Sponsored kids get to choose their sponsors
World Vision flips their sponsorship model
Australian churches will be the first to pilot a new era of child sponsorship with World Vision Australia flipping the traditional model of child sponsorship upside down.
Rather than a potential sponsor looking through photos of children and selecting a child, now sponsored children will have the power to choose their sponsor.
Yet World Vision Australia’s Chief of Retail, Natalie Hannemann told Eternity that while it’s a simple change, the rollout of the trademarked ‘Chosen’ program is a significant one.
“Giving children the power to choose their sponsor recognises the dignity and value of children living in extreme poverty and expresses World Vison’s belief that these children have the power to change their own lives and their communities; and even to touch the lives of their sponsors,” Ms Hannemann said.
Chosen launched in the US and Canada in September following a pilot program involving a number of US-based churches, and World Vision Australia is keen to continue this approach down-under, with churches here invited to register their interest in piloting it here.
“We are already seeing God move in miraculous ways through Chosen in the US and Canada and pray that we will see the same impacts when Chosen lands in Australia very soon,” World Vision Australia’s Head of Church Engagement, Rev Noddy Sharma, said.
“The church has been an indispensable partner for World Vision Australia from the very beginning so it makes sense to entrust Chosen with the Australian church community as we explore how this innovative new approach to sponsorship can work in our market.
“We really are excited to be offering Australian churches an early crack at becoming Chosen sponsors, before expanding Chosen out to schools and the broader Australian community later in 2020,” Noddy said.
How Chosen will be piloted with Australian churches
Chosen starts with members of a local church signing up to be selected and being photographed. That photo is sent to a community where World Vision works, to be displayed with the pictures of other potential sponsors. The community gathers for a celebration where the kids choose their sponsors. Soon thereafter, sponsors will receive a picture of the child holding their photo and a note letting them know about the child and what made the child choose them.
“Chosen introduces children to the first of many empowering choices they will now have through child sponsorship, so they can become agents of lasting change,” Noddy said.
Earlier this year World Vision piloted Chosen with several churches in the US including Soul City Church in downtown Chicago which partnered with 431 children in Kenya.
Collins, a 10-year-old boy from Kenya, said: “It felt great to have chosen my own sponsor, it feels good to have someone in the US minding about me”.
“Brianna, I chose you because you are a good person. I have a lot of joy in my heart when I hear the name Brianna,” said Anna, 12, from Kenya.
“Our congregation has been transformed by the process of being chosen,” said Pastor Jeanne Stevens, who traveled to Mwala when her Chicago church partnered with World Vision in the Chosenexperience.
The idea of empowering people so they could lift themselves out of poverty — by tackling poverty’s root causes — has been at the heart of World Vision’s work around the world since the organisation started in 1950. Through its efforts, World Vision has impacted the lives of more than 200 million vulnerable children
A new model for new times?
By flipping their child sponsorship model so it empowers the recipient over the giver, World Vision might have been able to reform their systems to align better with what biblical teachers refer to as “the upside down kingdom” — an idea described in verses like Philippians 2.6-8:
“[Jesus] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!”
But even for those who aren’t sure whether they agree the change is a more biblical system, the new process is fits with the current context for international development organisations like World Vision.
Increasingly, the methods and motivations of why people contribute international development work is under the microscope and charities are being forced to face their demons. “Voluntourism” (voluntary tourism) — an emerging trend of travel linked with “doing good”) has come under scrutiny, as its very real economic impacts have been revealed. Social media accounts like ‘Barbie Saviour‘ have made an open mockery of missionary-types who use their good works to build their personal profiles, bringing with them words like “slumfies” (selfies taken with slums and those people inhabit them in the background).
And then there’s the real challenges for development agencies of donors becoming desensitised due to the onslaught of 24-hour media cycle and an online world competing for donor dollars. And the inevitable result of all this: compassion fatigue. Plus a growing concern about the ethical dilemma of people in the developing world simply giving assuage their guilt rather than from true generosity.
World Vision, has a history of examining their ethics when it comes to child sponsorship. They’ve always selected the children who will receive their sponsorship dollars with the simple metric of need, choosing the poorest of the poor. And they’ve never filtered children by religion or race to make them more appealing to potential sponsors.
Churches that are interested in piloting Chosen can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.