Children need more than just food or education to break free from poverty — they need to develop in all areas of life. That’s why Compassion focuses on holistic child development. We want to help children grow up to be adults who are empowered to escape poverty. Our program helps children develop in four key areas: physically, emotionally, cognitively and spiritually.
Today, let’s look at how our church partners help children develop physically.
“Being healthy” probably evokes different images for everyone. Some of us may be trying to remember the last time we hit the gym. Or maybe we are thinking of that triple-fudge brownie we regret eating at lunchtime.
But for families living in poverty, being healthy has a wholly different meaning. It means access to safe water and latrines so a child no longer gets sick with diarrhea, typhoid or cholera. It means prevention, education and treatment of mosquito-borne diseases like malaria or chikungunya. And it means making sure pregnant moms are healthy, have access to medical care, and know how to help their babies grow up healthy, too.
Here are a few of the ways sponsorship helps children physically:
- Every child in Compassion’s programs receives regular health screenings, dental checkups and access to immunizations.
- Children receive nutritious food each time they visit the child development center, either a full meal or a healthful snack, depending on the needs and resources in that particular community.
- When a child is at risk of or suffering from malnutrition, they receive medical care and extra food supplies.
- Children receive education on how to stay healthy. They learn about good hygiene and proper sanitation. Hand washing and dental care become habits at the center and at home.
- Parents learn to prevent and treat illnesses like HIV, hepatitis and malaria. They learn the importance of clean water in preventing waterborne diseases like cholera and diarrhea.
Sometimes the physical needs of a child or community go beyond what sponsorship alone can provide, so donors can come alongside sponsorship to provide things like sanitary latrines and safe water or access to major medical treatment like surgery.
Here are a few examples of children who have been helped physically through sponsorship.
Through sponsorship, Angélica got help to defeat malnutrition.
Angélica lives in a remote, mountainous region of Honduras. Her parents weren’t able to provide regular meals for their children. Angélica became so malnourished that her body began wasting, often associated with acute starvation.
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Through her sponsor’s support, Angélica received regular meals at the child development center, along with monthly food supplies for home. The staff also taught Angélica’s mom how to cook highly nutritious meals at home at a low cost. Now, three years later, Angélica is a healthy, active 13-year-old who loves to play soccer!
Through sponsorship, Grace learned how to prevent malaria.
Grace, mother to Suzanna and Emmanuel, never used mosquito nets because she had heard myths in her community in Kenya.
“I would never sleep under a mosquito net because of a belief held in our village that the nets would talk to people at night,” says Grace.
Her family seemed to catch malaria constantly, which meant that they missed work and went into debt. Compassion child workers taught Grace the importance of using mosquito nets and how to prevent mosquito breeding grounds at home. Since she’s made the changes, none of Grace’s family has gotten malaria.
Through sponsorship, Oliver is learning dental hygiene.
In Oliver’s child development center in Ecuador, 70% of the children were experiencing tooth decay — an alarming number considering they are working with children under 5 years old.
Through sponsorship, Oliver and the other children at the center are receiving dental hygiene education, annual dental visits, and a toothbrush and toothpaste for at home and at the center.
Through sponsorship, Odethe finally got the medical care she needed to thrive.
Keyla from Nicaragua knew there was something different about her daughter Odethe from the time she was a baby. She wasn’t developing like the other babies. When Odethe started going to school, she was behind all the other children, physically and in her speech. She became withdrawn and refused to interact with others.
It wasn’t until Odethe got a sponsor at age 8 that she was able to visit a specialist. The family learned that she had Cornelia de Lange syndrome, a developmental disorder. Thanks to sponsorship, Odethe was able to get medicine and treatment for the disorder.
At the child development center, her tutor, Samuel, also worked intentionally with her and the other kids to help draw Odethe out socially. Thanks to his work and the support of her sponsors, Odethe has gone from a withdrawn and isolated child to an energetic and happy girl.
Thank you for providing vital physical care to children in poverty by sponsoring a child!
A child’s physical health is so important. With your support, our church partners do everything in their power to address the physical needs of each child through medical care and regular checkups, disease prevention and ongoing education.
Words by Aveleen Schinkel and Amber Van Schooneveld. Field reporting and photos by Ben Adams, Nico Benalcazar, Junieth Dinarte, Isaac Ogila and Juana Ordonez.