Recently, Gary Haugen, founder of International Justice Mission (IJM) gave a TED talk, exploring the progress that has been made in the fight against poverty across the globe, arguing that violence is holding further progress back.
It sparked a lot of discussion within the Compassion UK offices about the root causes of poverty, the role the local church plays in alleviating it and the importance of protecting the most vulnerable.
Known, loved and protected. That’s something of a mantra at Compassion. It’s the phrase we use to describe the difference we make to the children you sponsor.
Known because so often poverty dehumanises children; makes them nameless faces lost in a crowd of statistics. But, through Compassion, they come to discover that they are known. Their name is written in the register at church; we introduce them to you and then their picture is pinned to your fridge, your letters come directly to them because you know them. And through you and their local church, children discover that they are known to God, that he knew them before they were born; he knows every hair on their head and thought inside it.
Loved because not only does poverty take away a child’s identity it teaches them that they don’t matter – that no one cares. When a child gets registered at the local Compassion project, they become part of a bigger family. They join your family, but even more importantly, they become part of their local church family and part of the family of Jesus. When you reach out to tell a child that you are here for them, it is a living demonstration of what Jesus has done for them.
Being known and knowing you are loved are bedrocks for development, but the truth is that alone they are not enough – children need protecting too. The world is a frightening place and in areas where poverty is rife, fear is always at the door. Children living in poverty are vulnerable not just to disease and malnutrition, but to traffickers, abusers and bullies. One of the things that marks Compassion out as unique is the way that we protect our children. Because you see, if you know a child and you love them, you will do anything to protect them.
Each child in our care is seen at the very least once a week for 44 weeks of the year. We ensure that they can get safely to school, we check up on them if they don’t turn up at the project at the weekend, and we train our staff to recognise signs of abuse. We educate parents about the dangers of trafficking and prostitution and we prosecute those who seek to hurt or threaten the children that we know and love.
It’s something we take incredibly seriously. Compassion has partnered with International Justice Mission in many countries because we know that strength is found in numbers. IJM’s expertise in dealing with child protection issues enhances the work that we do. Together we are making the world a safer place for children living in the vulnerability of poverty.
Children like Lawan and Mali*, two nine year old girls from Thailand, who were sexually assaulted by their neighbour. As is so often the case these frightened girls didn’t know how to talk about what had happened but Lawan found the courage to tell her Compassion Project worker who took the girls to a safe place, and then phoned the Compassion Thailand hotline. Within hours, the wheels of justice were in motion.
Together, Compassion and IJM took the perpetrator to court. He was given a 63-year sentence. It’s a fitting punishment, but in a country where, just as Gary says in the video, there is a greater chance of a perpetrator being struck by lightning than being brought to justice, it is an incredible victory.
We’re proud to be part of this fight and determined to tackle violence and corruption wherever it threatens children. We know that what we do works. Independent research has shown that Compassion sponsored children thrive. They go on to become leaders determined to tackle the problems that they faced as children to ensure that the world is a different place for the next generation.
It’s through our work – releasing children from poverty, but also equipping and empowering the local church to tackle poverty, advocating on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children, and partnering with organisations like IJM – that Compassion really is changing the world.
And, of course, all this is only possible because thousands of Christians (across the UK and in other countries too) cared enough to welcome a sponsored child into their families.
Names changed to protect identity.