One Year In:  Our Experience Sponsoring a Child In Africa

african childLast fall, I was contacted by World Vision to host a review and giveaway on my blog for one of their Christmas presents.  (People can choose to buy a present through World Vision; part of what they pay goes for the present, and the rest is given as a donation to someone in need.)  I researched the company as well as several other companies that sponsor children, and I was impressed with World Vision.

Years ago, my husband and I had decided when our children were old enough to understand the process, we’d sponsor a child for each of our children.  Last year our oldest child was 8.5 years old, which we thought was old enough.

We sat down with our son and looked on the computer at the many children available for sponsorship.  Our son finally settled on a boy, Janvier, who was born on the exact same day and year as he was.  Janvier lives in Africa.

We’ve now sponsored Janvier for a year.  While our experience has been good, it hasn’t necessarily been the experience we expected.

Communication Hasn’t Been Easy

I had visions that we’d form a relationship with the child that we sponsored and that my son could develop almost a pen pal type of relationship with Janvier.  That hasn’t happened.

While we can e-mail Janvier, once that e-mail gets to the local office in Africa, the message must be translated and then mailed to Janvier.  When Janvier responds (with the help of a World Vision worker in his country), the letter must be translated again and then mailed to us.  We’re looking at an 8 week or longer window of communication.

Sponsorship Is a Big Commitment

Janvier is now 9.5 years old, just like our son.  We are committed to sponsoring him for another 8.5 years, until he is 18 or World Vision decides that the needs in Janvier’s community have been met.  Our sponsorship is $35 a month, which, in difficult months, can seem like a lot.

Honestly, we probably jumped the gun on sponsorship because we’re still paying down my husband’s student loans, saving for a house, and building our income now that my husband completed his Ph.D..  We probably should have given a one-time donation at Christmas instead of making a 10 year committment.

Still, my son likes getting mail from Janvier, and I know that we’re teaching him to be charitable.  It also makes me feel good to know that we’re helping a child on the other side of the world live a better life.

There Are Always Requests for More Money

Perhaps because the $35 can sometimes be difficult for us to pay, I don’t like getting more requests for money.  We’ve gotten mailings near Janvier’s birthday to send him birthday presents and send extra money.  We also got requests for additional money at Christmas.

This in itself isn’t a negative thing because the extras like this are completely optional, but each time I get these extra mailings and don’t send something, I feel guilty, like I’m a bad sponsor for Janvier.

We did put together a little birthday box for Janvier based on a list of approved items to send, but the shipping was prohibitively expensive, so that puts a bit of a damper on sending extra gifts.

My Son Is Learning and Growing

As much as we try, my son, like most Western hemisphere children, is a bit spoiled and self-centered.  By sponsoring Janvier, he gets a look at the way children in other parts of the world live.  Once we started sponsoring Janvier and my son learned what his life was like, he suddenly was more grateful for what he has.

Likewise, my son has always had a fairly giving spirit and likes to donate to good causes.  Sponsoring Janvier has just helped groom this quality even further.  I hope through our example that our son will be able to become even more charitable.

If you’re thinking of sponsoring a child, my advice would be to give a one-time donation each year unless you’re in a comfortable financial position.  Once you are, you’ll likely enjoy the process of sponsoring a child and being a financial support in his life.

Have you sponsored a child before?  What was your experience like?


One Year In:  Our Experience Sponsoring a Child In Africa — 5 Comments

  1. It sounds like a win-win experience for your son and Janvier. My wife and I already give a lot to charity throughout the year, so I doubt we will sign up for another. I would want to reduce what we currently give to give to a sponsorship, and I just don’t see that happening.

  2. If you consider that 80% or more of your donation goes into salaries and marketing; and that the directer of World Vision makes several hundred thousand a year, your donation would be much more beneficial given to a local charity that helps your community.

  3. Ron–We did look into this before committing to the donation. According to World Vision’s site, per every dollar, 16 cents go to fund raising and administrative costs, 24 cents go towards attaining large grants from donations and grants. That leaves 60 cents of my dollar going directly into the field.

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