Guest / Limited Access /
Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child
Courtesy of Compassion / Chuck Bigger

What can an ordinary person like me do to help the poor?" When people find out at parties and social gatherings that I am a development economist (and yes, we economists do attend such events), often they ask me this question. For a long time my response was the same: "Perhaps sponsor a child?"

I suppose I gave this answer because I myself sponsored a child, and if I was supposed to know something about helping the poor, I should encourage people to do what I was doing. After all, child sponsorship makes sense: By focusing on youth instead of adults, it aims to nip poverty in the bud, providing children in the developing world access to education, health services, and, in some programs, spiritual guidance. But over time my autopilot response started to annoy me. The truth was that I hadn't the slightest clue about the effect child-sponsorship programs had on children.

Dissatisfaction with my pat answer began to inform conversations with my graduate students. "Have you considered researching the impact of child sponsorship?" I would ask. One student was interested, and she followed the topic long enough to find out that no one had ever investigated the topic, despite 9 million children sponsored worldwide, and the more than $5 billion per year being channeled into sponsorship programs from ordinary people wanting to help. But we were having trouble finding a sponsorship organization willing to work with us. What if the research discovered that sponsorship didn't work? This was the risk that some organization out there had to take.

A couple years later, another graduate student, Joanna Chu, became interested in the topic, in part because she was sponsoring a child with Compassion International. ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this IssueThe Fitness-Driven Church
Subscriber Access Only
The Fitness-Driven Church
Across the country, congregations are whipping members into shape with highly marketed, faith-based health programs. What's right—and troubling—about the trend.
Current IssueGrapes of Wrath: Refugees Face Steinbeck Scenario in Lebanon's Napa Valley
Subscriber Access Only
Grapes of Wrath: Refugees Face Steinbeck Scenario in Lebanon's Napa Valley
While US debates resettling 10,000 Syrians, a country smaller than Connecticut struggles with hosting 1.5 million.
RecommendedWhy Married Sex Is Social Justice
Subscriber Access Only
Why Married Sex Is Social Justice
It’s not only a solid biblical model—it’s also good for human flourishing.
TrendingBen-Hur
Ben-Hur
A new twist on the tale of the Christ.
Editor's PickThe Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
The Good (and Bad) News About Christian Higher Education
‘Christian colleges are as strong as they’ve been since the 1920s,’ says historian William Ringenberg. But there are challenges on the horizon.
Christianity Today
Want to Change the World? Sponsor a Child
hide thisJune June

In the Magazine

June 2013

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.