Reaching further through youth development

How can we make an even bigger difference in the lives of children living in poverty? That’s the question we’ve asked ourselves over the last several years as we’ve prayerfully evaluated our programs and their effectiveness. As effective as Compassion’s holistic child development ministry is, there was a lingering question: how do we further engage adolescents and better equip young adults for life outside of the Child Sponsorship Program?

Reaching beyond the Leadership Development Program

Compassion’s Leadership Development Program was the first step. Since 1996, this program has invested in young people with outstanding academic ability and leadership potential. Nearly 3,000 young leaders have graduated and gone on to become accountants, engineers, nurses, pastors, social workers and even elected officials in their local governments. We are immensely proud of these students and their achievements.

But the amazing results of this program have only been available to a fraction of our beneficiaries—only one out of every five eligible students has been able to enter the program. That’s not enough. We want to give additional educational opportunities to all the youth we serve according to their skills, interests and abilities.

That’s why we’re transitioning from the Leadership Development Program to focus on youth development. All of the students currently enrolled in the Leadership Development Program will continue in the program until graduation. They will continue their university education, while also receiving the benefits of the program including mentoring, leadership curriculum, service projects and care groups.

Increasing our impact through youth development

Through youth development, Compassion’s church partners will equip young people with the education and skills they need to pursue their career goals and become productive members of their communities and churches. Though we have seen significant improvements in the livelihoods of Compassion graduates, we believe we can do even more.

We’ll do this through contextualized strategies for youth ages 12 and older including vocational training, university education, apprenticeship, mentoring, discipling, leadership training and more. Our church partners will help students craft long-term development plans, taking into account their unique abilities and interests.

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Innovative solutions and a contextualized approach

Our church partners and Compassion field offices are working together to determine what local resources are available and what partnerships can be developed with local organizations in order to meet the needs of youth. This means youth development will look different depending on the young person and the community.

For some students, it might mean access to university education or an accredited program. For others, it will mean an apprenticeship in a trade. For others still, it may mean entrepreneurial training and skills workshops. Some church partners might be able to partner with local non-profits to provide skills training to students. Other church partners might find that they have skilled professionals in their congregations who are willing to train and mentor young people.

The changes are dramatic, even a little daunting. But they also represent an unprecedented opportunity to make an even bigger difference in the lives of children—one that will further empower our church partners in their ministry and allow every Compassion child to reach his or her God-given potential!

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor for Compassion Canada. She is the author of Hope Lives and loves to help people learn more about Compassion's programs.