World Vision ‘Sponsor A Child’ Program — Why You’ll Never Meet The Child

World Vision is a legitimate charity that facilitates the interaction between a donor and the intended recipient. However, as the New York Times reveals, there is more than meets the eye with regard to the agency’s “Sponsor a Child” program.

This approach to soliciting donations happens all too often, especially on late-night 1-800 infomercials on North American television. Pictures of poverty-stricken children flash on the screen, piquing not only your curiosity but your sense of pity. So you sign up for the program, and weeks later, you receive a wonderful, glossy package in the mail.

The package comes complete with the photograph of the child you are sponsoring. However, chances are, the picture was taken from a child who belongs to a family that is not part of the program in any way. Worse, according to the source, the approach is supposedly legitimate.


In other words, the systematic use of a false picture is actually allowed in order to shield the actual child from the possibility of being stalked, kidnapped, or worse — sexually exploited. This is why the New Internationalist highly recommends that you don’t get into sponsoring a child at all.

The source is convinced that due to too many complications that could affect the delivery of the donation and the child, sponsoring a child in the truest sense of the word doesn’t make for a viable charity option. So you might want to consider other options. After all, there are many other donation platforms available that don’t include any ugly possibilities in the future.

Of course, World Vision isn’t the only charitable organization that runs the highly successful “Sponsor a Child” model. Obviously, it has been around for many years, with no single agency having a patent to it. This is another way that the “Sponsor a Child” format becomes perilous because some of these agencies could be bogus.

What is World Vision exactly? According to Forbes, World Vision “is an evangelical relief and development umbrella organization that combines staff efforts with donated goods to fight poverty around the world.”

In a New York Times report, the author follows the donor who takes a self-guided tour to the West Bank to find the boy or the young man who he has sponsored diligently for years by sending at least $1,100 to World Vision. And guess who the boy turns out to be?

“He liked playing Call of Duty, a popular video game. He flunked math on his final school exam but was determined to retake it this summer so he could go to a university. He wanted a job involving cars.”

While the donor, who was only willing to be identified in the New York Times article as Brendan, was happy to achieve the objective of his quest, the young man’s family claims that it has not received a single cent from World Vision. All that the family can remember is that some foreigners had come by one day to take photographs of the kids when they were quite young.

According to Joan Mussa, World Vision’s director of public engagement, the agency doesn’t promise that contributions go directly to specific children. However, World Vision uses the “Sponsor a Child” format to attract donors.


Mussa also said that said that World Vision sponsored 4.1 million children last year to the tune of about $1.2 billion. The current roster includes about 40,000 Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


World Vision’s approach is consistent with the position of New Internationalist, and there are many evils to supporting a specific child, just a few of which are the following.

  • Focusing on individuals often means that aid agencies arbitrarily single out children or families for preferential treatment.
  • The way in which a child or family is chosen for sponsorship may reflect the political orientation of the aid agency involved rather than the needs of the child.
  • The exchange between child and sponsor can be culturally insensitive to the child’s way of life.

Nevertheless, the fact that Brendan has believed for years that he was supporting a specific young person should be enough concern for World Vision to look into how some donors are getting confused with the use of the “Sponsor a Child” ad. It may be time for an overhaul, no matter successful the approach has been in attracting more contributors for true causes.

Taking such a step will not only avoid confusion in the future, but it can also arrest that feeling of disappointment and disenchantment that a faithful World Vision donor like Brendan could feel after all that he’s done in the name of charity.

[Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]