Highly Vulnerable Children: What Special Needs Do They Have?

Since November 2005, we have ministered in specialized ways to the needs of thousands of highly vulnerable children registered in church partner centers. We acknowledge that all children in our programs are vulnerable and face a certain degree of risk, some registered children face much greater risks than others.

Highly vulnerable children in our programs are those registered children who are at greatest risk of physical, psychological or social harm relative to the other registered children in the program.

Our Highly Vulnerable Children (HVC) initiative is therefore a targeted intervention, accessed through Complementary Intervention funds, that seeks to provide enough stability to the most vulnerable children to allow them to participate in the Child Sponsorship Program.

Prior to the HVC program being implemented in East Africa, we conducted a survey in all church partner programs worldwide, which revealed that tens of thousands of registered children have lost either one or both of their parents.

In some countries nearly half of these deaths are due to AIDS. Children are also vulnerable to abusive home environments, chronic illness, exploitation or extreme poverty. Whatever the cause, we recognize that for these children additional measures are necessary to protect and secure their well-being.

We currently utilize a wide range of approaches to respond to the needs of highly vulnerable children. From provision of nutritional support to children who do not have enough to eat, to reconstituting a family for those who have lost both parents and do not have a place to call home, each need is assessed thoroughly by local church partners and an appropriate response given. So far more than 10,000 children have been supported through the HVC initiative in East Africa alone.

highly-vulnerable-children-chantalChantal, a 9-year-old girl from Rwanda, was one of the first recipients of the HVC program.

When she was selected as a beneficiary of the first Compassion cottage in Rwanda in March 2006, she and her elder sister Jackie had just lost both of their parents. They were living at the mercies of kind neighbors and strangers and on a daily basis moved from house to house seeking food and shelter for that night.

The risks and hardships that these two young children and many others in similar circumstances face everyday trying to make a living for themselves is unimaginable. It is for children such as Chantal and others living in such vulnerable conditions that the HVC initiative was designed.

The benefits of this initiative are already being seen and felt far and wide. As for Chantal, she is currently enjoying the warmth and protection of a new home, a new “mother” and new “brothers” and “sisters” in addition to her very own biological sister.

Impossible, one may think, and humanly speaking, a situation such as Chantal’s would have proved insurmountable. But thankfully, we serve a God who specializes in such impossibilities!

Please pray for the HVC program and the many children we assist who desperately need this additional assistance.

12 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Betty Hammond December 20, 2011

    I was really happy when I received the three pollyanna gift that I was suppose to get for my co worker and one was this organization. I was very happy to donate to this cause. God’s many blessing be upon you as you continue the good work!

  2. Chris Giovagnoni December 16, 2008


    With HVC, our intention is to uphold the same policy that we have for HIV.

  3. Kees Boer December 13, 2008

    Hi, Chris,

    I meant, would the sponsor be aware of the child receiving HVC? I know that the sponsor doesn’t know if a child is HIV positive, unless the child or their family decides to share that. Is that the same with HVC? I.e. a sponsor wouldn’t be told.


  4. Chris Giovagnoni December 13, 2008


    A child is not “enrolled” in HVC and there is no code or label on the child’s account identifying a child as receiving HVC help. That’s for the sake of reducing the possible stigma. Our church partners identify the children and administer the assistance.

  5. Kees Boer December 13, 2008

    Hi, Chris,

    Would the sponsor know if their child is also enrolled in HVC?


  6. Chris Giovagnoni December 12, 2008


    HVC is not a stand alone program per se. It’s not something a child is “enrolled” in, like with the child sponsorship program.

    Instead, HVC is a complementary intervention working with our core programs, child sponsorship, child survival and leadership development.

    HVC has the objective of bringing stability to the lives of the most vulnerable children. These are children who are not able to attend school or lead “normal healthy lives” because they lack the very basics in life.

    Since every child in our program is vulnerable in some way, we rely heavily on our church partners to identify children who are most in need of this intervention. We also don’t single them out from other registered children.

    We don’t have a code or other label identifying them as HVC. That’s for the sake of reducing the stigma/trauma they might already have suffered or experienced.

  7. Heather December 12, 2008

    This is a great program!! I’d always wondered about how Compassion dealt with extreme high risk children(children suffering from no parents and being HIV postive or children at risk of becoming part of the sex trade etc).Now I know!! 🙂 I’m so glad to see this program and I hope that it gets started in places like Thailand,Indonesia and India where children are at extreme risk of being sold as slaves and into the sex trade..Please keep us updated!!!

  8. Chris Giovagnoni December 12, 2008


    I spoke with Lillian, and she said that we currently have this intervention only in Africa. We are working on the strategies that are most effective in assisting the children, and do plan to extend this initiative to other countries in the future.

  9. Juli Jarvis December 11, 2008

    It’s wonderful to hear about this program. Just another way that Compassion meets the needs of each child individually. Thank you so much for sharing.

  10. Andrea G December 11, 2008

    Is there any way to find out if your own sponsored child is part of the HVC program?

    I suspect that my sponsored child may be in a similar situation as the girl in the example. If she is NOT in the program, is there something more that I can do for her beyond sponsorship and sending substantial financial gifts twice a year?

    If you click on the link to my blog, you can read her story. If someone has more information for me, please contact me. I seriously want to help Azalech in as many ways as I can.

  11. Vicki Small December 11, 2008

    I’m glad to know about the HVC and would like to know more; e.g., has this service been implemented in all of our field-partner countries?

  12. Cheryl J December 11, 2008

    What a blessing to hear about this program! I have wondered about children who do seem much worse off than some of the others. I am glad to know there is additional help available.

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