Holiday gifts that make a difference: help a child in need through World Vision or Compassion International

Before I sat down to write this post, I wrote two letters. In many respects the recipients could not be more different from me: George is 14 and Monica is 10. They live in rural villages in Tanzania. They have never left their region, while I’ve traveled all over the world. But the biggest difference is the fact that their families live on less than $1 a day. In fact, a billion of the world’s people are in a similar plight, and fully half the planet subsists on less than $2 a day. I, on the other hand, reside in one of the wealthier communities in the wealthiest nation in the world. But my plenty is making a major difference in the lives of George and Monica, and so can yours this holiday season, for children in similar situations.

While our family sponsors George and Monica on an ongoing monthly basis through Compassion International, organizations that care for the world’s poorest children also benefit from single donations that aid children without sponsors or which support community projects where they live. It can be a delight to give your own holiday gift recipients the chance to choose a gift in their name for a child in desperate need.

World Vision’s online gift catalog is a great portal. This relief, development and advocacy organization works with the world’s most vulnerable children, families and communities in more than 100 countries, to overcome poverty and injustice.

Consider a few statistics:

1 in 7 children in the world do not get enough food each day
1 in 6 — that’s a billion people — do not have access to clean water
1 in 6 children in the U.S. lives beneath the poverty line
1 in 3 people in the world is under 18
26,000 children under the age of 5 die each day, from mostly preventable causes
More than 15 million children worldwide have lost one or both parents due to HIV

It’s especially meaningful to enlist kids in the process of choosing a gift: tell them their present this year is X-number of dollars to spend on helping other children. Then, go to World Vision’s website. Allow them to select a country or a focus for their contribution that interests them. Like Heifer International, World Vision offers a chance to see exactly how far a gift will go to make a difference in people’s lives.

There are many gift options:

* $30 buys a school supply package for a child, including a uniform, backpack and materials.
* $35 buys farming supplies like seeds, fertilizer, hoes and harvest equipment, and irrigation kits, along with training in improved agricultural techniques.
* $50 buys 10 fruit trees, providing an ongoing source of healthy nourishment, shade, seedlings for other families, and in just two to three years, the trees will begin to yield enough so that a family may begin selling fruit to support its income.
* For just $18, you can purchase mosquito bed nets for a family to protect them against malaria. And in the process, use the opportunity to learn about how access to health care for easily treated diseases is an important social justice issue.

Or, a gift to World Vision’s general fund allows it to be applied where the need is currently greatest. In addition to disaster relief and refugee aid, World Vision’s community work includes water and sanitation, health and hygiene, literacy and education, food and agriculture, and economic development.

If your heart is moved in the process of gifting others with these ‘multiplier’ gifts, consider sponsoring a child yourself. Our family has sponsored George for eight years and Monica for six. They are about the same ages that my kids are, and they have taken great interest in each others’ lives, from the boys’ shared interest in soccer, to the drawings that the girls regularly exchange. We pay about a dollar a day to support each child, and in return, we have been given relationships that have changed and blessed our lives – and which have heightened my children’s awareness of injustice and its causes.

When you sponsor a child, global poverty statistics take on a human face, and lives are changed in ways that you can vividly see and appreciate – including your own.

Compassion International just marked the sponsorship of its millionth child, and World Vision is likewise serving millions around the world. But there are still hundreds of thousands of children waiting for sponsors at Compassion and World Vision. Until they are matched, their needs are addressed through World Vision’s various programs, and Compassion’s Unsponsored Children fund. While both are Christian humanitarian organizations, they serve all children regardless of race, religion or ethnic group.

Both groups have been recognized for their financial integrity. Charity Navigator, an independent charity evaluator, has consistently awarded each their top ranking of four stars, meaning that each organization “exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause.” Eighty-seven percent of every dollar donated to World Vision goes directly to program expenses, as does nearly 82 percent of Compassion’s budget.

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