How Does Compassion Prevent Child Departures?

Whether a child’s departure from Compassion is expected or not, it’s always difficult for the Compassion center staff and sponsors who have invested so much love into their lives.

A group of 12 children sit on the ground in a line, smiling. They sit on concrete ground, in front of a corrugated metal sheet and wood wall.

Generally, young people graduate from Compassion’s program between the ages of 18 and 22. However, many factors can cause a child to leave the program early. Sometimes families move away from the community or their economic situation improves. Other times, a family isn’t interested in the program anymore or a youth begins working.

In each of the countries where Compassion works, the staff strive to understand the factors that cause children to depart the program early. Then they work toward solutions. In Honduras, our nearly 200 front-line churches across the country have developed strategies to respond to the unique struggles families face.

Compassion Honduras is just one example that can help you understand what this looks like around the world.

Child Selection

One way our Honduras office ensures that children stay in the program is to be intentional in which children we register in the program.

A boy stands in a wooden doorway with barbed wire fence wearing a white shirt. In the background is a girl and a dirt road.

The guidelines can vary by country, but in Honduras, we select children whose families live on less than $2 per day. We take other factors into consideration, such as whether the family has access to electricity, potable water or a sewage system. We also take into account whether the family lives in a makeshift home and whether they have access to health care.

The children who live at a higher poverty level tend to stay in the program longer.

“We have a long list of children who crave to be in the center, but not a list of children who want to depart,” says Ninfa, a Compassion Center Director in Honduras.

Income-Generating Skills

A group of seven children smile at the camera. Three are standing and three are crouching in a field, all holding hoes. Our staff in Honduras found that one of the main reasons children unexpectedly leave Compassion’s program here is because their families were forced to migrate to other communities or countries looking for better job opportunities and for safety from violence and extortion. These families often live in communities where criminal groups are active in drug trafficking. Our church partners across Central America are facing similar challenges, from El Salvador to Mexico.

Churches in Honduras have begun finding ways to help families stay in their communities. One church in Joconales, Honduras, had dozens of families and individuals leave the community because they weren’t able to survive.

“Our 17-year-old son crossed the border last year. It was a heartbreaking decision for us to let him go, but we had no choice because of our precarious situation at home,” shared Filadelfo, a farmer and father of seven.

A man, Filadelfo, stands outside next two his two daughters, one of them holding a hoe.

Filadelfo is shown here with his daughters, Keilin and Sandra.

To help families like Filadelfo’s, the church started a farming initiative. They provided vegetable seeds and agricultural training to families so that they would have another source of food and income. Filadelfo’s daughters, Sandra and Keilin, have been growing onions, tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, yuca, corn and parsley. When they harvest, they can either eat the vegetables themselves or sell them in the market.

“I cannot bear the idea of letting another child go,” says Filadelfo. “I’m grateful that my girls were given seeds in the center, because they’re shaping a different future.”

A young girl in a gold dress stands with her hands behind her back, smiling, in a large field with small corn plants growing in it.

Sandra stands in the cornfield her family has planted with Compassion’s help.

Filadelfo believes that with the help they are receiving, the family won’t have to send another child away. Across the country, churches are helping caregivers to find ways like this farming initiative to keep Honduran families intact.

Vocational Training

A boy wearing a pink shirt stands, smiling, with his arms crossed holding scissors in one hand and a comb in the other, standing on a street.

Another approach Compassion Honduras takes to ensure youths are able to stay in Compassion’s program is vocational training. Sometimes youths are pressured to drop out of school and Compassion’s program to begin working. Others can be tempted to join gangs, which can seem like the only viable way of making it in their community.

Vocational training prevents both. Depending on the center, youths are able to learn skills like sewing, computer science, baking, electricity and cosmetology. Vocational training has changed Jean Pier’s life.

Jean Pier lives in a community in San Pedro Sula known for having one of the highest homicide rates in the world. Sadly, several of Jean Pier’s friends have already died from gang violence. But the local church is giving youths an alternative by teaching hairdressing.

A boy wearing a pink shirt stands, smiling, cutting a boy's hair using clippers and a comb. They are in front of a light green brick wall.

At 15, Jean Pier is already an in-demand barber. After training at the Compassion center, he got a part-time job at a barbershop. Through his skill, Jean Pier has built such a reputation that gang members seek him out for his styled haircuts. Jean Pier’s goal is to save his earnings from the barbershop and go to college to study engineering.

“Even though gunshots and gang fights seem to be the norm in my community, I’m convinced that I’m part of a chosen generation,” Jean Pier shares. “My life wouldn’t be the same without the center and the Bible teachings. I wouldn’t have the opportunities that I’ve found here, like caring tutors and a supporting sponsor.”

Recreational Opportunities

Another way Compassion Honduras strives to keep children engaged in the program and safe from the social issues that ensnare so many young people is through recreational opportunities.

Sports like taekwondo and soccer give young people alternative activities to those on the street. They also provide opportunities to learn discipline, hard work and respect. And the coaches use the activities as a way to teach young people about the importance of having a life centered on God.

A young boy wearing a white soccer uniform bounces a soccer ball on his knee in a concrete school yard.

Nine-year-old Adonay is learning how to play soccer at his Compassion center. He lives in one of the most dangerous communities within the country, called Estados Unidos. Most people don’t dare enter this area controlled by gangs. Children are a top target for gang recruits.

“We faced hard times in our neighborhood a few years ago, as gang members were on a mission to recruit children and use them as informants when the police did raids,” says Noemi, Adonay’s Center Director. “In light of that situation we decided to start soccer tournaments, which to our surprise have surpassed our expectations.”

Through this project, children receive soccer uniforms, shoes, socks, balls and have practice three times a week with a professional trainer. More important, they learn discipline, teamwork and good behavior. Coupled with the spiritual lessons they receive at the center, these children are growing in the godly character which will protect them from joining gangs.

Two boys in white soccer uniforms play soccer in a concrete play yard while a man in a blue and white striped shirt watches.

Since they began training at the Compassion center, a national soccer league scouted Adonay and his brother Angel! Now they play with a professional league weekly.

“I was glad that the center started a sports initiative. This is definitely preventing children in our community from being targeted by gang members,” says Adonay’s mother, Vanessa.

Spiritual Care

A close-up photo of a girl in a pink shirt and hair in a ponytail smiling at the camera, with several girls behind her smiling.

At each Compassion center in Honduras, there’s another vital ingredient to keeping children in the program: love.

“Children love to attend the center because they feel loved, safe and cared for. In fact, children visit the center’s facility even when they have days off,” shares Ninfa, a Center Director.

Ninfa’s goal is that each child, regardless of when they depart the program, will leave with the seed of Jesus in their heart. Ninfa and her staff also build close relationships with the children’s families. They build love and trust with the families. They help families find hope and a purpose-driven life that will remain steadfast in their lives, regardless of circumstances.

When a Child Leaves the Program Early

A little girl wearing a camouflage shirt, jeans and bare feet, sits on a concrete step, looking sad.

Despite the best efforts of our staff, sometimes a child does depart Compassion’s program. But Ninfa and her staff are always intentional in helping the sponsors understand the situation.

“We have had non-planned departures and it’s heartbreaking to us to say goodbye to a child,” says Ninfa. “We take the time to bless and thank the sponsor for his support, and we encourage him to continue supporting another child,” says Ninfa.

Frontline churches work hard to avoid these unplanned departures, but adversity sometimes comes uninvited. That’s why our staff members treasure every minute they share in the life of a child, planting love in their hearts.

To all of our sponsors who have experienced the departure of a child: We understand how hard this is. Sometimes it is the result of the very serious circumstances of poverty. Other times, it is simply a product of a family moving. But no matter the reason, hold deep in your hearts the truth that the love you have shared will leave a lasting imprint on that child!

10 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Chris Mills September 22, 2019

    Dear Bill & Joan,

    I understand completely. A month or so ago I lost one of my sponsored children. Like yours, she left the program, and the only reason I was told by Compassion was that she wasn’t interested in it any longer 🙁 Like Sierre mentioned, it could be family reasons as well. It does hurt!!! I haven’t brought myself to write a final letter to her yet either. I still may. I’ve lost other children; some have moved away, out of the areas Compassion works. Every time it’s hard. But I continue to pray for all my sponsored children, both past & present ones. I encourage you to do the same. It’s sometimes hard to know or see what impact we have made as sponsors; we will one day.

  2. Bill and Joan Grattendick September 19, 2019

    I am aware that children sometimes leave compassion. I sponsored a girl from about 12 years old to 17. One day I got a letter from someone in the organization, saying that she had left the program. I never got any explanation as to why. It upset me for quite some time, so much that I did not want to sponsor another child. I loved her and it Hurt to just lose her. I encouraged her to study and do well in school. I tried to teach her some things by stories of my own experiences. I told her about my becoming a Christian at a very early age.I sent her scripture and encouraged her to read the scriptures. I got the feeling that maybe she did not do well enough in school, and perhaps had to go to work, or perhaps she got married. I have no idea.
    Nevertheless. I again felt the tug in my heart to sponsor again. So I have another child to sponsor.
    We also sponsor a boy child through another organization.

    1. Sierra September 20, 2019

      Hello, Bill and Joan! I’m so sorry to hear that your sponsored child suddenly left Compassion’s program, and that you never received an explanation as to why. According to our records, Munyiva left Compassion’s program because her family was no longer interested in Compassion’s program. This could be because they needed Munyiva at home, or found a different sponsorship organization they wanted to participate in, or did not want to adhere to the family policies that Compassion implements. Whatever the reason, please know that our staff absolutely does everything they can to keep children enrolled in our program through their graduation date, and ultimately, this decision to leave was Munyiva and her family’s. Thank you so much for the time you spent investing in her life and blessing her by sending her Scripture, and stories, and for encouraging her. Even though she is no longer in the program, I’m sure the love you showed her will continue to have a great impact. We also thank you so much for continuing to bless children through Compassion’s ministry. 🙂 Please let us know if you ever have any questions regarding your sponsorships from here on out!

  3. Halina Rose July 14, 2019

    Thank you for your words, Ms. Martinez. They give me insight into how to pray for my sponsored child in Honduras and understand his situation. Your article encourages me to keep writing letters and praying. Thank you so much!

  4. Keyth April 16, 2019

    Hola qué hermoso leer todo esto
    Soy misionero he visto esto proyecto y lo he apoyado de diferentes forma en Perú ecuador y chile pero quisiera
    Hacerlo en mi país Venezuela
    Después de tres año la situación es fuerte tengo las instalaciones personal y ya estoy fandoalmierzl a más de 300 niños y merienda no se cómo contactar para ver qué se puede hacer acá en mi tierra pero bueno

    1. Sarah April 17, 2019

      Keyth, envíenos un correo electrónico a [email protected] con respecto a su solicitud.

  5. Ann Bradford April 13, 2019

    I loved reading this post. I lost a child I was a correspondent sponsor for and it was so sad to me. But it’s good reading how careful you try to be in preventing this situation. Since I couldn’t sponsor him financially myself I’m praying and advocating for “my” child daily.

  6. Carla Charles April 9, 2019

    It is beautiful that the Lord’s work is in the. Heart ?.

  7. Laurie April 9, 2019

    It is heartbreaking when your sponsored child leaves and you don’t get to say goodbye! My daughter and I loved our girl Maria, and then one day her profile was no longer on my homepage. I called Compassion and they said that she had moved. We were so sad and shocked! We still pray for her, and hope that she is doing well wherever she may be.

  8. Katiedash April 9, 2019

    You are doing such wonderful work! Thank the Lord! I will continue to pray for your ministry and those you help.

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