Saturday, August 4th, 2012
But we’re home now and as I’ve said before here and here, the ministry of Compassion International is intertwined with other special interests of mine. Adoption, disabilities, and poverty are not limited to places one must travel to, so I’m shifting to this blog to write my remaining thoughts and observations from Compassion and Guatemala.
Today, I’m thinking about Compassion’s Child Development Centers. Before we traveled, I was fuzzy about how Compassion relates to an individual child. One of the days of our tour was spent at a Center. Here’s some of what I learned, in no particular order.
- At this point, in Guatemala there are 140 Compassion projects, ranging in size from 150-400 children, serving more than 33,000. At the Compassion Guatemala office we heard that there are 38,000 children now.
- The Child Development Program is a holistic program “dedicated to helping children find a path out of poverty through the love of Jesus Christ. By working with local churches, the Child Sponsorship Program offers educational opportunities, health care and health-related instruction, nutrition, life-skills training, and opportunities to hear about and respond to the gospel.
- Each center program is church-based, established by a local church in conjunction with Compassion. None is set up by outsiders coming in and deciding this must be done. Rather, Compassion responds to the needs presented by the church. Many of the churches already were doing similar work among families, children, and youth even before they connected with Compassion. Many of the centers meet in the sponsoring church’s building. Otherwise, the church obtains another location. The minimal paid staff and the many volunteers are all local people. All of this reinforces sustainability.
- There is no requirement that a family or child be confessing Christians in order to be part of the program, But each family is told very clearly that their child will receive explicit Christian teaching and training. This happens even in countries where the prevailing religion may cause parents to decide against their child’s participation.
- Children in the program range in age from 3-4 until about 16-7. I’m not sure what determines the top age, but I think it’s probably when a young person finishes school.
- Program facilitators are the link between the national office (Guatemala, in our case) and the Child Development Centers. Each facilitator visits 12-15 centers per month. He or she provides leadership training and ensures that each center is providing the services, resources, activities, Christian training, educational help, hours, etc. that is required.
- It is expected that a center provides 8 hours of programming for its children. Some programs are after school, 2-3 times per week. When the children come from farther away, the program may be just on Saturday.
- A healthy meal is provided for each child each time they are at the center.
- At about 11, children begin learning different handicrafts and skills that help prepare them for life after school, if they don’t go on for further education.
- Centers may also provide parenting training for families.
- From its beginning, Compassion has had the policy that at least 80% of every sponsor’s monthly gift goes to the project where the sponsored child is a participant. We were told the reality is more like 83-4%. Compassion is a founding member of ECFA (Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability). When a gift is designated for a specific project or family need, 100% goes to that specific need.
- Through the children, whole families are helped. The project director where we visited said, “They come. We teach them the love of God. And God makes great things of these small children.” When God makes great things of a child, his or her family is blessed.
Does this answer questions you’ve had? Are there other things you’re wondering about Compassion’s work?
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