As a sponsor for three years and counting, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on Compassion’s mission and how it works to achieve that mission. But when I started working at Compassion as an intern this summer, I began to realize that there was still a lot I didn’t know! I have since learned several facts about Compassion’s ministry that I just wasn’t aware of before.
You probably know about Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program and how the organization connects children in poverty with local churches and individual sponsors. Each church partners with Compassion to provide classes for the sponsored children as well as extra meals, tutoring, a safe space to play and much more.
But did you know that a child’s journey with Compassion can start even before birth and extend past high school graduation? I didn’t!
Here is a timeline of what a child might experience during their time in Compassion’s program — with some details that were new to me!
Starting before a child is born, his or her mother can be enrolled in a Compassion program called the Survival Program to receive resources and education. A trained specialist visits each mom at home at least once a month to check on her health, address her immediate problems (such as malnutrition) and provide information on prenatal and newborn care.
Mothers also attend group classes for support and job training at a Compassion center that is also registered as a Survival center. When the time comes to give birth, moms are provided with a birth attendant and any needed medical care to ensure a safe delivery.
1 Month Old
At 1 month, a baby in Compassion’s Survival Program has received a care package with extra resources for that critical first year. All babies will also be regularly weighed and checked on throughout the next 11 months to make sure they stay healthy.
Moms in the program have the chance to learn job skills at their local church so they can take care of themselves and their children in the future.
1 Year Old
By the time Compassion-assisted children turn 1 year old, they have received their recommended vaccinations. This is also the age they can be registered into the Child Sponsorship Program. As soon as a child is sponsored, they begin to exchange letters with their sponsor. Their parents will most likely be the ones actually writing the letters at first, depending on the child’s age. This is a great opportunity to get to know the sponsored child’s family!
As sponsored children get older, they will write their own letters with the help of a tutor, giving you the chance to develop a sweet relationship with the boy or girl you sponsor.
5 Years Old
At age 5, a sponsored child attends the center four to eight hours a week. He or she receives love and care from tutors and the other volunteers at their church that implements Compassion’s program. Children are also getting nutritious meals, age-appropriate spiritual teaching, educational classes, basic medical care and much more!
Additionally, each sponsored child has access to resources for any ongoing or urgent need. This access is made possible by Compassion’s Critical Needs Fund and is given through the child’s local church. A child can receive anything from a new home after a natural disaster to clean water to surgery. For example, in the last fiscal year, Compassion provided over 200,000 sponsored children and their family members with antiretroviral therapy for HIV.
12 Years Old
Beginning at age 12, a child can receive additional educational resources beyond the normal classes at the center. These extra resources are given through the Youth Development initiative, and they help young adults to prepare for a career after graduation or even to begin one before. Sponsored children and young adults can access vocational training, attend enrichment camps, obtain supplies to start businesses, get scholarships to college or seminary and more!
22 Years Old
This is the oldest age for a sponsored young adult to graduate. Centers host celebrations for their graduates, who may be anywhere from 18 to 22 years old depending on the country. Each graduate has been empowered through the love of their local church and a sponsor for decades at this point. They have heard the gospel and seen the church in action. Their urgent needs have been met, and they have spent up to 4,000 hours in the loving and safe environment of a local church. And with the benefit of job skills training and supplemental education, each graduate has a bright future to look forward to!
Compassion graduates finish well. Afterward, they often move on to do amazing things that would not have been possible without their local church and the Child Sponsorship Program. Many have even become believers through the church in their time as a sponsored child! With their lives forever changed, these young adults have a great start to ending the cycle of poverty and hopelessness for themselves and their kids. They are often the ones who innovate and bring change to their own communities as a way to give back. (For some great examples, read these blog posts describing Compassion’s awesome alumni and how they have defeated poverty!)
Known, Loved and Connected
I hope this post has expanded your knowledge of Compassion International. But even beyond that, I hope you can see just how holistic Compassion’s care for children and young adults really is.
Throughout my internship, I have been so excited to fully understand these facts about Compassion that show the depth of Compassion’s investment in each child through the church, including the girl I sponsor in Guatemala. Genesis’ physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs are being met at each step in her sponsorship journey. She is being cared for at a level that helps her the most and that contributes to her long-term well-being.
From birth to graduation, every sponsored child — including Genesis — is known, loved and connected to this powerful network of local churches and sponsors!
International photography and reporting by Nico Benalcazar, Hutama Limarta, Yrahisa Mateo, Galia Oropeza and Daniel Robson.