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