Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Nine Ways to Explore Your Sponsored Child's World Without Leaving Home

On the Our Compassion sponsor site I've seen wonder how to relate to their sponsored kids. It's true, we are insulated within our 21st-century first-world lifestyles, now. It wasn't so long ago, however, that our grandparents (or even parents!) were walking to and from the well to draw water, or were heating water over a wood stove for a bath, or were washing clothes in the river or going hungry because there were too many mouths to feed and drought killed the first harvest. The days of one-room schoolhouses with no heat or air aren't that far behind us. Grueling chores, farm work, carting produce to market, kids dropping out of school to support the family--that was the norm in rural American life not all that long ago. How quickly we forget!

I've found a few ways to feel more connected to my sponsored kids, and I wanted to share them here. I hope you'll use those you find intriguing to help forge a stronger connection with your sponsored kids. And, if you have the chance, be sure to sit down with the elderly members of your family and ask them what life was like when they were kids...chances are, you'll notice some similarities between their lives and those of the children you touch through your loving sponsorship.

1)  Google Earth - I love Google Earth. If you haven't ever played with it, it's a free download you can install on your computer that allows you to see satellite images on a round globe. You simply type in a location and hit "search" and the program will zoom in on your chosen location. I like to turn on the "photo" feature (on the left-hand sidebar), and find the town or city where my child lives. I explore the town through the photo feature, often looking at the location of the center they attend (you can find the location of your child's center on the OurCompassion website). It's a bit like visiting your child without the cost of a plane ticket! I have learned alot about the types of housing, the communities, the traffic, the vegetation, and the road systems of the kids we sponsor through my Google Earth "travels." In some areas, you can even fly over the city in 3D, with a "tour guide" to point out famous landmarks!

2) Read a Book - I adore the library. Where else can you walk in a room, pick out something you want, and walk out with it without paying a dime???  One of the best ways to understand our sponsored child's community, culture, and situation is to read. I love to read, so I devour books about India, Africa, and Central America at my house, as well as books about poverty, in general. There are many great books about poverty, about the horrible trafficking happening world-wide...and I encourage you to read those...but also take the time to read some less depressing information about the culture your child lives in. Travel guides are GREAT ways to explore the heritage sites in your child's country. If you have children, use these travel guides to make posters at home, printing photos from the internet, as though you've visited the country. Make a scrapbook of your "travels"! Lonely Planet guide to Bogota, Colombia: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/colombia/bogota

3) Cook a Meal - Food transcends language. You can relate to your child by learning about the foods they love and cooking those foods at home for your family. Try something new! Ask your child what their favorite food or snack is, and try to make it at your home....then tell your sponsored child what you thought about it! Take pictures of you trying it out! Your sponsored child will probably think it's funny that you tried their favorite meal. Recipes from Guatemala, where one of my sponsored children lives: http://www.food.com/recipes/guatemalan
Fried Plantains--common to Central America (and SO yummy)

4) Subscribe to the Compassion Explorer Magazine. I love this magazine. It is geared towards kids in elementary school, but I'm not ashamed to say that I like to read it just as much as kids that age do! It's FREE and each issue contains crafts, stories from the kids in various countries that are sponsored through Compassion, recipes, and other ideas for great ways to connect with your sponsored kids and kids of all ages!

5) Play a game. Does your sponsored child have a favorite game or hobby? Give it a try! This is especially great if you have kids or if you are college/high-school age. Drop the pretenses and get a group together to try a traditional Indian past time, or play soccer using a ball made from rags or plastic bags tied together with twine. Take photos and send them to your sponsored child! Some examples from India: http://www.ehow.com/list_6109478_india-games-kids.html

6) Listen to Music. Pandora is a great, free way to explore music from other cultures. Download Pandora to your computer or phone and type in your child's country. Music, like food, transcends language and speaks to the heart. Use that as a jumping off point to ask your sponsored child about their musical interests, and to share yours.

7) Visit the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) website. This somewhat well-hidden website is a treasure-trove of information about the countries Compassion works in. The site contains statistics about poverty and hunger, information about the natural resources of countries, rural and social development, and photos and other information, as well as publications. For example, here is a link to the FAO interactive Hunger Map: http://www.fao.org/hunger/en/.  Here is a link to the FAO country page for Togo, one of the African countries I sponsor in: http://www.fao.org/countryprofiles/index/en/?iso3=TGO, which contains not only statistics but also news feeds with information about events in the country.

8) Search the Library of Congress website. Another great resource for free information, free videos, free movies, photos, and much more!  Here is a link to the LOC World History & Cultures page: http://www.loc.gov/topics/worldhistory.php

9) Watch a travel documentary or youtube video! Travel documentaries abound, and there are even clips on youtube from many countries...Instead of the latest Dancing with the Stars, sit down to a travel documentary of your child's country! What a great way to visit without leaving your living room! Free online travel documentaries: http://documentarystorm.com/category/culture/travel/; Free Documentary on PBS about how our American cotton subsidies contribute to poverty in Burkina Faso, a Compassion country: http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/310/

I hope these have given you some thoughts about interesting and unusual ways to be more in tune with your sponsored children and their cultures and lives!


  1. What great ideas! I have learned so much about my kiddos through discussions on OC and the Step Into Your Child's World pamphlet. And I love the street view from Google maps. It amazing to see what our sponsored child might be seeing! :)

    1. Great points, Lizzie! I like street view too!!

  2. I love all your ideas!! A few years ago I did the google earth thing and really enjoyed it...but I hadn't done it for our new kids!! I'll be downloading it later today. And I also just subscribed to the Explorer Magazine!! Thanks!!

    1. Oh I love getting it as much or more than any child!

    2. Sonja,
      Do you have a link to sign up for a subscription? Your blog is so beautifully written! :)


    3. Thanks Christi! I think there is a place to subscribe right under the comments--it says "Subscribe by email". If you are google+ or blogger member I think you can also subscribe that way.