Sponsoring a child through World Vision?

I am listening to a local station doing a big campaign to get people to sponsor a child in Bangladesh thru World Vision, and I’m just about suckered into it. However, while looking at their website I notice it’s a Christian organization, which gives me pause. I don’t want to contribute to an organization pushing Christianity on kids, being an atheist (or at least a Deist) myself. Are there any organizations that are sponsor children in a similar manner without pushing a particular religious agenda? Does World Vision use this as an opportunity to act as missionaries?

A lot of these organizations, but by no means all of them, do what they do not out of proselyting motives but because it’s part and parcel of what being a good Christian means to them and their supporters – helping those who need help, no strings. My impression is that World Vision is one of those – they’re not out to make good little Christians out of starving Bengali children, they’re out to make well-fed Bengalis out of them. But I don’t know this for a fact.

Well, I just did a quick Google, and there seems to be only one stain on their record, that it is misguided to send a goat to one of these families because of the strain put on the local ecology. Looks pretty on the up-and-up to me. Looks like I might be getting a new little girl in my life!

Before you do that, may I put in a plug for my favourite do-gooders, Kiva.org? It’s not charity; it’s a micro-loan collective. I’m on my third loan with them. By loaning money to a little girl’s parents so they can do something with their lives instead of taking charity, I think it makes a bigger, better difference to more people.

Aw, Cat, you got me just after I took the plunge! (lovely little girl named Sinthia, who loves to draw - how could I resist?) But I’ve heard of your charity before, and I will look into your link. I’m in a generous mood, and I can easily afford both! Thanks for the info!

My sister sponsored an Indonesian girl through World Vision for several years. As near as I could tell, the girl is still a Muslim and there was no Christian proselytization.

Don’t get the idea that your “sponsorship” money will be devoted to an individual child. That is a very effective fund-raising tactic, but an awful way to do relief. No responsible relief agency uses it any more. World Vision’s website says, for instance, “The benefits you help provide will extend to each child’s family, their community, and other children in need.”

You can imagine the difficulty, for instance, a mother would face if she had 6 children and 2 were sponsored, but 4 weren’t. Or what a village might be like if only the “sponsored children” got new text books, or vaccinations. Rigorous sponsorship programs for individual children were found to breed division, jealousy, and recrimination.

What agencies like World Vision do is assign a local child to you, and have that child write (or sign a ghost-written) letter to you about their village and the changes the work of the agency means to them. It makes you feel connected and involved in the work, which is a good thing, in my book. If you do a good thing like donating to a relief agency, you should be allowed to feel good about it.

If you’re interested in agencies that don’t prosletyze and also don’t use the (pseudo) “sponsorship” hook, look at Church World Service or Lutheran World Relief, for example.

I know about the whole community benefiting from my sponsorship - it would be horrible if it didn’t. I picked the little girl I did because she was perfect for me - loves to draw, so there was an immediate connection there, and an only child, so we can send her gifts without sibling jealousy. I know we’re not saving the world, but for $35 a month we get to touch someone living in pretty lousy conditions and make them a little better, and at the same time get a nice warm feeling about it. No down side that I can see.

LOL! Thanks, my ignorance about the workings of the do-gooders has been fought decisively.

We’ve sponsored a young boy in Ecuador through World Vision for several years. He writes us a couple times a year to let us know how he’s doing in school and how much he loves soccer, and about his family. WV makes it convenient to write back because you can go to their website and send your child an email, which the organization will translate and print for your child.

Although I’m not at all bothered by WV’s Christian focus, I’ve never gotten the impression that they do things like force the children to go to church or use the funds for proselytizing. They seem pretty non-controversial.

My wife has sponsored many children over the years through World Vision. Indeed, the money might not go directly to the child’s family, but there is a significant link nevertheless.

Her first child was in a Asian country and he would send her letters written in a beautiful but impenetrable script. Fortunately they translate the letters.
The more recent children have been from her native Brazil, so she has been able to write letters to them in Portuguese and read their responses directly and she likes that.

WV provides a means of sending gifts to the children at appropriate times in addition to the monthly contributions.
All in all, she is satisfied with World Vision. Hope it works out for you!

There was a renegade WV worker some years back who got caught sterilizing young ladies upcountry here who would obstinately not accept the word of the Lord, but I believe this was an individual aberration and not organizational policy. Still, my personal belief is there are plenty of non-religious charities out there, and those are the ones that get my money.

I should probably emphasize this was way back in the the 1970s if not earlier. And despite my – full disclosure – absolute intolerance of missionaries of any stripe, this is not a recent problem to my knowledge.

World Vision has a for profit side that owns a number of retirement communities in Washington*. I know this because my in-laws looked into two of them, a couple years ago. The cost was astronomical, so they went elsewhere.

While researching the organization, we looked at their record and found they refused to disclose the disbursement of their charities.

*I don’t remember the names of the communities, but I’ll ask the in-laws.

Here’s a previous thread about WV that might be useful:


I’ve worked with them before (in the context of a church-initiated fundraising event) and I have found them pretty ethical about the work they set out to do - as far as I am able to tell, they’re not just getting people to become Rice Christians - they’re just trying to ease hardship and suffering.

If you want to support an international relief agency that is efficient and effective consider Catholic Relief Services. They do not proselytize so don’t let the name of the organization mislead you. They work with local partners in areas that need help. By working with local partners they are not continually reinventing the wheel. Also, they provide immediate disaster aid. None of the money goes through the Vatican.

The people they help and the people they hire can be of any religion. They are one of the few Western organizations that are trusted by the Muslims. In fact, when the Taliban took power in Afghanistan they asked CRS to come into the country. After about two years CRS left because they could see that the Taliban had no interest in helping the women and was inhibiting efforts to educate the women. CRS is back in Afghanistan since the Taliban was overthrown.

I think you will find that CRS is much more efficient than organizations like World Vision. Look at percentage of money that goes to local programs and look at things like executive salaries. Compare how lavish the headquarter are.

Another organization is Doctors Without Borders. They do a lot of self-analysis to assure that their programs are efficient and effective.

I give money through Kiva and I like what they do. But folks should know that (like World Vision) they engage in the deceptive practice of making you believe your money goes to a specific individual that you choose. It does not.

Because these are loans, not donations, the recipients have to pay intereston the money they receive. And unlike most charitable giving you don’t get a tax-deduction for your contribution.

That said, I think it’s a very worthwhile program.

Thanks for the information, anson. I’ve just spent some time looking into your links, and the only thing that really surprised me was the back-filling of loans, but Kiva does make that information readily available; it was my fault for not having noticed it before. I knew (or assumed) interest was charged, and I have no problem with not receiving a charitable donation receipt, since a loan is not a donation. I could have cashed out of my Kiva money and spent it on myself two times already; they can’t give receipts for that.

I will continue to support Kiva in the light of this new information, but with altered expectations.

For those saying that WV engages in a deceptive practice, this is not true. The initial hook is to sponsor a child. I have done so and the literature very clearly explained how it works. A village will request assistance from WV and children are enrolled in the programme. Assistance only happens at the request of the villagers, it’s not imposed. Various aid projects are set up ranging from education to measures to deal with drought. It’s made very clear that the money sent by sponsors does not go directly to an individual but into the collective pot for that village to be distributed to the benefit of all.

You can write to your sponsored child and they will be encouraged to write back or if they cannot yet write to put their name to a letter written for them (the children help with the wording). You may also send individual gifts although money and expensive items are not permitted. Things which can be shared with the other kids like pencils or a ball are preferred so as not to mark out one child as different to the others by having lots of desireable items (presumably as this may lead to conflict with the other kids).

Sort of relevant to this is a movie airing on HBO this month called “A Small Act.” It tells the story of Chris Mburu, a Kenyan who was sponsored by a Swedish woman named Hilde Back (not through World Vision, mind you, but instead through a charity that’s not in existence now). He completed primary and secondary school, attended the University of Nairobi and Harvard Law School and is now a human rights commissioner with the UN. Now, not every sponsored child is going to do that, but it’s amazing what’s possible.