How does sponsorship help a child mentally?

A child’s development isn’t hinged on one aspect of growth—like physical health or emotional stability. Poverty doesn’t just attack one area of a child’s life. To help a child break free from poverty, we need to address every aspect of a child’s development.

A girl sits at wooden desk in a classroom.

Cognitive—or mental—development is one of those areas. Many of the children we serve come from families where parents were unable to finish school, often due to a lack of resources. This limits employment options, and often parents barely make enough to provide for their families. Without an education, their children follow in their footsteps, continuing the generational cycle.

When you sponsor a child, you’re ensuring he or she receives a primary school education and are helping to pay for things like school supplies, fees and uniforms. In the case of youth, sponsorship supplements the cost of secondary school education or, in situations where that isn’t feasible, provides them with alternatives like vocational training or access to apprenticeships.

A young teacher uses a long piece of wood to point to different tools hanging on the wall. A number of carpentry students look on.

But every child—and every situation—is different. That means sometimes, staff need to find creative ways to help children access an education.

13-year-old David from Honduras has Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and struggled with a speech impediment that inhibited his ability to communicate. He was so aggressive toward his peers and disruptive at school that at age ten, he was refused further enrollment. Unsure how to address his needs, the tutors at his Compassion centre decided to take a course to learn how to better work with children with special needs.

David with his tutor, Ruth.

David with his tutor, Ruth.

In addition to helping them understand David’s needs and provide him with specialized care at the program, centre staff helped David enroll at Juana Leclerc Private Institute, considered the best school in the area for children with special needs. With regular therapy, David has overcome his speech impediment and, through the school’s individualized approach, he now relates well with his classmates and is thriving at a grade-six level.

One Year Ahead

Carine from Burkina Faso was also able to access individualized education for her own circumstances—the 19-year-old high school student had to repeat grade ten due to poor marks. Most schools here are overcrowded with an average of 90 students per class, making it difficult for students to get one-on-one help with their schoolwork. Schools also lack basic infrastructure, resources and well-trained teachers.

But a few years ago, Carine’s Compassion centre set up a library to support students in their studies, and now Carine, who is determined to not only improve her grades but to graduate and continue on to university, spends most of her time there studying. The centre also organizes academic tutoring to support students like Carine who are preparing to take their exams.

El Salvador - May 2015

Learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom. Income-generation workshops, like this baking course in El Salvador, teach valuable skills that not only give teens employable skills but help them decide what they might like to do when they graduate. Workshops are held for everything from welding to electrical work and carpentry, hairdressing, weaving, computer classes—whatever skills are in demand in that child’s community.

No Longer Illiterate

While our program focuses specifically on child development, we also recognize that helping parents improve their circumstances directly affects their child’s wellbeing. These moms—and 240 other parents—from a rural community in east Indonesia learned how to read and write through a literacy program at their local church!

Education isn’t just about finishing school. Parents who receive training in disease prevention can improve their family’s overall health. Communities who are educated about stigmatized diseases like Hepatitis or HIV are more likely to come forward and receive testing or treatment.

These moms in Maranhão, Brazil, believed breast milk wasn’t sufficient for a baby’s diet and fed their babies a mixture of cassava, water and cow’s milk instead. But through education and encouragement from program staff, many moms are now breastfeeding their babies and seeing their little ones grow stronger every day.

These are just a few ways our church partners address the educational needs in their communities. Join us for our next post as we answer some of your questions about spiritual development: what it looks like, why we do it and what impact it really has on a child’s development.

Written by: Aveleen Schinkel

Aveleen is Compassion Canada's Multimedia Storyteller. Her passions include videography and photography, spending time outdoors and sampling tea from every country she travels to.