ActionAid has almost 50 years of experience changing the lives of children and communities through child sponsorship

Child sponsorship is not just a band-aid solution; it's a viable route out of poverty. We have a robust and evidence-based approach to providing support to countries around the world. 

We work hand in hand with local communities to ensure the solutions we implement are long-term, feasible, appropriate and sustainable, ensuring that the work we do empowers communities to become self-sufficient. 

Child sponsorship provides children and whole communities with secure access to food, water, education, healthcare and the opportunity to earn a living.

Here's everything you need to know about what sponsoring a child means, how it works and how we use your sponsorship funds to change lives.

Child sponsorship: your questions answered

Is child sponsorship ethical?

There are some myths around child sponsorship being unethical; claiming it causes family rifts, imposes the charity's political views on children and families, and fosters passiveness and dependence.

At ActionAid we have a unique approach, where a child is not singled out to be the sole beneficiary of child sponsorship funds.

Sponsored children represent their families and communities as 'ambassadors' and are aware that the donations help them, their siblings - even those who are not sponsored, families, neighbours and peers at school. 

The funds are shared widely in the community and go towards community projects that help all - whether it is building wells, buying school equipment, or providing seeds and livestock to women to set up their farms and businesses. 

At ActionAid we do not impose our beliefs or values onto the sponsored children or family. In fact, ActionAid is not a political organisation and follows Charity Commission guidelines on political activity by charities.

We are only political in the sense that we are partisan – we take the side of women and children affected by poverty in developing countries - and we engage in political debate with decision-makers over how best to remove the barriers that keep people poor.

Lastly, the work we have done so far shows that ActionAid's child sponsorship programme is not set up to proliferate dependency or encourage passiveness.

Our projects in local communities are set up to be self-sufficient and in some areas continue long after we have stopped funding a project in the area. 

And our partnership model where we work closely with the communities themselves means that everyone on the ground is involved in the process from day one. We do not consider ourselves as outside benefactors and we do not view our beneficiaries as passive recipients of support.

We include beneficiaries in all the decision-making, development and implementation process by working closely with our local staff who are based within those communities and other members of those communities as well.

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What happens when I become a child sponsor?

As soon as you sign up to be a sponsor, we’ll send you a welcome pack with a photo of the child you’re sponsoring and a little bit about them. And that’s just the start of the journey you’ll go on together.

You’ll get two handwritten messages a year from your child telling you about them and their life – they might be letters, drawings, or postcards – plus detailed updates about how they’re getting on from our staff in their country.

You can write back to your sponsored child. Over time you’ll get a new photo at special milestones so you can see them grow and thrive.

Frequently asked questions

What will my child sponsorship pay for?

  • Action Aid Porridge Feeding Program at Saunyama Primary School in Nyanga District ActionAid’s feeding programme is supplying 11 primary schools with enough porridge for lunch three days a week.


    Nutritious meals for children and seeds and livestock for families to grow their own food

  • Students Abigail (R) and Purity (L) in class at school in West Pokot, Kenya.


    Schoolbooks, fees, equipment and even a whole new school building in the sponsored child’s community

  • Puthy, a secure livelihood of model farmers thanks to ActionAid intervention.

    Clean water

    Building wells, purifying water sources, and better sanitation facilities

  • Improving birthing centers to strengthen communities


    Medical and dental clinics, basic medical supplies and health education

12-year-old Ouk benefits from sponsorship in Cambodia.

Cindy Liu/ActionAid

How child sponsorship is helping girls like Ouk

Twelve-year-old Ouk lives in a village in Kampot, Cambodia on the frontline of the climate crisis. 

Extreme weather, erratic rainfall and rising sea levels in Cambodia are destroying traditional ways of earning a living such as fishing and farming.

And when livelihoods are affected, it's often girls who are pulled out of school to help families survive by supporting household chores or doing odd jobs to make ends meet. 

But child sponsorship is helping girls like Ouk to stay in school  and receive the education they need.

Thanks to ActionAid’s support, Ouk's school has been able to provide classes on vegetable-growing and gardening so that she can help her family adjust to the changing climate.

Top image: Sponsored children in Brazil writing messages and creating drawings for their sponsors. Bruna Valenca

Page updated 14 June 2024