Education is one of the most cost-effective ways to fight global poverty, especially for girls. Attending school empowers girls to make informed life choices and to confidently participate as leaders and decision-makers in their communities. A relatively small donation covering books and school fees can literally change a life.
My husband John and I have been sponsoring both boys and girls in India for more than a decade through Care and Share Charitable Trust, a small organization that serves street children in the southern city of Vijayawada. We got involved following a chance meeting with the organization’s founders, Carol Faison and Noel Harper, on a trip to Hyderabad in 2001. The couple’s enthusiasm and commitment was contagious, and because of that personal relationship, we trusted that our money would be used wisely.
In 2013, we personally visited the Care and Share campus and met our current sponsored children: Rayne, in elementary school, Santhoshi, studying for college entrance exams, and Eric, already in college. Our three children from home, who were in middle school at the time, traveled with us and had great fun getting to know the Care and Share kids, learning local games and initiating some pickup soccer. John and I came away more convinced than ever that supporting the organization was a good investment.
The Author's daughters Lemlem (center, in blue tshirt, adopted from Ethiopia) and Didi (center, gray shirt, adopted from India) with some Care and Share girls.
But what if you don’t have that personal connection? With so many charities promoting child sponsorship, how do you decide which programs are reputable? Websites like Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, Guidestar, and Givewell publish nonprofit profiles and financial reports that can help you make an informed decision. Small NGOs like Care and Share won’t be universally featured, and ratings for large charities may vary, so it’s wise to check out more than one site profile. To help you narrow the field, here are four sponsorship programs I’ve found with multiple positive reviews:
Love Without Boundaries
Love Without Boundaries offers medical, nutritional and educational support to impoverished children living in China, Cambodia and Uganda. Educational sponsorships run $25 per month, and include a daily hot lunch for each child. LWB’s innovative programs include its Believe in Me schools, located inside orphanages to serve special needs children who are unable to attend public school, and Life Skills Camps for older children. LWB does not promote visits from sponsors, but you’ll receive regular updates and photos.
“See potential, not poverty” is the slogan of Unbound, an organization dedicated to helping struggling families become self-sufficient. For $36 per month, you can provide education to a girl living in El Salvador, Kenya, Chile or more than 15 other countries, from elementary to college support. You can exchange letters with your child if you wish, and Unbound also offers optional guided “awareness” trips that allow you to meet your child and learn about her culture and community. Friends and family can travel with you, but everyone participating must clear a background check to ensure the safety of the children in the program.
Children Incorporated provides “sustainable solutions” for kids in the US and more than 20 foreign countries abroad to break the cycle of poverty. Your sponsorship of $28 per month covers a child’s schooling and basic needs. You’ll receive an annual progress report and photo of your child, and may exchange letters with her, if you wish. If your child lives in the US, you can also send small gifts directly to her for birthdays and holidays. Get togethers with your child are often possible, but because Children’s Incorporated partners with local agencies to administer aid, some programs located overseas may not be open to visitors.
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee serves people whose lives have been disrupted by conflict or natural disaster. IRC’s wide-ranging humanitarian programs encompass everything from health and legal services, to job and agricultural training, and of course, education. In 2015, IRC provided 1.3 million kids with schooling in countries like Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Congo. Your one-time $58 donation provides a girl with a year of classes. Unlike the other sponsorship programs mentioned here, IRC won’t match you with a specific child, but you can get more directly involved in their mission by volunteering at one of their local US offices, where the main focus is resettlement of refugee families. If the recent photos of children caught in the middle of the brutal Aleppo conflict touched your heart, supporting IRC is a great way to translate that concern into action.