Should I sponsor a child?

Should I sponsor a child? If that’s a question you’ve been asking yourself then you’re in the right place. 

The idea of sponsoring a child or a family is instantly appealing. It gives people a personal connection to where their money is going and puts a face and a name to the cause they’re supporting. Being connected to one child and receiving their letters and correspondence tends to make it all feel more real, offering a gratifying reward for sponsors’ selfless generosity.

The desire to lift vulnerable children out of poverty is an admirable intention, but sponsoring a child is not the best way to do that. 

The relationship between child and sponsor is a confusing one for young children. Early interactions shape the wiring in children’s brains and establish patterns for how they will develop relationships as they grow older. Children who are involved in child sponsorship programs often exhibit worrying behaviours that are signs of attachment disorders. These children will often express feelings of missing their sponsors, even though they have never met in person or spent very limited time together. They are often preoccupied with thoughts about when their sponsor will come to visit and not be able to make sense of why there’s someone who cares enough to fund their life, but not actually be in their life. In the event that the sponsor has to withdraw support, the children will often perceive the cancelled sponsorship as a rejection, and internalise the abandonment as something they have done wrong or that they are no longer worthy of support. 

It’s not hard to see how damaging this relationship can be to children, particularly those in orphanages or residential care who are missing their families and are desperate to feel loved.

We have been working in child protection in Cambodia for over a decade. Our work is all about maintaining a rigorous focus on child safety and wellbeing, ensuring all children have opportunities to reach their full potential. But science tells us that you simply cannot help children without helping the adults in their lives too. 

Our experience has shown that co-creation of programs with families and communities and the promotion of self-determination is perhaps the most important factors to seeing children break free from the cycle of poverty. Our Village Hive Model helps children escape poverty by giving families the key to self-liberation. Putting families in the driving seat and acknowledging that they are the experts in their children’s lives, empowers them to build plans to shape their own futures. 

Conversely, by ‘sponsoring a child’ you are sending the message to families that their survival is dependent on you. And who wouldn’t live in utter despair if their future and sense of self depended entirely on the benevolence of others?  

At Cambodian Children’s Trust, we have developed a model that helps children escape poverty in a sustainable way, that ensures they are never at risk of developing unhealthy relationships to foreign donors. The Village Hive model creates networks of local support and vital services around children and their families. These support networks help families come up with their own solutions to ensure the wellbeing of their children and get back on their feet.

The long term sustainability of the Village Hive model is a key part of the model. Currently, we are running a pilot in one commune to embed the Village Hive model into public systems and facilities and hand over the operational management to the local council. This model will then be ratified as the Commune’s child protection and social protection system. 

Our ultimate aim is to continue this process, village by village, until all communes in Battambang Province are able to operate their own, unique Village Hive.

By becoming a Regular Giver, your monthly donation will power a Village Hive and reach hundreds of children and families in crisis. As you can see from our 2019 Impact report, there are many, many families that will be directly and positively impacted by your support.