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Why not child sponsorship?

A Q&A with ELCA World Hunger Appeal director Kathryn Sime

The ads show a hungry child that you—with just a few cents a day—could help feed, clothe and educate. Child sponsorship sounds like an easy way to help. Yet the ELCA doesn’t follow this model for its projects. Why? The Lutheran posed that question to Kathryn Sime, director of the ELCA World Hunger Appeal .

The Lutheran: Why doesn’t the ELCA World Hunger Appeal use a child sponsorship approach?

Sime: We’ve made an intentional decision to not use child sponsorship in ELCA international relief and development efforts. The ELCA World Hunger Appeal focuses on comprehensive strategies that combat the root causes of hunger and poverty. For example, we look at diseases from water sources, community education and health care.

In an effort spearheaded by the Lutheran
In an effort spearheaded by the Lutheran Church of Rwanda, residents of Muneya, Rwanda, are building a health-care center. About 500 people gathered 240 tons of rock and spent hours laying that foundation with manual labor. The ELCA World Hunger Appeal is one of the funding organizations. “It’s a model of accompaniment,” said Kathryn Sime, director of the appeal . “Women now have to travel 22 miles to deliver babies and receive prenatal and postnatal care. When the center opens that will make a difference for a whole generation.”
But child sponsorship typically involves a focused effort on one child, really in the nature of relief. It may do wonderful things for that child, but yet not address root causes [of poverty] or make a recognizable difference in the life of the child’s whole community. It can also pit family against family—or family member against family member—if one benefits from a sponsorship and another doesn’t.

Yet that’s something of which many of us wouldn’t necessarily be aware.

Of course not. And I certainly know that all gifts given in God’s name are doing wonderful things. It’s just that we’ve intentionally made the decision through the ELCA World Hunger Appeal to focus on the root causes to eradicate poverty, long term. It’s hard when we [as givers are] so far removed from the benefits that are realized. [The desire is for a] relationship and to feel good about “what I’ve done.”

But there are ways to do this that don’t build dependency. The companion synod program, for example, provides a marvelous way to build relationships with real people and learn about the resources of our companion churches.


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