Many of our sponsors want to know what meals children get through Compassion’s support. Our last post explored how Compassion’s program, and what food is served, varies from country to country. But another important concept to keep in mind when talking about what is given away through Compassion is development. Our approach to ministering to children focuses not on what physical things children get from us, but on developing them to become responsible adults who can provide for themselves.

Part two: It’s developmental

In some of Compassion’s earlier programs, decades ago, the program was more similar to a meal program. But what we found, and what many other non-governmental organizations have found as we’ve learned more about development over the years, is that meal programs aren’t the best option.

What we’ve learned is that when a program is focused on what physical things the child “gets” out of it, it’s less successful. Children and parents develop a dependency mindset, rather than one of empowerment. Today, our programs are developmental—we want to equip children to become adults who are capable of providing for themselves. That happens through focusing on the whole person—their social, cognitive and emotional development, not simply on providing food.

According to Terry Laura, Compassion’s Health Advisor, “If someone is only coming to the centre for what they can get, it’s not valuable developmentally. We want them to desire more than what we physically hand out, and value the holistic activities and relationships that the church provides.”

So we encourage our children to not focus on what we give away at the Compassion centre, but on their development as individuals. This is done through Compassion’s curriculum that helps children learn to build healthy relationships, how to take care of themselves physically, how to provide for themselves long term and, ultimately, how to find true life in Jesus Christ.

Another part of helping children and families learn to become self-sufficient are Compassion’s Complimentary Interventions. Through these programs, children learn vocational skills to enable them to earn a living when they’re older. Families learn how to rear animals or start vegetable or greenhouse gardens. And parents are trained in how to start a small business and save for their families’ needs.

As Dr. Lobago from Compassion Ethiopia says, “Compassion believes that poverty consists not only of the economic aspect of a child’s life, but it is also related to physical, spiritual and socio-emotional aspects of life. Therefore, it is wise to focus on developing the capacity of children and their caregivers to become responsible and self-supporting in addition to supporting them with the immediate basic needs.”

Our goal at Compassion isn’t just to support children with their physical needs today, it is to help them become responsible adults who will be able to care for their families long term. But being well nourished is still of vital importance in a child’s life. Our next post will focus on what we do to help children who are malnourished.

Written by: Amber Van Schooneveld

Amber Van Schooneveld is the Managing Editor of Compassion International's blog.