Sponsor a child
Mar 10 2014

7 myths about child sponsorship debunked!

Maria, a sponsored child in Guatemala, with her sponsor, Patrick Byrne, on an awareness trip.

Maria, a sponsored child in Guatemala, with her sponsor, Patrick Byrne, on an awareness trip.

By Veronica Batton, Unbound writer/editor

I’m a total cynic when it comes to purchases or donations, and “I’ll think about it” is my automatic response when someone is trying to sell me something.

So you can imagine the questions I had about child sponsorship when I first came to work at Unbound in the winter of 2009. I had a list, a long list, of questions that were answered and put to rest.

I’ve added questions and answers to that list since working here, and I truly feel that Unbound is the best sponsorship organization out there. I sponsor Thilothammal in Chennai, India, and I feel grateful to be part of something that’s spreading good things around the world.

So as a sponsor, a REAL sponsor, I’m going to give you honest information and true facts to help guide you and your decision about becoming an Unbound sponsor.

Here are some common questions or “myths” about sponsorship.

Myth 1: “How do I know if it’s a real child I’m writing to and not just another scam to get my money?”


If I had a dime for every time someone asked me this question, I’d have a lot of dimes.

Yes, your sponsored friend is a real-life human who lives and breathes oxygen and lives on the planet Earth. If you don’t believe me, travel on an awareness trip to meet your sponsored friend.

If you can’t travel to meet your friend, there are other ways to know your child does exist.

For example, read the reviews from other sponsors on GreatNonprofits or read awareness trip reflections from sponsors on our blog.

You can also begin writing to your sponsored friend to build your relationship. Asking your friend questions in your letter can help you get to know your sponsored friend better.

Myth 2: “Sponsorship organizations have a religious agenda when it comes to those they claim to help.”

Some organizations may have such an agenda, but not Unbound. We honor the faith journeys of all people. We sponsor children, youth and the elderly from diverse faiths and strive to be a tranquil presence in their lives.

To join the sponsorship program, families must meet certain financial criteria showing a need for sponsorship. They also must be willing to fulfill some basic requirements, such as participating in parent groups, but religious identity is never part of the acceptance process.

See our mission statement for more information.

Myth 3: “Sponsorship creates dependence for families in poverty.”

Jane, mother of a sponsored child in Kenya, opened her own beauty shop with a microloan she got through her mothers group.

Jane, mother of a sponsored child in Kenya, opened her own beauty shop with a microloan she got through her mothers group.

The goal of sponsorship is quite the opposite of dependency. Through a combination of their own income-generating activities, access to capital and sponsorship benefits, over time families rely less on sponsorship benefits and more on their own income generation to meet their basic needs.

Each family partners with Unbound in selecting benefits and services to ensure they can meet their most critical needs and achieve the goals and dreams they have for their children.

Your sponsorship enables families to break through the bonds of poverty and work toward a better future. Through mothers groups, microlending programs and training classes, you help families on the road to self-sufficiency.

In your face, Myth 3!

Myth 4: “Sponsored friends who get an education can’t find work in their own communities and end up taking their skills away from the community that needs them.”

So many of the sponsored friends who have graduated have either stayed to help others in their own community or come back on a regular basis to provide services in their hometown. For many sponsored friends, this desire to help others comes from their own experiences in Unbound.

Henry, a former sponsored child in Guatemala, now owns and operates a successful automotive repair shop in his town in Guatemala.

In Colombia, Luis, a sponsored youth, is almost finished with medical school and will become a doctor soon. He plans to go back to his community to practice medicine.

Beng, mother of a sponsored child in the Philippines, got a microloan through Unbound to create a small family business recycling material from a highly invasive aquatic plant into useable merchandise. She employs youth who need help paying their school tuition and other mothers of sponsored children to help process the plants and make the products.

Myth 4 debunked!

Myth 5: “Sponsoring a child creates jealousy among family members.”

Sponsored child Luis in Guatemala plays with his little brother Rodolfo before harvesting strawberries in a nearby field. They look pretty happy to us!

Sponsored child Luis in Guatemala plays with his little brother Rodolfo before harvesting strawberries in a nearby field. They look pretty happy to us!

When you sponsor through Unbound, your monthly contribution impacts the entire family. Your sponsorship improves the quality of life for everyone.

Your sponsorship donation helps with the educational needs for your sponsored friend. For families with multiple children, this can lift the financial burden of paying multiple school fees and allow brothers and sisters to get their education as well.

Through literacy training, microloans and small business development, involvement in the Unbound program empowers families to better support the needs of all their children and become self-sufficient.

Myth 6: “Child sponsorship organizations only send a small portion of your donation to your friend. The rest pays for high administrative fees and salaries for those running the program.”


Unbound is hard core when it comes to our finances. We are committed to sending the maximum amount of available resources to the families we serve.

With 93.6 percent of what we spend going to program support, we don’t mess around with your donation. (Administration costs are only 3.1 percent and fundraising accounts for just 3.3 percent of our expenses. Take that, myth 6.)

And in 2013, more than $100 million in direct assistance was sent to our projects overseas.

View our financials page to see all of our financial reports including our stewardship report, annual audit report and IRS 990 form.

Don’t believe us? We are the ONLY child sponsorship organization to receive an A+ from Charity Watch seven years in a row.

Myth 7: “Sponsorship organizations show pictures of sick and malnourished children to guilt you into giving them money.”

Sponsored friends in Guatemala with some schoolmates in front of a classroom.

Sponsored friends in Guatemala with some schoolmates in front of a classroom.

We recognize the inherent dignity of all human beings. We only show images that are respectful to the person pictured.

We present sponsored friends in a way that you or I would want to be shown — living life and making the best of each day.

We show you these photos to inspire you. Their courage in the face of poverty brings hope to their sponsors as well.

I hope this helps you make an informed decision! But if you still have some questions, ask us in the comments below.

11 thoughts on “7 myths about child sponsorship debunked!”

  1. Thanks for clearing things up on how to sponsor a child. It’s great to know that you may write to your sponsored friend and build relationship. Since I’m thinking of doing humanitarian work, it’s helpful that I read this. Like what you said, I’ll ask them questions in my letter to help me get to know them better.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this. I have sponsored a beatiful girl in India and she is so full of life that I am lifted up by her enthusiasm. She would like me to visit. I am scared about that but praying on that idea. I can travel by pen-pal sponsorship and it takes me into the heart of a beautiful family. Keep writing. Love Arlene

  3. Veronica: Thanks for your reasonable response to my sarcasm. But be aware that if Unbound starts to sound like Maryknoll liberation theology garbage, a lot of contributors are going to take a walk.

  4. Myth: Contributions to organizations like Unbound are just a ” handout”, even though they are described as “empowerment”, or breaking “oppression”.
    Reality: Actually, they ARE a handout, although we like to call it by different names.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Bill. Technically, yes, you are correct as the dictionary defines a handout as something that is given to someone who is poor. However, Unbound is not just about giving tangible goods to those challenged by poverty. With our program, families have the opportunity to choose benefits that best serve the needs and goals of their family. A sponsor offers an investment in someone’s life. The families we work with have demonstrated initiative and eagerness to improve their own situations, and we are investing to help them succeed. In addition, small groups and training workshops provided by staff in-country are available to help parents develop their own skills and livelihoods to create a better life for their families. At Unbound it’s not about a handout; it’s about a hand up. – Veronica Batton, writer/editor for Unbound

  5. Hello – i really liked this article and would love to be a part of this org. For me, the most important aspect is to know the person/family i will be supporting and have a relationship with them that goes way beyond the monetary value :) Could you please tell me how supportive your org is when it comes to meeting the actual person/family?


    1. Dear Sonya,

      Thank you for your comment and interest in Unbound! We agree that your relationship with your sponsored friend is just as important as the monetary commitment. You and your sponsored friend will get to exchange letters, which ensures a more personal experience.

      To answer your question, we are very supportive of you meeting your sponsored friend! We offer awareness trips to many of the countries where we work. On these trips, you can meet your sponsored friend and learn about his/her community. Unbound Awareness Trips are scheduled and organized by Unbound staff. Click here to see a list of our trips for 2014.

      If you’re ready to sponsor, visit our website or call Sponsor Services at (800) 875-6564.

      Thanks again!

      Veronica Batton, writer/editor for Unbound

  6. Great article! I have been a sponsor with CFCA/Unbound for many years. We sponsor friends in Honduras, Guatamala and India. The Awareness Trips are unrivaled! I do wonder, however, if Unbound will be doing any work in the area of human traffiking? This is a problem world wide, especially in the developing countries where Unbound works. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kevyn! I’m so glad you liked the article.

      While there are many great organizations working to combat human trafficking, Unbound’s mission has a different focus. However, the support our children, youth and families receive as part of Unbound helps to reduce the risks associated with human trafficking. For example, our sponsored children tend to stay in school longer with sponsorship support, and families have opportunities to increase their incomes and support each other through small parent groups. Hope this helps! -Veronica Batton, writer/editor for Unbound

  7. This was an excellent article. yes when I went on my first mission trip I thought many of these same myths. But after only 2 days of the six day trip I knew in my HEART that UNBOUND and the sponsors are the best thing that could happen to the families involved. I was overwhelmed with the love and hope I felt in from those being sponsored. Today’s scripture tells us to do exactly what UNBOUND helps us to do. Change one life at a time.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Fran! It’s wonderful to hear from you, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. – Veronica Batton, writer/editor for Unbound

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