In the weeks and months before the new coronavirus started spreading outside China, sponsored children were already learning how to avoid it. It’s just the latest example of how Compassion’s program prepares children for a health crisis.
Our local church partners in 25 countries know better than anyone how to prepare for and respond to emergencies in their neighborhoods. By providing education, disaster relief and an established support system, these churches help ensure that crisis won’t drive vulnerable families into hopeless despair. And bolstering this entire care network are sponsors and donors who equip the churches to do their lifesaving work.
Equipped With Knowledge
Sponsorship provides children with education — one of the most important tools to prepare them for a crisis such as COVID-19. Our frontline church partners give informal and formal training to kids and their families about health threats.
For example, every sponsored child receives hygiene education. This may seem mundane compared with, say, delivering food to hungry families quarantined during COVID-19. But hygiene training is crucial in saving lives. Diarrheal disease is the second-leading cause of death in children under 5, says the World Health Organization. A significant number of these deaths could be prevented through safe drinking water, hand-washing with soap, and improved sanitation — all things that sponsors help provide.
In the sponsorship program, children also learn how to avoid ongoing health threats specific to their communities. So children living in sub-Saharan Africa learn that sleeping under a net treated with insecticide will help protect them from the mosquito that transmits malaria. Kids in the Philippines learn how to avoid illness and injury when tropical storms strike the islands.
Prepared for Disaster
But education alone doesn’t meet all the needs of children. Many of their families can’t afford supplies needed to stay healthy and safe, like food, medicine and hygiene supplies. Since Compassion’s program is holistic in its approach, sponsorship also helps meet physical needs — which increase significantly in times of health crisis.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen some amazing examples of how our church partners meet children’s physical needs through disaster relief. In Honduras, Compassion staff members went into neighborhoods to deliver groceries to quarantined families of sponsored children. When some were stopped by police, Compassion Honduras arranged a meeting with the country’s president, who granted them access. In Kenya, workers visited slums — where social distancing is practically impossible — to give families soap and show them how to turn a jerry can into a makeshift water faucet for hand-washing. We’re hearing similar stories every day from the 25 countries where Compassion works.
Other examples of how churches meet sponsored children’s physical needs during disasters include the provision of extra food rations during droughts, materials to rebuild homes destroyed in storms, medical care for injuries caused by earthquakes — and so many more cases specific to the diverse places children live.
Supported by a Community
Here’s the big picture of how sponsorship helps kids during crisis: They are part of a powerful support network through the global Church. Sponsors, donors and local church workers form a safety net that stretches across borders to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
Fabiola’s family is an example of this. Her mother experienced domestic violence — made worse than usual by the pandemic because she couldn’t flee her home when her husband threatened to kill her. But now, the church has resettled the family in a safe home and is regularly offering them trauma counseling and prayer. It has connected Fabiola’s mom with other caregivers who have experienced domestic violence who are supporting and encouraging her.
Many kids who live in poverty will never know what it feels like to have such a support system. They will fall through the cracks. Through sponsorship, children get the chance to avoid that same fall because of the net beneath their feet. The net is always there — during the everyday crisis of poverty as well as the unexpected events like COVID-19 — bolstering children with access to education, relief supplies, spiritual support and love in action. There’s no better way to shepherd them through a crisis.
Thank you for sponsoring a child! Your support is more important than ever!
Reporting and photos by Tigist Gizachew, Isaac Ogila and Doreen Umutesi