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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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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!
-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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to call you directly if you would like to speak with us personally.
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