Why Giving Kids Choices Matters

"You can choose this one or this one," I explained to my nearly three-year-old daughter, pointing to the two carefully selected {and matching} outfits I picked for her.  "I want these ones," she said, ignoring the two choices I had given her and pulling out her own option from several different drawers in her dresser as if she'd already planned the outfit out the night before. Many of our mornings ended in a power struggle over what my daughter was going to wear that day. On this particular fall day, she selected for herself a turquoise two-piece bathing suit, a navy blue pea coat, and a purple hat.  Welp, guess it's good we don't actually have to get out of the house today I thought, giving in once again. 

I didn't always give in but I knew how important it was to empower kids and let them have a choice. I wanted my kids to be able to make choices in the safety of our home. But what if kids were raised without having a choice? What if their life circumstances had taken away even their most basic choices? How could a child be preparing to make choices for their future if they weren't able to make decisions in the present?

Last week I was given the opportunity to travel with World Vision to Ecuador, where I got to see how one of the largest NGO's working in the world is empowering children and giving kids in extreme poverty the power of choice through a new initiative called Chosen.

girl selecting world vision child sponsor

Why Giving Kids Choices Matters

Over the years I've shared about child sponsorship through World Vision. After seeing the work in the field on a vision trip to Uganda in 2014, I fully embraced their community-based model of sponsorship and have continued to see how well it works to create lasting transformation in some of the most vulnerable areas of the world. Especially in those areas where extreme poverty exists and where choices are stolen from children because of life circumstances.

For the first time in its nearly 70-year history, World Vision is putting the power to choose in a child's hands. Chosen is a way of recognizing the child, affirming them, and allowing them to feel empowered by giving them the power to choose their sponsor. 

I was able to see the whole thing play out start to finish at the Garden Church in Long Beach, California. Through the years I've connected hundreds of you with children to sponsor, but the tables have been turned and those wanting to sponsor put themselves in the vulnerable position of being chosen.

One Sunday a few weeks ago, hundreds of members of the church responded to the call for sponsors and lined up to have their pictures taken in a photo booth. During that time, I heard several people commenting about having flashbacks to their middle school gym days, joking about being picked last. Others, with hints of uncertainty, worried that they might not be picked at all.

chosen world vision

It's vulnerable to put yourself out there - to take a picture of yourself and hope that someone chooses you from a photo.

But friends, this is what we've been doing with kids in the sponsorship program for decades!

I've been at events, sponsorship picture folders in hand, while people pour over photo after photo of children, often commenting on the lack of smile on a child's face or wondering why a girl in Africa has her head shaved like a boy. Young children with smiles on their faces get selected first while older children, often those most vulnerable and in need of a sponsor, get shuffled into the pile again and again passed up for one reason or another.

Children recognized by their community members as being vulnerable and placed in the sponsorship program through World Vision can wait years before their photo is selected. Thankfully, because of the community approach, children still benefit from the programs provided, just not from being in a  direct relationship with a sponsor.
After church that Sunday, a team of us few to Ecuador to watch the process unfold. The pictures of sponsors waiting to be chosen that we had brought with us from California were hung on a clothesline in a small room. Soon children and their mothers poured off of busses and into an event that featured games, bounce houses and community training programs.

Children were called forward in groups of ten and met with an incredibly patient and loving World Vision staff member who manned the curtained doorway. One child at a time, she would lean over, place her arm around them, and explain that they would see a room full of pictures and that they should choose the one they liked best. 

One child at a time would enter into the room of faces and select their new sponsor - the choice was theirs. 

When asked why they chose a particular person, their answers weren't much different from the ones I heard from sponsors who chose children from the website or from picture folders. They said "I thought she was pretty" or "I liked his smile." 

child sponsorship
Gabriel, writing a letter to his new sponsors
One twelve-year-old boy named Gabriel approached it with a different thoughtfulness. He explained to me that he lived with his dad and a handful of siblings and he was looking for a picture of a sponsor that was a couple or a family. When he came out of the room, I saw he had chosen just that.

Sometimes people select children based on birthdates and similar family names and I must confess that when Chosen was announced, I wondered how taking this aspect of choice away might change how sponsors responded. 

However, as the stories pour in from Chosen events, I'm hearing time after time how sponsors are finding similarities in their new sponsored child. 

The following Sunday I was back in California to witness the sponsors from Garden Church run outside after the service to retrieve their envelopes. Inside each envelope was a photo and letter from the child who had chosen them, and I'd hear gasps of excitement as they were opened. 
One mother, who for nearly two decades had been annually commemorating the due date of an infant she lost through miscarriage, opened the envelope to find the picture of a small child. She confessed to hoping she would get a young child and wept tears of joy at having been chosen. I heard from others, who after reading the letter their new sponsored child had written to them, confirmed that they shared similar interests or likes. 
chosen world vision ecuador

We are all human, made in God's image, and we all want to feel important enough to be chosen. Being chosen is a sacred and sweet reminder of God's love.

Just like I wanted to empower my daughter by giving her a choice in the clothing she wore as a toddler, we can help children take hold of their future.

It all starts with the power to choose you as their sponsor.

Sign up to be #chosen by a child today! 

No comments

Powered by Blogger.