Next week, I will be off to Ethiopia with Food for the Hungry to learn more about their child sponsorship programs. But before I go, I wanted to share about my own personal experience with child sponsorship, and why it’s something that we believe in. Mark and I have been sponsoring a child since before we had kids, but as we’ve added children to our family, we’ve added sponsored children as well. At this point, each of my kids have a child that is their designated pen-pal in another country who is their same age. Karis sponsors a little girl named Ypolite in Haiti. Kembe sponsors Dalvin in Haiti, and Jafta sponsors Santiague-Jean in Haiti. I’m hoping to meet India’s sponsored child in Ethiopia this coming week – her name is Ayuntu. I sponsor a teenaged girl in Uganda as well. I think the benefits to a child being in a sponsorship program are obvious, and I am definitely going to be highlighting those in details in the coming weeks. Sponsroship programs help keep families intact, they keep children from going hungry, and they provide education for the children involved. There are a myriad of ways that our sponsored children benefit from the relationship. But today, I want to talk about how our family has benefitted from our relationship as well. Here are some of the gifts that my kids receive by sponsoring children: It teaches them compassion. There are many ways to give to those in need, but sponsoring a child is a tangible and easy way for kids to experience giving. I know my kids feel a sense of purpose in this small act, and I hope that this experience of the joy of giving is something that will shape them as people. It helps children understand the global picture. Child sponsorship helps my children understand the place of privilege they hold in the world. It gives them perspective, and it opens their eyes to the true issues of poverty. It introduces them to another culture. Through the sponsor relationship, they have a tangible way of learning about daily life in another country. We look at maps to understand where they are, and the letters and photos we get give a snapshot into what life is like in Uganda, Ethiopia, and Haiti. They feel a powerful connection with another child. I remember having international pen-pals as a child, and I loved that experience. My hope for each of my kids and the kids they sponsor is that this relationship can follow them into adulthood – that they can each be resources for each other as they grow up. It teaches kids about the universality of people. I love the exchange of letters between two kids of the same age, who live a world away. Even though their lives are very different, they inevitably connect on many levels as well. Kids are kids . . . they share many of the same passions and dreams. I think the process teaches my kids that all people are important and have a story worth hearing. I feel very blessed that our family has the ability to sponsor several children, and that my kids get the experience of forging a connection with another child in this way. If you have been looking for a way to increase your child’s empathy, perspective, or interest in social justice, consider having them sponsor a child in need.