teenagers.
“There are also cases where some children or teenagers tell us that they don’t want to come anymore, but later on we find out the real reasons. Sometimes, it’s that the parents don’t let them go or that the child is working during the day and studying at night.”
After a child leaves Compassion, the staff do the follow-up work of handling gifts and departure letters.
“When a child receives a gift and is no longer at our center, we try to find the child. When we can’t find the child we have to return the money to the country office. If we find the child, the child comes to the center to receive the gift and then returns to where he or she is living. We can wait for a child to appear for up to two months.”
When a child isn’t available to write a goodbye or thank-you letter to the sponsor, it is often written by the tutor, because the tutor is the one who knows the child best and can explain the reason the child left.
If the child isn’t located and the sponsor has sent a gift, the gift is returned to the Global Ministry Center in Colorado Springs. This money is then added to the Christmas Gift Program to be shared among the children at Christmastime.
In Michelle’s case, the staff at her development center were preparing her departure forms to send to our country office, but Michelle appeared back just in time. Her family had decided to come back, and she was able to continue in the program.