What About Child Sponsorship?
Written by Shee Wen Xin
Edited by Merilyn Lin
When it comes to charities or donations, Singaporeans (myself included) are often skeptics and cynics. What is child sponsorship to you? Does it paint a beautiful picture of writing letters to your sponsored children in a developing country and receiving photos of their families and friends in your mailbox?
Beyond receiving translated letters and photos of the sponsored child, child sponsorship essentially means improving the well-being of vulnerable and needy children. However, that’s where skepticism usually comes in and people will have many questions. How do organisations gauge the poverty level of vulnerable and needy children? Does a child wearing a worn-out shirt means that s/he is vulnerable and needy? How do we know which charity organisation is the most trustworthy?
You may be considering to sponsor a child yet is filled with many doubts and queries. Continue reading as I debunk some myths and resolve doubts towards OHF’s child sponsorship.
Question 1: I have seen many charity organisations reaching out to poor and rural villagers in Cambodia. Are you sure that Cambodia has that much poor and needy person?
Sadly, the answer is yes. Historically, Cambodia has had a hard time recovering from the horrors of the Khmer Rouge regime from 1975-1979. The leader of the massacre, Pol Pot, took the country back in time and tried to create a rural economy without any development or modern advancements. The Khmer Rouge designated farmers as the true representatives of working class and highly-skilled workers, teachers and people who are deemed as intelligent were murdered.
Therefore, farming is the main source of income for most of the Cambodians. However, farmers face challenges such as their inability to respond and predict economic or weather shocks, lack of proper infrastructure and irrigation system, and falling global rice prices. Any loss in harvest leads to vulnerability for the farmers and may cause them to fall back into poverty.
Cambodia’s poverty line sits at USD$1.25 and as of 2012, approximately 2.66 million people still survive on less than USD$1.20 per day. Can you imagine surviving each day on USD$1.20 for a family of 3-4? It’s quite impossible. Cambodia is stuck in the poverty cycle and many poor villagers rely on external aid to get through each day.
Question 2: What will my sponsored child from the sponsor a child (Non-residential) programme receive/ benefit from?
In the Sponsor a Child (non-residential programme), your sponsored child lives with his/her family. Sponsors’ giving allows them to receive school material such as textbooks, stationery, a new school bag, exercise books, school uniforms, and slippers. These school materials are essentials as part of the children’s educational journey. Imagine going to school without a school bag or exercise book for you to practice on. We have heard of children who were taunted and laughed at by their classmates for not admitting that their family cannot afford these simple school supplies. Children, being unable to bear the shame, felt bullied and choose to drop out of school.
In addition to school supplies, a sponsored child’s family receives a bi-monthly food pack. The food pack includes a 50KG rice pack, fish sauce, soya sauce, cooking oil, canned food, salt, and sugar. These necessities serve to meet their physical survival needs and will only be provided if the children attend school regularly. If the child skips school for more than 6 times, they will be withdrawn from the programme. This ensures that the family members will send their child to school instead of getting them to take up odd-jobs and provide food for the family. Young children will not have to worry about going hungry, or whether they have to work in the fields or markets to provide for the family.
Question 3: What are your proven results of sponsor a child campaign?
There’s no better way than to share testimonies from one of our child beneficiaries
Rachana is a 7-year-old girl who lives with her mother. Her father has abandoned the family. Without a stable income, Rachana’s mother never considered sending her daughter to school even when Rachana was 5 years old in 2016. Rachana and her mother survive day by day with the small fishes her mother caught in the village. Occasionally, they will go to the rice field to find cow dung to sell in order to buy rice for their meals. However, Rachana’s mother started to get sick.
On 12 December 2016, OHF visited Rachana and her mother. Initially, Rachana was a shy and quiet girl who does not like to talk. After being sponsored in the programme, she has been attending school regularly. The opportunity to interact with teachers and her peers has allowed Rachana to develop socially, growing her self-awareness and confidence. Now, she enjoys the interaction and has friends in school! Rachana said that she loves to attend school to learn and play.
Without the sponsor’s help and generous donation, this removes the financial barrier to education and gives Rachana the best chance for a good start in life.
Since we started our Sponsor a Child programme in December 2016, 93 rural poor children have benefitted from this programme. We hope to reach a total of 500 poor and needy child in August 2019!
Here are some photos taken during one of the child sponsorship distributions:
Question 4: Is OHF a trustworthy charity organization?
On the topic of trustworthiness, we look at OHF’s charity governance, fraud prevention, and control. Operation Hope Foundation is a registered charity organisation in Singapore and comes under the audit of charity board and MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth). To read about our 2017 financial report, click here: https://ohf.org.sg/financial-reports/
Benefit to cost ratio.
OHF maximizes donor’s dollars through the benefit-to-cost ratio – 80% direct donation to the beneficiary while 20% is to ensure sustainability in the company. Donations directly benefit your sponsored child.
OHF is super hands-on.
Our local Cambodian staff works closely with the village leaders and teachers in school to identify which child is the poorest in the village and is frequently absent from school. Our team in Cambodia conduct house visits in Cambodia for evaluation and decide if the child is able to be enrolled in our sponsor a child programme. We will receive the child’s school attendance and examination reports from the teachers. This information will be included in our half a year child beneficiary report sent to our child sponsors.
Even though the Khmer Rouge regime ended in 1979, poverty in Cambodia is as widespread as ever. Many poor and rural children in Cambodia are stuck in the poverty cycle. They lack pivotal opportunities to break free from generational poverty without additional support. With our sponsor a child programme, we aim to give these children the opportunity to gain their rightful access to education. Education is the key to combating poverty, as receiving a good education is a sustainable and long-term approach to building a brighter future. With better education, it means more knowledge and skills gained, leading to a world filled with opportunities and a chance to break free from the poverty cycle.
Many may think it’s just money that they are giving, but what they fail to realize is that they are giving hope too. It’s important to recognize the issues and empathize with the poor children. But what’s even more important is to render REAL HELP and REAL HOPE. In their harsh living conditions of scouring for food and jobs, it means a world to a child when they know that there’s someone who cares enough to invest in them. Will you take this step to make hope real for them?
Read more about our Sponsor a Child programme here: www.ohf.org.sg/nrcs/