My child bought a cell phone with the monetary gift I sent.

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Today, I was happy to get a letter from my sponsored Ethiopian child. However, I am a little shocked about my child got a cell phone for himself from my first monetary gift.
I sent a family gift of $100 when I sponsored this child because I thought they are in extreme poverty and hoping that this gift money can help his family economically.

Also, when I was sending this monetary gift, I was told that Compassion staff will seat and discuss with the family to decide what the family needs the most at the moment.
My child said he bought shoes, clothes, and a cell phone for himself, a scarf "Netela" for his grandmother, and shoes and clothes for a brother and a sister. 
I am surprised Compassion staff let a child buy what he "wants" than "needs".

People say a cell phone is very cheap in Africa, but there must be so many other things Compassion children will need in extreme poverty. And I don't think a cell phone is an urgent need. My intention of sending a family gift of $100 was not for him to buy a cell phone, but I wanted he and his family to meet basic needs.
Seeing what he and his family has purchased seems like they have met all the basic needs like food etc as they didn't buy any food with gifts. 

Also, based on what I have seen so far African children buying from a monetary gift, they buy a bag of rice, lots of food, and a school backpack.

Also, the amount he wrote on his letter is not the amount I sent. I sent $100 family gift and $30 birthday gift at the same time, but "someone" wrote 2200 birr, which is $97 now.

Please let me know if $130 was delivered to he and his family as what they bought don't seem like it's worth $130 in Ethiopia.

Thank you.
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Jenny Kim

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  • frustrated.

Posted 2 years ago

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Crissy Stevens-Yarborough

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I agree that is not something I would want my child to purchase. I kind of felt the same way when I sent money to my sponsor childs family and they opened a bank account. It was for his school later but something inside me thought that they would be in need of food or essential things. 
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Jenny Kim

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Yes. Exactly! I think saving money for education is still alot better than buying a cell phone. I also thought they will purchase food or basic needs. Or I was expecting backpacks or something for education. A cell phone can be a burden if a child is in extreme poverty. Charging a phone and buying a prepaid card will be difficult. He can buy a cell phone when he becomes a high school student or university student. I just don't understand why Compassion staff will let him buy a cell phone. I trusted Compassion for saying they will make a wise decision to purchase the most urgent need. It sounds like they are not struggling for food as they didn't buy any income generating livestock or food with a total of $130 gift.
(Edited)
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Beth

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Crissy, I personally think that saving for their child's education was very important to them, a hope for their child to be able to reach for success. You made it possible for them to hold on to bigger dreams for their child!
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Jennifer

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I'm going to assume there was a need for a phone otherwise Compassion staff probably wouldn't have allowed the purchase. It may help his family gain better income by looking for jobs or something along those lines. Since the child is in the Compassion program they more than likely do have food and other necessities, that's part of what your monthly support goes to. Second cell phones are not the same there as they are here they're extremely cheap. Missionaries from our church came and had told us that Facebook makes these devices that can connect to Facebook without wifi or data service, and so no matter how poor they were they all had these little Facebook devices. I also follow a blog of a lady that runs a maternity home in Nairobi Kenya and she also employs women in the slum, once those women start to get income they too buy things like cell phones even while they are still in the slum. For us we see a cell phone as a want but what about a landline? I know I need my phone and they might need one too they just don't necessarily have access to a landline like we do. But even if it was a want are they not entitled to wants every now and then, sounds like the majority of the money was spent on needs (clothes), some kids have bought a toy along with other things with their gifts and I personally think they deserve a want every once in a while.
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Beth

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Jennifer, It's so interesting to learn about the Facebook devices! Thanks for sharing that info.
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Jennifer

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I asked about this in a Compassion group I'm in and they made some good points I wanted to add. A cell phone could allow the family to open a small business or sometimes one of the parents has to travel far for work and this could allow them to keep in touch. So this could very well help them.
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Rebekah Bell

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Hi! That is so generous of you to bless your child with a gift! I don't work with compassion but I've been thinking alot about your concern. I guess I was thinking that the Compassion staff who works directly with our kids probably knows a lot that we don't. Maybe your child lives in an unsafe neighborhood and his phone will give him added safety so he can call for help if he gets in a bad situation. Or maybe he looks after other kids and the phone lets him call to check on them or maybe he can use apps or calculators on the phone to help with school. I understand your concern, though. It would probably take me aback initially if one of my kids bought a phone. I think what I try to remember is that for most people, poverty isn't as much about lack of stuff as it is lack of opportunities. That's what I love about compassion, because they don't just give kids stuff, but give them opportunities and skills to lift themselves out of poverty! I think them opening a bank account would be a wonderful idea because then they can save money to hopefully open a business or buy a safer home or also get out of poverty eventually! I can tell you have a super good heart and are just concerned about your child, but these are just some thoughts I had about your post. I trust compassion and I'm sure they helped your child make the very best decision for him and his family!
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Edouard

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I believe that it will be necessary to take into account the communication need of the child in the donation to develop his mental and relational capacities. Stopping sponsorship is not a solution
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Rebekah Bell

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Also, the amount probably less than what you sent because I think there is a processing fee involved. I am a graduate student and sometimes when my parents send me money via a transfer, there is a charge so I don't receive the full amount they send.
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Rebekah Bell

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That is strange. I hope you can get it worked out!
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Edouard

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I think that it's better to love once
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Jenny Kim

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Yes. And actually he only got clothes, shoes, and a cell phone, a scarf for his grandmother, clothes for his sister, and shoes for his brother according to my Ethiopian friend in the letter. I just feel $140 should buy more than this.
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Beth

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That is a lot! I couldn't buy that much for my own family where I live.
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Sharon Ulstad

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cell phones cost more in these countries then ours. I have talk to my son in Uganda and the cost is very high for a low quality phone. We have access to many things that bring the cost down. Learn more about the country and area where you child is and it will bless you to know that everything they get is a treasure. My son has a cell phone for University study and he has never taken a hot shower he throws cold water over his head with a bucket. So see he has one device but no running water. Life is very different for these children God knows what they need and it is all good.
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Tammy

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Jenny,

Here is an very interesting and enlightening article I found on Compassion Canada's site that specifically addresses your concern: https://www.compassion.ca/why-do-people-in-poverty-have-cell-phones/
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Crissy Stevens-Yarborough

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Hopefully a staff member will answer your question. Usually someone checks into things for you when you post something like this.
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Jenny Kim

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I am sorry, but as things are very confusing about many things. I will ask all the questions here again.

Last week when I called Compassion, one of the representatives told me that there is a letter printed and sent to ICP on 10/11, 12/21. When I saw this letter, it is stating about the gift I sent in the end or June, however, the photo is taken after December 4th. My friend visited my child on December 4th and gave my gift from US. Wogayehu is wearing the blue t-shirt I sent to him.

1. Is this letter for 10/11 or 12/21? This is the second letter I received after 8/1 introduction letter.

2. I started to sponsor him from 6/24 then I sent a family gift of $100, a birthday gift of $30, I also heard that he should get $10 gift from me setting up automatic payment. The total of $140 and 10% deduction is $126. The letter says he got 2200 birr, which is $97 now. I believe someone else wrote 2200 birr on top of his letter with a black pen. According to my Ethiopian friend, the correct translation is he said he bought "clothes, shoes, and a cell phone for him, a scarf for his grandmother, clothes for his sister, and shoes for his brother. The items are 6 items for 4 people. And this doesn't seem its worth of $126 as I know things are very cheap there. I heard a cell phone is under $10USD.

Also, the photo that was provided doesnt clearly show what they bought. 2 people are just standing and I can tell he bought new jeans and shoes, his grandmother bought a scarf?!

2. I would like clear breakdown of how $126 was spent and if my boy really got this amount of money as it doesnt state in the letter and the photo provided doesnt show what they bought.

3. It would be great to know if there is a purpose of a boy getting a cell phone without them doing any business or other members of the family not having a cell phone.

Thank you.
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Hi Jenny. I actually wrote a blog post almost two years ago on this subject. Frankly, everyone I have talked to in African countries sees cell phones as a necessity for survival and not a luxury or want. You have to understand our history and how it is very different than what has happened in Africa. Virtually everyone in the US has had a landline in their home for generations. This happened because our government is relatively just and many years ago the government put money into infrastructure that included landlines all across the country. In Africa, this did not happen. Almost no one has a landline, and they have never had a landline. Imagine what this means for security issues. We take for granted that we can call 911 on a cell phone or even a landline when we are in trouble. We don't think twice about it. We can get an ambulance to come get us in a life threatening emergency. We can call the police and they will protect us if someone is threatening us. We don't have to pay them to come to our aide. In Africa, they don't have these basic emergency resources, so having a cell phone to call family, friends, or even their doctor could literally save their life. 

This is somewhat on a different level than security, but M-Peza, a mobile application, is used much like a mobile bank account to pay for items and transfer funds. Cell phones are also often used for income generation. For example, your sponsored young man could use this cell phone to sell items in the market. You might think of it like having a phone for his small business. Our goal is for him to be able to make a living for himself and and be released from poverty, and this cell phone is a key step to him being able to do that. 

Lastly, let me point out that the staff's job when gifts are delivered is to make sure that the gift use is developmentally appropriate for the child. This means, we want to avoid things being purchased like drugs or alcohol because it would be detrimental to the child's well-being. We also want to avoid anything that would not be appropriate for the child at that age. Your child is 16. They clearly thought he was old enough and responsible enough to have a cell phone. Contrary to what some may think, the staff are not instructed to choose needs over wants. It is a gift and the ultimate use of the gift is up to the child and family. As long as it is developmentally appropriate, the gift can be used for whatever purpose they choose. 

As far as part of the gift being missing, it looks like you actually sent a $100 family gift and a $30 birthday gift. They were separate gifts but sent around the same time. Since the thank you letter mentioned about $97 being used, and it was used for family purposes, I would imagine that this thank you letter is for the $100 family gift. Another thank you letter is coming for the birthday gift. Personally, I feel that clothing (could be several outfits too) for multiple members of the family and a cell phone is quite a bit for $97. That gift went a long way!
(Edited)
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Jenny Kim

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Oh you have posted before my last comment. Thank you for the wonderful information about the purpose of buying a cell phone. Now, I understand and I am happy it was something in the need of my child and his family. And I hope to hear about how $30 birthday gift is spent in the letter.

Just in a curiosity, was this letter from 10/11 or 12/21? 
My other question was: 

Last week when I called Compassion, one of the representatives told me that there is a letter printed and sent to ICP on 10/11, 12/21. When I saw this letter, it is stating about the gift I sent in the end or June, however, the photo is taken after December 4th. My friend visited my child on December 4th and gave my gift from US. Wogayehu is wearing the blue t-shirt I sent to him. 

1. Is this letter for 10/11 or 12/21?

This is the second letter I received after 8/1 introduction letter. The photo clearly shows it was taken after December 4th and I am wondering if 10/11 is missing to receive it or if 10/11 sent to ICP was written after December 4th.

Thank you!
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Sarah, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Jenny, this letter is from 10/11. The stationary was printed that day and sent to Wogayehu to write his thank you letter, but the photo could have easily been taken after his shirt was delivered.
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Jenny Kim

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Hi Sarah,

Does that mean 10/11 letter has been waiting to be sent to thr local field office until the beginning of December?
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Susan, Sponsor and Donor Relations, Social Media

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Jenny, no, it was not waiting at the country office. 10/11 is the date that the stationary was printed at the country office. We print stationary with the special label at the top that is specific for the child. Then the stationary is sent to the center and the child will write on that stationary on the next letter writing day. Once they have written on it, the letter is sent back to the country office to be translated and scanned and sent to you. This means that it was not waiting at the country office but had to go through the full process during that time.
(Edited)

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