03/09/2012 10:52 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

"Sponsor a Child" Is More Than Just a Popular Strategy to End Poverty -- It's a Deliberate, Long-Term Approach

February's issue of Christianity Today contained a cover story in which secular and Christian media should take increased interest. During this time of great need around the world, we must ask ourselves if our work to combat poverty is making an impact. The cover story examines that question: "Cost-Effective Compassion: The 10 Most Popular Strategies to Help the Poor."

University of San Francisco professor Bruce Wydick asked development economists to rank the impact of the ten most popular strategies to fight poverty. Clean water was clearly the top rated strategy followed by deworming treatments and mosquito nets. "Sponsor A Child" rated fourth in terms of impact, but was the top rated long-term strategy.

Wydick asserts that Compassion International's sponsorship program, in particular, showed "substantial impact on adult life outcomes" when studying the children who participated in the program during the 80's and 90's. From increased educational attainment and higher probability of white-collar employment to delayed marriage and community leadership, the empirical benefits of Compassion whole-life sponsorship were clearly seen. There are discernable outcomes when a child is known, loved and protected out of the cycle of poverty.

The findings reflect the individual and unique interventions Compassion provides through just one of our four core programs: Child Development through Sponsorship. The other three programs, Child Survival, Leadership Development, and critical life intervention initiatives are offered to provide for additional critical needs during a child's life. Therefore, the totality of Compassion's interventions can include any, some or all of the nine other popular strategies that were studied.

For example, clean water is critically needed in most impoverished areas. Compassion's Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) strategy supplied 56,000 Compassion children in Haiti with water filters that will provide one million gallons of clean water per household. For those areas without any nearby water source, like a desert area of Tanzania, we partner with water organizations to build wells, funded by Compassion sponsors like Darcy Creech, a Nantucket native who has designed watches to raise funds, and awareness, regarding the world's water crisis.

At a Compassion child development center in Burkina Faso, Florentin is one of the registered children who line up to receive a dose of deworming medication. Florentin never took deworming medicine prior to being registered in the Compassion program. According to the nurse at the center, the children have very few cases of parasite-based diseases because of frequent preventive treatment.

In East India, losing two adolescent daughters to malaria in quick succession was devastating. But then, Joseph and Adila's only remaining daughter, Mary, contracted malaria. Although the symptoms were acute, the timely medical intervention from the Compassion child development center helped save Mary's life.

Children at Compassion centers in East India are given Chloroquine tablets to protect against malaria. When children are diagnosed with malaria they are taken to the nearby hospital and administered Primaquine tablets to ensure that it doesn't turn into cerebral malaria. This outreach is just one component of Compassion East India's Malaria Intervention Program.

Many Compassion beneficiaries receive income generation training taught at child development centers. Dorcus, an HIV positive teenager in Rwanda lost her parents to AIDS at the age of nine. After finding a foster family for Dorcus, the Compassion center provided $600 to Dorcus's new family through our Highly Vulnerable Children program. The family started a hair salon for income. They now earn USD$15 per two days a week as a profit, which they put in Dorcus's bank account.

And, this week, Compassion flew a six-year-old boy, Fatao, from Burkina Faso to India for heart surgery for a ventricular septal defect. This intervention, "Fund Reparative Surgeries" is number seven on Wydick's list of strategies.

All of these interventions are provided because of Compassion's Child Sponsorship and Development program. Sponsors in 13 countries around the world care deeply for each child they sponsor. Many of them not only maintain correspondence with their sponsored child but take trips to personally meet them. The dedication of these sponsors and their commitment to care for each child as a member of their own family enables the compelling stories you read throughout this post.

By working with over 5,600 local churches in 26 countries, the Child Sponsorship Program offers educational opportunities, health care and health-related instruction, nutrition, life-skills training and because we believe poverty is also a spiritual matter, opportunities to hear about and respond to the gospel if children choose. Each of these children are known, loved and protected by staff, church workers and yes, their sponsors.

Anyone who examines Christianity Today's compelling article would agree with the importance of every intervention in the battle against global poverty. However, in Compassion the strategy simply referred to as, "Sponsor A Child" is much more than a monthly rate and correspondence. For Compassion, it is a long-term, deliberate and strategic program designed specifically to meet the diverse needs of our beneficiaries, their communities and countries through the most strategic of places -- the local church.