Compassion is withholding our funds due to mishandling at my child's center

  • 2
  • Problem
  • Updated 5 years ago
  • Solved
  • (Edited)
Archived and Closed

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies and is no longer visible to community members. The community moderator provided the following reason for archiving: isolated issue, could be confusing

We received a letter last week stating Compassion is withholding our funds from going to our child and the center/church he belongs to. And this is due to mishandling of funds at the center. Upon speaking with your HQ we learnt that absolutely NO compassion employees work at any of your child development centers. And Compassion does an audit of the centers every 2 years. Moreover we recently received photos of our sponsored child and the photo looks nothing like the child we started sponsoring 18 months ago. Photos can be seen here. http://sgcompassion12.imgur.com/all/ We can email them to anyone if needed
We would like to know why Compassion is not performing a more regular audit for these centers when you are receiving millions of dollars in donations each day. It's heartbreaking to learn that over the course of the last 18 months our sponsored child has not received the care or basic necessities he should have from our donation.
All we have received are glossy letters and photos written by someone else on behalf of our sponsored child. There's not a single letter written from the child himself.
We would like to get answers to our below questions:
- Why is Compassion not conducting more regular audits instead of once every 2 years? Even when you claim that you were aware of the problems in that country.
- Why are there no Compassion employees at any of the centers? Even 1 employee could make a big difference and could have avoided this issue
- Why are the child photos different? Who is our real sponsored child?
Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes

Posted 5 years ago

  • 2
Photo of Andrea Watt

Andrea Watt

  • 130 Posts
  • 44 Reply Likes
I'm so sorry that is happening to you. I'm not a Compassion employee so they will have to be the ones to figure out why you have photos of two different children. But I can answer a couple of your questions so I'll try to help.

I know that Compassion only does an external audit every 2 years, but they do an internal audit yearly, which is probably how they knew there were problems. The official Compassion rep can help more with that.

However when you asked about Compassion employees you came across one of the things I really love about Compassion. Instead of sending a bunch of outsiders to "change" a country, Compassion works through local churches in these countries. They establish a central office in each country, and that office interviews churches to set up the projects. Each Child Development Project is run by a local church. They have to meet a set of guidelines set by Compassion, and they do get audited. However Compassion is using the money and guidelines to empower the local community to raise up these children. They know the customs and the culture because they are Christians that live in these communities. For example a lot of people ask about sponsored kids siblings, the usual practice is to enroll one child from each willing family that really needs the help, then if there are additional spaces the families most in need can register an additional child. Outsiders would never know these intricacies about the community. I love that Compassion is working in communities instead of as a huge outside organization. Everyone in this process is human, and sometimes no matter how hard they try to make sure that they choose their church partners wisely things don't go to plan. But the central Compassion office does try to work with them to correct things. My understanding is a center closing is fairly rare, but if they won't conform to the required standards they will be shut down.

Realistically all Compassion provides 3 things: the rules of the project (children must receive school, medical care, the Word of Christ, nutrition, and supplemental vocational skills as they enter a high school age), the funding for the project, and the individual sponsors for the children. As a sponsor what you provide is money, but more importantly you provide a voice to your child that they are special and that they matter. That's why I'm so sorry that there has been a mix up with your child.

I received someone else's letter once, and although it was very easy to send it back I kept wondering if someone else received my letter on accident and didn't. I treasure my letters from my children. They all write differently, the youngest still with assistance of her project workers (I met several of them on my visit so I'm always excited when one of the girls I know is the writer for her) but they are all such wonderful children. My best writer was the most shy in person. Jerik's letters were always outgoing and so was he.

Also keep in mind that while complimentary interventions fund medical emergencies or natural disasters or special AIDS funds in certain regions, the fundamentals of the program is $38. So even a project that has 400 children is being run on under $200,000 a year, plus whatever they get for their complimentary interventions for location specific difficulties. Sending an American (or any other sponsoring country) employee would significantly raise the cost of each project. There are hundreds of small projects per country. 

Please know that at the end of the day these employees are really trying to do their best for these children. Every center I visited had a portion of the visit where they showed me my child's folder that tracked their history with the project. I toured each project, met classes of these children. I ate a meal at the project with the entire staff or workers and all the children. At one project (in Tanzania) the day we arrived they were having a parent meeting so my Mom and I met essentially the Compassion project PTA. 

Your experience has been bad, and I really hope it doesn't discourage you. I had a friend I was telling about Compassion once that essentially told me "yeah right, it's one of those scams, there are no children" and I was really hurt since I have actually been to visit all of my children. I've had them for years at this point, and my Mom for even longer. We've watched these children grow up, we know them. Also my Mom would never have picked a less than financially responsible organization to donate to. She's a very determined proponent of financial stewardship and she instilled that in me as well. You can check out Charity Navigator and their financial statements, but I wanted to give you my personal experience to try and ensure you know that it's the real deal. This has gone poorly where you are but it isn't a scam, it's just human error. As someone who is pretty cynical in my day to day life, and specifically donates to a handful of charities I feel are responsible I don't want you to get discouraged with my favorite one.

Sorry if this was super long and rambling. I just hate it when I see the bad experiences crop up. I would recommend joining the Facebook group (email socialmedia@compassion.com to receive an invite) and talking to other sponsors. There are so many really wonderful experiences and I hope that you get to have that. Also if you wanted to read about my visits I talk a little bit (though it's fairly tangential to the visits themselves) about the Compassion projects we visited and the workers there. Let me know and I can send you the blog address.
Photo of Denise Bailey

Denise Bailey

  • 199 Posts
  • 182 Reply Likes

Hi Santosh, I am another sponsor and I would like to address the picture issue.  Occasionally pictures do get mixed up and Compassion will most likely be able to help you there very soon.  I too have a sponsorship at a project in India that is under review and it has been less than two years.  I am praying the issue will be resolved and I will know by November so I am anxiously waiting.  In the meantime I am continuing to write to my child because they can still receive letters.  While the project is on hold my understanding is you do not have to send the sponsorship money so I am going to call on Monday and tell them I want to hold off until the issue is resolved.  I sponsor more than one child so the money will come in handy for a gift for another child.   I totally trust Compassion as I have been sponsoring with them for many years and have had people go to projects that have met some of the students I have sponsored over the years.  One person just met one of my students yesterday and messaged me some pictures on Facebook.  I love Compassion so much!  Please don't be too discouraged because someone from Compassion will answer your questions on Monday I am sure!   Someone on here had received an incorrect photo update and someone that works for Compassion resolved the issue for them.   It is hard when these things happen because we care about our children or we wouldn't be doing this so I will add my prayers for your situation!

Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Unless Compassion creates a program to do more regular audits by their local offices and provides the sponsors with the results of those audits on their respective child development centers or some kind of written assurance, these issues will continue. If we just found 2 people, including yourself within a matter of few hours of us highlighting this issue who have had the same problem we wonder how many more issues they have found in their recent audit. Looks like two centers have already lost their sponsors. And we don't know how many children were impacted at each
Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Hi,
Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Hi, Unfortunately your reply did not answer any of the questions we are asking Compassion. We appreciate your long email but we would really like to hear from Compassion as our question is directed to them. The internal audit conducted by Compassion is to audit their financials and we have gone through their financials in detail. But that doesn't still help answer our questions. The customer service rep we spoke to confirmed that Compassion HQ in Colorado does not even have a copy of the International Audit report. How is this possible? And the question is not about sending Americans to international locations. This is about their local centers where they have local people working. Receiving someone else's letter is different than creating glossy photo flyers with different children's photos with the same name. And this is done at HQ. And we don't believe regular audits will raise the cost significantly. Again Charity Navigator and Financials don't do much when your own funds for almost 2 years don't make it to your child and you find out 2 years later! Anyway we would appreciate a response from Compassion International. We also have the voice recording of the customer service rep we spoke to to verify all of the information we have stated above. Compassion is just like any other corporate organization. Without balances and checks even the best can fail to meet standards. And when it comes to non profit we tend to be more lax in questioning their process. So we would appreciate some honest and clear answers to where our almost $650 went over the past 2 years. And why did we receive photos of 2 different kids.
Photo of Denise Bailey

Denise Bailey

  • 199 Posts
  • 182 Reply Likes
Sometimes photos get switched.  There are over one million kids sponsored so errors do happen. I am sure they will be able to help you with the picture.   I hope things get resolved at your child's center. 
Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
But you see that's not our main problem although it is disappointing to see glossy bookmarks and postcards with kids photos when all that money could have gone to the kids who live on less than 50 cents a day or less. Even if the photos were switched, just knowing that our donation was actually helping one of the 2 kids would have made us happy. But in this case it didn't help either of them but some adult who went unsupervised for 2 years.
Photo of Denise Bailey

Denise Bailey

  • 199 Posts
  • 182 Reply Likes

Santosh, if anyone were stealing the funds they would not be able to work for Compassion anymore.  Missuse off funds can be sharing funds that were not meant to be shared.   For example, Compassion doesn't mind if there are two separate organizations at a church helping TWO different groups of children.  But Compassion wants Compassion sponsors to know that their kids are being helped by their funds.  If a sponsor sends a gift to their child, Compassion's policy is for that child (and their family) to get 100% of the funds.  As long as the church doesn't co-mingle funds where they should not be co-mingled they are okay,  but for some churches it is hard for them to trust God with that.   Tell Compassion that if someone was actually stealing the funds for personal gain you would like to know and know what was done about it.  Chances are it was done with the intention of being kind.  I have sponsored in organizations where they literally took my funds and used them completely for something different and lied about it.  This was a small organization in Africa that I no longer sponsor with and I chose Compassion over them.  I only have so many resources God has entrusted me with and I want to be as sure as I can be that they are used appropriately.

Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Hi, Respectfully, If you are not a compassion employee or Compassion's facebook consultant of some kind?, we would rather hear from Compassion as we thought we were writing to their Customer Service here. We have confirmation from their customer service rep who has confirmed the funds were being misused and Compassion was aware of issues in the concerned country for a while so we would appreciate if we only received responses from Compassion employees who can provide us with the facts in our case and not assumptions. We are dealing with a financial matter here relating to our monthly donation and not Gifts, so we would like to refrain from any assumptions or any other non related matter as it is only casting more doubts.
Photo of Denise Bailey

Denise Bailey

  • 199 Posts
  • 182 Reply Likes
Santosh, I am sorry, didn't mean to cast more doubts! I will watch for their answer because I am in that situation, too, right now .
Photo of Emily

Emily

  • 2650 Posts
  • 813 Reply Likes
Official Response
Santosh, thank you so much for your patience in receiving a response back from us as we are closed on the weekends and I just now saw your inquiry. It seems like you have had a disheartening experience so far with your sponsorship and I deeply apologize for any hesitancy this situation has caused for you.  I know it can be very difficult to hear that a project is not following financial policies and also receiving a photo that does not look like your child. When you are giving from the goodness of your heart and investing time, money, and your heart into an organization, you want to trust the organization and have confidence in its stewardship. Please know that our intention is not to deceive you in any way. After reading through these posts, I completely understand that you just want clear answers to your questions and I will do my very best to address them.  

-As for your child’s photo, I am so sorry that you received a photo in the mail that does not look like the child you sponsor. Your child's photo is updated every two years, and on picture day when the children got their photos taken, your child's reference number may have been written on the photo in error. There are often over 200 children in a project and the numbers can be very similar and unfortunately at times, transposed. We certainly try to avoid these errors and our project staff are very careful about making sure information is recorded accurately. After reviewing the photo's you attached, I can see your concern that this is not your child and want to look further into this situation for you. Regrettably, I was unable to locate your account by your name and email address. Could you please post your child's reference number on here or email us your sponsor number at socialmedia@compassion.com? Once I can locate your account, I will contact our field staff in your child's country to get the correct photo and inquire as to why the incorrect photo was sent. You have reached our Compassion USA office. If you sponsor with a different Partner Country office like Canada, you will need to go through that office as we do not have access to those accounts.

-To address your main question about our audits, it is very important to us to ensure that sponsorship funds are making a difference in the lives of the children we serve. Every financial process – from local church-based projects to the International Ministry Center in our Colorado Springs office – undergoes intensive and continual scrutiny. We monitor and evaluate each project in terms of program effectiveness and long-term impact on the individual child. Our corporate documents read that, “It is the policy of Compassion International to engage a nationally recognized independent audit firm to perform a financial audit annually on the global operations of the Organization. Such audits will be performed according to Generally Accepted Auditing Standards.” Here is a blog written by one of our employees that explains Compassion’s relationship with the local church. Compassion employees are paid to visit and check our centers no less than 3 times per year to ensure that they are following policies and handling project activities and funds according to Compassion standards.

-As for how our projects our staffed, just as Andrea mentioned above, Compassion partners with local churches that hold to our statement of faith and are staffed by local people who are able to present the gospel and all aspects of our program in a way that the children will understand within their culture. Our staff in the projects are employed by our ministry and trained on Compassion policies. We feel that the indigenous staff members know the best way to present the gospel and apply God's truth in the children's lives. This is why we do not send employees from the United States to work overseas in our projects. However, we do equip them with training that they need to run the project efficiently and effectively and we monitor everything that takes place in our projects to ensure that they are holding to Compassion's standards. 

I want to encourage you that although the project is on suspension and not receiving funding from Compassion during this time, this does not mean that your child is no longer attending the project. Some projects continue with all their same activities and others have to limit their activities due to not receiving financial help from Compassion and only being funded solely by the church until the issues are resolved. I do understand that you are concerned about your money not benefiting your child which is why we have informed you about this situation. In these situations, we work to provide more training and counseling of the staff.  We do our best to work with the staff to resolve the issue but if this does not resolve the issue, there are also circumstances in which a new pastor is found to oversee the church partner and ensure the stewardship of the project.  If necessary, we will shut down the project if they do not prove to be able to hold the standards that are set for them. Our goal is to resolve these issues as quickly as possible so that we can get back to our primary focus and minister to your child.  I assure you that Compassion will not resume sending funds to this project until we are certain that the funds are going where they are intended and will keep you updated in regards to the resolution. 

You are welcome to send us an email with your phone number at socialmedia@us.ci.org and we would be happy to call you directly if you would like to speak with us personally.
(Edited)
Photo of Santosh

Santosh

  • 7 Posts
  • 0 Reply Likes
Emily, We will send our sponsor details to the email you provided to resolve the photo issue. Regarding the audits, the annual financial audits only provide us with a high level understanding of how the funds are distributed overall. What would really be beneficial going forward is if Compassion establishes a more regular audit process for countries where it knows there are issues with misuse of funds. Once every 30 months is not sufficient enough as we as the sponsors don't want to find out 30 months later that our money was not benefiting our sponsored child. We obviously are not expecting staff from USA to go audit these churches, but your local country staff who can perform these audits every 6 months and provide a report to the sponsor so we have assurance and know that our sponsored child is getting the benefits he/she needs. The last thing we want is for Compassion to shutdown a project due to the long gap in the audit process, as the only person affected by this is ultimately our sponsored child. You had also mentioned that Compassion employees visit the center 3 times per year. We would like to hear what kind of checks are being done during these visits. We will send our contact details via email
Photo of Susan

Susan

  • 7386 Posts
  • 1583 Reply Likes
Santosh, I am also an employee of Compassion International and I would be more than happy to discuss at length this situation as well as our processes in regards to audits and checks via phone. As soon as we receive your sponsorship and contact information, I will give you a call.  
Photo of Lindsay

Lindsay

  • 493 Posts
  • 95 Reply Likes
Emily, while I am thankfully not going through this situation at the moment, for my curiosity does a sponsor continue to contribute the monthly fee while a project is under suspension or is that donation suspended as well? If the monthly charge continues, what does it go towards?
Photo of Emily

Emily

  • 2650 Posts
  • 813 Reply Likes
Hi Lindsay! During the time that a project is under suspension, your money is going to our general sponsorship fund and is benefiting other children. We are happy to place a temporary hold on your sponsorship contribution if you would like as we understand your concern about your money not benefiting your child. If you choose to not contribute support at all until the project sees a resolution, we are happy to stop your contributions for that time and we will update your account so that your support is current to the end of the period of the project suspension. I hope this answers your question but please let me know if you need further clarification. :) 
Photo of Lindsay

Lindsay

  • 493 Posts
  • 95 Reply Likes
Yes, ma'am! Thank you. I was curious as I had seen I believe Denise mention that she was going to have funds held, so I was wondering. Fingers crossed I won't have to go through the situation myself! I hope everything works out for the best for those who are dealing with it now.

This conversation is no longer open for comments or replies.