Shared visions and big returns: The multiplying impact of advocacy

Today, Jesse Eaves, World Vision's senior policy adviser for child protection in Washington, D.C., describes how child sponsorship is an investment in a child's future, and how advocacy -- speaking out on behalf of those affected by poverty and injustice -- increases the return on that investment.

If you’ve ever bought stocks or put money in a retirement account, there’s one thing you want to see: a good return on your investment.

The sponsorship of a child represents something more than gift. It’s an investment you are making in the future of that child. It represents a shared vision -- that your sponsored child and every child will have the chance to reach life in all its fullness.

As any mutual fund manager can tell you, you have to always be looking for ways to increase your return on investment. Over 60 years of experience has taught World Vision an important lesson: Advocacy multiplies our donors’ investments.

Savita lives in southeastern India. When she was 12, Savita’s mother borrowed $50 to pay for her older sister’s wedding. Her mother then gave away Savita as collateral on the debt. Savita was in school hoping to be nurse. But just like that, Savita became a bonded laborer. From 6 a.m. until midnight, seven days a week, Savita rolled cigarettes called “beedis.”

No matter how hard she worked, the original $50 debt only got bigger. If her owner gave her lunch, that was added to the debt. If she didn’t roll enough beedis, that added to her debt. If she took too long in the bathroom, that added to her debt. Savita knew that at this rate, she would never return to school. Like so many others before her, this would be her life for a long time to come.

Then something unexpected occurred. One day, a group of children associated with World Vision’s Born to Be Free program spotted Savita. The kids were part of a youth club that educates children on their rights and on Indian child labor laws.

The kids immediately began coming to Savita’s workplace every day, badgering her owner to let her go. When that failed, the kids turned to mothers.

These mothers were part of the Women’s Federation that was part of the World Vision program. With seed money from World Vision, the women created businesses to generate income for their families. Every business then gave a portion of their profits to the Women’s Federation. That pot of money then served as a community bank so that any family in danger of bonding their child out for a loan could get an interest-free loan from the federation.

In Savita’s case, the mothers didn’t need to tap into any funds. They simply went to the local mayor and the police chief and demanded action. The men knew better than to go against 200 angry women, and as a result, Savita was free by the end of the day, her debt forgiven.

Born to be Free started as a microloan program to help vulnerable families earn an income to support themselves. That was why donors originally invested in the project. However, advocacy played an essential role in the community. Due to the dynamic power of the Women’s Federation and the youth clubs, the program and its advocacy contributed to the release of over 1,000 children over 10 years. Over 20 of those kids were freed as result of youth clubs simply badgering a bonded child’s owner.

That’s a greater return than anyone imagined.

This is precisely the kind of impact we’ve seen around the world when people take it upon themselves to bring lasting change to their community. Whether in small numbers or in force, these women and children knew the power of their voice, and their community has been changed for the better. Today, the youth clubs and Women’s Federation still operate the same way: empowering their neighbors one loan, one voice, and one freed child at a time.

Savita’s story is not an anomaly. We see it every day. With World Vision, you not only get the chance to sponsor a child and form a relationship with that child, but the money you give toward that sponsorship impacts the lives of scores of people.

Through advocacy, we are able to multiply your investment and ensure that successes from our projects impact the larger community and even the entire country. By giving, you have the potential to change not just one life, but the lives of all children in a community and even a country.

Advocacy is not just about raising awareness. Advocacy is about transforming individuals, communities, and governments to take direct actions that enable stronger protection of children. World Vision believes in advocacy because it produces results. With World Vision, supporting a child through sponsorship means that you’re also supporting advocacy.

It means that you’re helping to empower children, families, and communities to realize our shared vision of life in all its fullness for every child. It means that you are reaping the rewards of any smart investor: the good return on your investment.

Learn more about World Vision's advocacy network and how you can speak out on behalf of the children, families, and communities that we serve across the globe.

Child sponsorship is the cornerstone of World Vision’s approach to community development. Join us! Change a child’s life for good. Sponsoring a child helps provide life-saving basics, as well as protection from abuse and exploitation. Consider sponsoring a child today!

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