Every parent wants to raise their child to be a compassionate, empathetic and generous adult — a person who cares about others and tries their best to make the world a better place. But how do you take something abstract like giving back and make it tangible, engaging and even fun?
Here are four reasons why sponsoring a child may be just the summer project your family is looking for!
1. It's personal.
Confronting large scale problems like hunger and poverty can be overwhelming. It's difficult for kids to wrap their heads around the fact that there are millions of people without access to clean water or nutritious food or a quality education. It's even more challenging to show how a single person can make a difference, when the magnitude of the issues can leave you feeling powerless.
But with child sponsorship, the human element of giving back is front and center. It's an opportunity to connect with a real child, who has real hopes and dreams for their future.
We're all looking for new ways to stay connected. Sponsorship is a chance for your child to develop a friendship with a girl or boy on the other side of the world.
Layza, a sponsored child in Brazil, and her mother.
Your sponsorship experience can be interactive from the very start. Together, your family can choose the girl or boy you'd like to sponsor. You'll receive a welcome kit in the mail with pictures of your sponsored child and their family, details about their life and information about their culture. Your kit will also include fun, summery stationery that you can use to introduce yourself.
Each year, you'll get updates with new photos to hang on your fridge. As your child gets older, your sponsored child will grow up right along with them. Which leads us to the next reason on our list …
2. It's fun (and educational … but mostly fun)!
We live in a fast-paced world where everything seems to be right at our fingertips. Receiving a handwritten letter in the mail is rare, which makes it even more exciting. And getting a letter from a faraway friend that traveled thousands of miles to reach you? That's pretty cool!
Whether they send letters, drawings or photos, there are so many ways for your child to get involved and stay connected. They can even pick out gifts, called Little Treasures, to send each year around the holidays, and celebrate your sponsored child's birthday by sending a special card.
Sponsorship is a fun and engaging way for your child to learn about different cultures while school is out for the summer. And, as your child discovers similarities and differences between their lives, it can also lead to important discussions on empathy and sensitivity to others' struggles and challenges.
Take Ryan, for example. He's been corresponding with his family's sponsored child Denn from the Philippines for a few years now. When he was 13, Ryan spoke with us about his friendship with Denn. He shared some of the things they have in common — they're the same age, have sisters and both like playing with Legos — and some major differences, like how Denn already had a job.
"I learned not to take for granted things that I have," Ryan said. "Like my phone, my bed or the ability to just come home and relax, as opposed to having to go to a job.”
3. It's eye-opening.
Our worldview is shaped by our experiences: the places we've been, the things we've done and the people we've met. Traveling and experiencing different cultures firsthand isn't always an option, even in the best of times. So, how can you expand your child's worldview this summer, right from your own backyard?
For Roberta, the answer was child sponsorship. When she found out her mother's church group could no longer sponsor their child from Africa, she stepped in. Right away, she knew that she wanted to share her sponsorship experience with her daughter, Catherine.
Together, they sponsored several girls over the years. For Catherine, corresponding with girls halfway around the world had a lasting impact. Years later, as an adult, she even visited Kenya, the country where their first sponsored child lived. Catherine now sponsors a child of her own — Jaimi, in Nicaragua.
“I think it just became, over the years, a core part of who I am and what I believe in,” Catherine explained. “Commitment to women and girls is a core value of mine. To empower them. Advocating for the underdog or advocating for those who don’t have a voice at the decision-making table.”
Catherine plans to continue this tradition with her own children one day. “I think in essence everybody should, because it does open your eyes to how we’re all connected."
4. It's life-changing.
It's no exaggeration to say that sponsorship transforms lives. Just ask Fate. She's been on both sides of the relationship — as a sponsored child in Cameroon and now as a sponsor of two children.
Fate still remembers the joy she felt when she received letters from her Plan International USA sponsor. She treasured them all, re-reading the words of encouragement when she needed inspiration. "My sponsor inspired me to care for people I’ve never met," Fate said. "I felt loved by her. I felt hopeful — every child should get to feel the same.”
The care and compassion Fate received as a girl helped to shape her into the woman she is today. With the help of sponsorship, Fate graduated from secondary school and went on to attend college in the U.S. Today, she works on the frontlines of the pandemic as a nurse, a profession she chose because she loves helping others.
Fate was a sponsored child, and now is a sponsor herself!
But sponsorship doesn't just change the life of your sponsored child — it goes both ways.
Jim and Christy began sponsoring when their first child was born. "We wanted our children to grow up with an understanding of a world larger than what they see in their own home," Jim explained.
In 2016 they traveled to the Dominican Republic with their two children to meet their sponsored child Randy. From the moment they arrived, they were struck by how welcoming everyone was — it's not unusual for sponsors to be greeted by the entire community with a special ceremony.
Meeting Randy and his family was the highlight of their trip. At the end of the visit, their 11-year-old son Jonah told his parents that it had been the best day of his life.
That really says it all.
Or, as Roberta's daughter Catherine put it: "I think it will give you a gift that you weren’t expecting to receive.”