Sometimes in marketing for non-profit charities (including Compassion International) you’ll see words like “hero” – “You can be a hero to a child in poverty.” It can be effective marketing. Who doesn’t want to be a hero and change the world?
But there’s a problem with this type of message: It places the donor in the role of protagonist and the child in the role of passive recipient.
This framework of donor as hero and the poor as thankful charity cases can do long-term damage. It subtly whispers to a person in poverty, “The donors are special; they have the power. You’re poor and different from them.” This can create a mindset of dependency that says, “I can’t do it myself; I’m dependent on someone else to do things for me.”
But the goal of Compassion isn’t to create life-long recipients. It’s to empower children to become adults who are equipped to escape poverty.
That’s why our church partners don’t focus on giving children things but on developing children holistically – socially, emotionally, spiritually and cognitively.
The sponsor isn’t the protagonist of the story. The children are the protagonists of their own story. You aren’t saving a child. You’re giving them the opportunities to change their circumstances themselves.
Here are five ways you can help the child you sponsor not to have a mindset of dependency but to have the mindset of empowerment:
- Ask them about school. There can be a lot of pressure to drop out of school to start working. Ask them what their favorite subjects are, and encourage them to keep working hard.
- Ask them about their interests. What unique gifts and talents has God given them that He wants them to use to serve others?
- Encourage them to be contributors. The children’s circumstances often don’t encourage them to believe they can contribute to their society. Encourage them to dream—what can they do to make a difference in their family and their community?
- Point them to God’s truths. Remind them that God created them and they are fearfully and wonderfully made. Tell them that God has a unique purpose for their lives.
- Pray for them. Pray that God would guide them as they make choices and that He would help them grow into the fulfilled, responsible adults He wants them to be.
Sponsorship isn’t about becoming a savior to a child living in poverty. It’s your opportunity to point a child to our true Savior and to allow them to become all God intended them to be.