Child Sponsorship: It’s a Family Affair

My husband and I sponsor a 10-year-old girl in Burkina Faso named Evelyne. Evelyne has five siblings, none of whom are in our Child Sponsorship Program.

Compassion’s policy is that a maximum of three children from the same family can be registered in the sponsorship program. However, some countries limit the number of children registered from one family to one or two. And when a country first opens its sponsorship program, it is common for only one child per family to be allowed in the program due to capacity limitations.

That may seem harsh, but it’s quite strategic from a Kingdom perspective. Compassion’s desire is to reach as many families as possible in the communities where a child development center has opened.

Compassion works through local indigenous churches in 25 developing countries, and these are poor churches. It’s one child development center to one church – no exceptions.

When a church partner opens a child development center, there may be room for only 200 children. And the reality is, there are more children than spots available (“the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few,” so to speak).

By registering one to three children per family, our church partners are canvassing a larger area of the community, thus having a greater opportunity to share the gospel with more families. In reality, child registration limitations help more people in the long run.

So, back to Evelyne.

Evelyne has an older sister named Elise, whom I first started noticing in the photos that accompanied Evelyne’s letters.

Whenever my husband and I would send a family or child gift, we would receive a photo of Evelyne (in the blue denim skirt) and her entire family. I love these photos because they show how the family uses our gifts. They purchase food and clothing primarily, and Evelyne’s entire family gets in on God’s love.

group of women and children in Burkina Faso

In one of the photos, I noticed Elise (in the pink skirt). The expression of her eyes and the smile on her face spoke to me.

“You care for my sister Evelyne because you are her sponsor, but I would like to get to know you too.”

Elise reached out and grabbed my heart from that photo.

I realize that God wants me to look at my sponsorship of Evelyne from a whole new perspective.

My goal now is to win Evelyne’s entire family to Christ.

Now, when I write to Evelyne, I always include Elise by asking about Elise and letting Evelyne know that I pray for her entire family. I also ask Evelyne to share my letters with Elise and the rest of the family.

Sponsorship is a family affair, no matter how many children from the same family are in the program.

16 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Hannah March 31, 2009

    Great story!
    When I started sponsoring, I didn’t know much. I assumed the siblings were in the program. Then I read in a blog post about the limits to how many per family are permitted, which does seem best.
    I’ve tried to ask about siblings/etc; but don’t get much info. Also, with my 1st child, the profile said he had 6 kids in his family. When I received his packet, it was changed to 4. I’d rather not ask why at this time. When I received the first (form) letter, there were 2 names in the sibling section. There were also 2 names in the parent/guardian section, though online it says he’s living with his mom and his father died. Again, I don’t want to ask now.
    My second child’s profile said she has 2 children in the family. I just received my first letter from her. It was written by her mother which COMPLETELY surprised me. Her mother said there were 5 children and told me about a little brother and a grand-sister (Not sure what that is. Anybody?). That only comes out to 3 children. No idea who the other 2 are.
    I mention the families in my correspondence. I pray for the families and let the children know that I am. My first child asked me to pray for his mother and that she was sick. I ask how she is and I remind him I’m praying for her. When I got the letter written from the (on Friday! Yay!) I wrote back and included a brief note to the mother on another sheet of paper, thanking her for her kind words and assuring her that I was praying for the entire family. I hope that’s okay???? If not, someone will tell me, I’m sure.

  2. Catherine Hilger March 31, 2009

    @Rebecca – Dear Rebecca, Before sending a family/child gift, I pray. I ask God to direct me in my giving. Then I consider what is going on in our world (i.e., Global Food Crisis, natural disasters, etc.), then I consider how large my child’s family is, does my child come from a single family home? All of this comes into play when sending a gift. I have Compassion automatically deduct the standard amount ($25) for birthdays and Christmas and then let the Holy Spirit guide my giving throughout the year. Since Evelyne is in Africa, my family as sent an extra $25 several times since the food crisis. My child in Rwanda is being raised by a single mom, so one time I sent $25 with a note that specifically said it was for her to spend as she felt needed for her family. Stay within Compassion’s guideline for giving, but give. You’re giving makes more difference than you could ever imagine. One time, my measly $25 gave the family of our sponsored child in Brazil the opportunity to purchase close for him and his three brothers! I hope this helps! Cat

  3. Compassiondave March 31, 2009

    Loved that Catherine–thanx!

  4. Amy Brooke March 30, 2009

    Great perspective. I recently received my first family photo after sponsoring for a couple of years. It was such a treat. Kay (as I call her)has been a delight. I would sometimes ask her about siblings and such and I never got much of a response. But this picture showed me that she is one of four — the eldest. She wrote about how her whole family loves me prays for me. It was very touching. I’ve posted the two pictures I sent at if you want to see!

  5. Rebecca March 30, 2009

    For me, its definitely been a family affair! I’ve received 2 letters from my little boy in Haiti and the first letter was written by his mum and the second by his brother! So, I’m assuming they will read my letters too!! =D

    It is indeed exciting that through the sponsorship of 1 child, we can bless a whole family! =D And although I’ve only been sponsoring for 2 months, they’ve been such a huge blessing to me! Does anyone have any suggestions on when is a good time to send family gifts? (e.g. any particular time of the year etc.)

  6. Amber Van Schooneveld March 30, 2009

    Hi Mike, I’m afraid I’ve never been to Philippines. Sorry!

  7. Mike Stephens March 30, 2009

    Amber I have read part of your book “Hope Lives” but today I think I am going to sit down and read it cover to cover so I don’t miss anything!!! Thanks for writing it. I went to Nicaragua last and year and greatly enjoyed it, and am all set to go to the Philippines June 6-18 this year!!! Which I still cannot believe!!! What advice do you have for me to make the most of my trip? I promised Angelo one of the 3 boys I sponsor there that I will dunk a basketball for him with 2 hands so that has kept me busy. (I can touch the rim with two hands now, but I need to add a good 7 inches to dunk with 2 hands) I wasn’t sure how many times you had been to the Philippines so I thought a little pre-trip advice couldn’t hurt. Feel free to email me if you like Thanks!!!

    ([email protected])

  8. Michael March 30, 2009

    When I went to the home of one of our sponsored children, I was pleased by the reaction of the other children in the family. There was no sense of jealousy that their sister was sponsored, and not them. It was a wonderful day, and I was made to feel like one of the family.

  9. Amber Van Schooneveld March 30, 2009

    When I got to visit my sponsored child in India, his two teenage sisters were so obviously eager to meet me. It really touched me and hit me how my encouragement could impact a whole family and their outlook.

  10. Juli Jarvis March 30, 2009

    Wonderful post! I know sponsorship affects the whole family — I’ve seen it many times. We visited a family that had several children in the Dominican Republic. My friend sponsored the oldest boy, Oscar. There was a baby in the crib that didn’t look very well; we feared he would not live much longer. However, the first letter from Oscar spoke about all his family, and he said, “…even the baby is doing better!” That was such a thrill for us!

  11. Jill Foley March 30, 2009

    I always tell my sponsored children that I am praying for them and their families, but this is a great reminder to ask more questions about or give more specific comments to the rest of their families.

    Thank you for sharing this!

  12. Prairie Rose March 30, 2009

    So glad to see this post. I sponsored for years and always assumed my child’s siblings had their own sponsor who was treating them special. Then a couple years ago a family from church went on a Compassion tour and came back with that info that it was usually only one child per family. I felt awful for my kids’ siblings, wrote Compassion and asked about each of them, and they replied telling me which siblings were also in the program (only one in one family). From then on I’ve always included siblings in gifts and such (sending extra sticker sheets for the child to share with their siblings, making bookmarks with their names on them too, etc.) I understand why Compassion limits the number of children per family, but I’m glad to finally see that information becoming more well-known because I think a lot of people probably assume like me that all the child’s siblings have sponsors of their own.

  13. Mike Stephens March 30, 2009


    You are right!!! Once I started writing letters saying I was praying for my sponsor child often times the rest of the families would say that they are praying for me too!!! They all wanted prayer themselves!!! So would I, but I just thought that was interesting. Thanks for your explanation.

    I Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for YOU!!!”

  14. Lindy March 30, 2009

    What a great idea, Catherine! Thanks for sharing it with us. Evelyne and her family are so beautiful, and they are blessed to have you as “their” sponsor!

  15. Britt March 30, 2009

    Oops…this didn’t show up for some reason and it’s what I meant about “a great idea.”

    “I always include Elise by asking about Elise….”

  16. Britt March 30, 2009

    What a great idea! I’ve never seen my sponsored children’s family. But, I always mention that I pray for their family (they have 7 kids!!)

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