After 12 Years of Sponsoring a Haitian Child, What Kind of Difference Do You Make?

Jonah Ogles spent 12 years sponsoring a kid in Haiti named Ervenson through a Christian organization called Compassion International. He sent $35 a month, or a total of $5,000, which went towards paying for things like food, health care, books, supplies, and tuition at Christian schools. Jonah flew to Haiti to meet Ervenson, and because he was curious about how much a difference his sponsorship made in Ervenson’s life. He wrote about his experience for Outside magazine:

The point of donating the money was to give him a better life. Ervenson got roughly $28 of my money each month. That’s far more than the majority of his fellow Haitians make in a month. Some of that (roughly $6.25 per month) went to pay for school, and some went to books and school uniforms. Those things are relatively cheap in Haiti. What I don’t get is, how did the money not improve his life more than that?

Maybe most of it went to higher tuition, which in turn put a new roof on the church or created jobs for teachers. And really, I’d be OK with either of those. But when I look at Ervenson’s home, at his father’s life, at Ervenson’s own future, it feels like the money failed. I believe Wydick when he says that, over time and a large enough sample size, Compassion helps people move into the middle class. Indeed, one former Compassion child is now in Haiti’s Parliament.

Ogles talks through some of the textbook examples of why money doesn’t always do so much in the long-run. As many as 10,000 NGOs operate in Haiti, but not all the work they’ve done has been very effective.:

“It’s one thing to provide water for six months,” says Jake Johnston, who studies aid in Haiti for the Center for Economic and Policy Research. “But they’re not going to provide a public water system for the future of the country.”

At the end of his piece, Ogles debates whether or not he’ll continue sponsoring children through programs like Compassion International. But when he later receives a letter from a nine-year-old boy, he decides to write back.

Photo: Colin Crowley

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