This month, our annual Fresh Start child sponsorship campaign begins. This year the global Dalit Freedom Network (operating in several countries and continents) has an audacious goal of seeing 5,000 children sponsored. IF we meet that goal, once the funds reach India, a donor will match dollar for dollar. That means 10,000 children could get sponsored! These children represent our 10,000 reasons campaign. Join us!
Have you ever thought about what actually goes into making a child sponsorship program work in a developing nation?
Have you thought about what steps are involved in getting your letter across the world and into the hands of a child in rural India? What about that photo you were sent… have you ever wondered what it takes to get that photo sent to you?
Many who have sponsored children though an organization such as DFN, Compassion or World Vision have probably never thought through all of the necessary details and steps of what running a sponsorship program actually entails. I know I hadn’t until last month when a DFN team visited our child sponsorship (CS) office in India.
Sagay, the CS director, led us to the room where the sponsorship magic happens. Well, it’s definitely not magic… it is a lot of very, very hard work. He introduced us to the CS team of 8, and walked us through each step involved in the program… from photographing each child, to collecting their personal details and school information, to matching them with a donor, to getting the donor’s letter(s) to the child, to collecting letters from the child for the donor, to wrapping up the year with a school/personal report etc. Whew! Just typing it out makes me want to take a nap. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, because brace yourself… this is all done by paper. PAPER.
We saw mountains of papers representing each of the children. Many of the Good Shepherd schools are in rural areas or places without reliable internet access. So there is no e-mailing, scanning, filling out online forms and the like. Each page is filled in by hand. Usually by the teachers and school administrators who already have very full workloads.
CHILD SPONSORSHIP FAQ:
How does sponsorship help a child in India who is at a high risk for human trafficking?
With 40% of its 1.2 billion people under the age of 18, India has the highest population of children in the world, as well as the largest number of children in poverty. Their poverty puts them at risk for child labor, forced labor, or bonded labor and makes them especially vulnerable to being trafficked. Nearly 30% of the students at our Good Shepherd Schools have parents who are bonded laborers, a modern form of indentured servitude relatively unknown in the modern western world. In most poor villages in India education is not available, and consequently there is little hope of children ever rising above the economic hardship and the limitations of their parents. As a child sponsor, you make it possible for your child to receive an English language education and in doing so, you invest in the freedom and future of India’s most vulnerable children.
How does a child get into the sponsorship system?
Each Dalit child who enrolls in a Good Shepherd school gets put into the child sponsorship system.
What do child sponsorship donations cover?
Your faithful donations cover tuition, uniforms, school supplies, midday meals (where necessary), textbooks, teacher salaries, and administrative costs for your child’s education. As a child sponsor, you help to provide a top-quality, English- medium, values-based education for India’s most at-risk children, and help to launch their courageous journeys toward dignity, equality, safety, and security. Not only does your sponsorship donation cover all of the education fees and costs, but it also strengthens an entire community. With education as its foundation, each Good Shepherd school becomes the central hub for all education, economic development, healthcare, and social justice initiatives in that specific community.
How long does it take to collect all the preliminary information for each child?
It can take anywhere from 3-4 months to collect the initial forms for each and every child (new children in the programs, as well as updates on current students). Teachers and school administration take the time to manually record each form for each child.
What other documents or information are collected over the year?
On any given year, the following documents are collected:
1. Intake form (for new students/sponsor children)
2. Healthcare form (information about the health status of each student as well as the family)
3. Education form (information about grades, subjects, extra curricular activities etc.)
4. End of year progress/evaluation. Each child usually writes one letter to their sponsor per year.
What does it look like to get a letter from a sponsor to their child? How long does that process usually take?
Postal mail usually takes a few weeks to travel overseas and clear customs before it reaches our team in India. Since many schools are located in remote parts of India, in-country mail can take weeks to reach them. There are other factors which may at times be responsible for delays, such as heavy monsoon rains, civil unrest, or children being absent from school. Furthermore, when schools are not in session, our Indian partners will hold sponsors’ letters until the students return to class. Due to the extensive journey letters must make, a child may receive their letter a few months after it is sent. Similarly, when a child replies, his or her letter must make the long journey back to our office.
How many children does DFN USA currently collect data on for the sponsorship program?
We have a little over 6200 children in the DFN USA sponsorship program. (There are nearly 27,000 children enrolled in all, divided between DFN offices around the world. About 13,000 of them are sponsored between all the offices.)
How many of those children are currently sponsored?
We have just over 2200 of the 6200 still unsponsored in our DFN USA program.
What are the children in the Good Shepherd Schools being taught?
In each of our schools, children study a preparatory, government-approved, India-standardized curriculum, with English as the language of instruction. Without the ability to speak and write English, Dalit children will not be able to excel in Indian society. They also receive a values-based education that promotes the principles of freedom, equality, and human dignity for all. Every one of our schools provide education to children regardless of their class, creed, or faith.
As you can see, child sponsorship is a time-intensive, but rewarding endeavor. And it is an essential foundation for reaching and changing the lives of Dalit children. I have a newfound appreciation for all those who work so hard behind the scenes to make child sponsorship a reality in the developing world.
The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! Plus, if we do it, every dollar we raise will be matched by a donor once the funds reach India. This means 10,000 children will have the opportunity to get the education they need to change their future! Fresh Start is a significant opportunity for us to start strong.