Thursday, June 6, 2013

Child Sponsorship and Journey to Jamaa

Sometimes, international adoption is a blessing to an child born into extreme poverty, or whose parents have died. A caring, sensitive family adopts, embraces, and educates their child. A new family is formed, but ties are not cut with the child’s family and culture of birth. Not every child's answer is overseas, though. Some children are able to thrive without leaving their country.  And you can help.

  Journey to Jamaa, a short film available for online viewing or for group gatherings, tells the story of Derick and Margaret. Click here to see the whole film. Derick and Margaret have already lost their father. When their mother dies, Ten (or so) year-old Derick takes his younger sister on a long journey to the home of an aunt. While their aunt is glad to welcome them, their uncle Samuel worries that he cannot accept them. Derick and Margaret’s mother died of an infectious disease and Samuel is unsure if Derick and Margaret are also infected. He also is worried that his small income will not be enough to feed two extra mouths. He prepares to send Derick and Margaret away, but is challenged by a friend. Samuel is a Christian. His friend says that Samuel is OK to send away Derick and Margaret “if it is only your children God has asked you to care for.” The friend reminds him that true faith is “looking after widows and orphans in their distress.” While this verse is often used, sometimes questionably and often rightly used, in Christian adoption culture – it’s hard to think of a more pure interpretation of the verse than this.

Samuel decides to open his home to Derick and Margaret, says that they are family, and tells them, “You are home.” Margaret’s voice closes the story, affirming “I know God is with me, and we will never be alone again.”

It’s a good story. It’s touching. It feels real – in fact, it is derived from the real lives of Derick and Margaret. It also is a bit traumatic – we see their mother die, and one child is struck (not fatally) by a car – so it might not be good viewing for kids.  But part of why I like the film is that it comes with real-life application. It gives the Internet adoption community a way to actively support children, overseas in poverty, to provide them with the opportunity to thrive at home, in their communities.

Are you familiar with child sponsorship?  Several non-profit organizations operate child sponsorship programs. Many are faith-based, although a profession of faith isn’t a requirement to participate. You could also probably find a secular agency if you wanted to. Child sponsorship allows you to support a child as they receive educational, health, and other services. Most programs allow for you to have an ongoing exchange of letters with the child you sponsor, which allows you to offer personal encouragement and love to the child. Jamaa suggests that “a person from someone else’s family can be part of your family.” 

That’s true in adoption, it’s true in close friendships, and I think it’s true, also, in child sponsorship.
Fees are usually quite low – a child’s participation in a community program can be sponsored for around $30 a month. Additional, infrequent gifts are also pretty meaningful. A child I know in Uganda was able to use a $20 gift to buy a goat for his family. Another child used a similarly small gift to buy school clothes.

Some people see their faith as calling them to care for orphans across the world. Others question some aspects of international adoption. Child sponsorship might be something both sides can agree on.

To see the whole 35-minute film, click here: Journey to Jamaa

If you want to sponsor a child, two reputable organizations are World Vision, which is affiliated with the film, and Compassion . If you want to show the film in your area, for free, check out this page.

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  1. Addison - I love this idea and would very much want to sponsor a child but I have a strong distrust of these organizations (and faith I should add). Do you know of any NON faith based or are you familiar with others? How can a person be confident their support is really going to the sponsored person?

    1. Hi Suz! Thanks so much for your comment, and your honesty. To answer your second question - my experience with sponsorship organizations is that kids are enrolled in a community program, and your fees fund the child's participation. The regular monthly fee might not be exclusively used for the child, but they fund the child's participation. Also, you and the child exchange letters, so you are that child's sponsor, even if your funds might also help other kids. You're also able to send direct gifts to a child, which are used 100% for their extra-curricular expenses - for example, I sent $20 to a kid for his birthday, and he used it to buy a goat. He mentioned it in a letter, and even sent a photo of himself with his new livestock.

      Probably the best way to verify any non-profit agency is through -- every non-profit agency is required to submit their income and expense statements (quite detailed), and Guidestar captures them. Check out any non-profit, and you'll see how much money they took in, what they spent it on, and what they paid their top officers. It's really enlightening, and can help people make more confident choices.

      Here are some secular options you might want to look at

      Hope that helps. Please let me know what you do!


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