How to sponsor a child: your questions answered | ActionAid UK

How to sponsor a child: your questions answered

ActionAid has 40 years of experience in changing 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, what you get out of it and how we use your sponsorship funds to change lives.


What is child sponsorship?

Child sponsorship is an effective way of giving that sets up a relationship between a donor and a beneficiary child and community. It is a fundraising method that helps us support whole communities including sponsored children. 

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How do I sponsor a child?

You can select a country, age and gender of a child and we will set you up to sponsor a boy or a girl. Or if you’d prefer, you can leave it up to us to match you with a child where the need is greatest. Find out where we have children available to sponsor

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Bisan (9) and Imaan (11) read at an ActionAid partner centre in Al Kom, West Bank.

Bisan and Imaan read at an ActionAid partner centre in Al Kom, West Bank thanks to child sponsorship.

Where can I sponsor a child?

You can sponsor a child in 26 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America including Bangladesh, Rwanda and Guatemala.  We update the countries you can choose from on a regular basis to reflect the available profiles across the world. You can even choose to sponsor a chid by picking ‘where the need is greatest’, if you are undecided about your choice of country.

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How much does it cost to sponsor a child?

It costs £19.50 a month minimum to sponsor a child with ActionAid. You can also choose to give more.

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Why does sponsorship cost a minimum of £19.50?

We ask for a minimum of £19.50 a month so we can provide lasting support to the communities that benefit from your sponsorship.

The communities we work with require long-term support, so in order to come up with a minimum amount we estimate the cost of implementing the work when we set up a new project and calculate how many children will need to be sponsored in order to achieve the planned work.

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What will I receive on signing up to sponsor?

As soon as you sign up to be a sponsor, we will send you a welcome pack with a photo of the child you’re sponsoring and his or her story so far. 

You’ll get two handwritten messages a year from your sponsored child – 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 during special milestones so you can see them grow and thrive.

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Eint and Hnin stand in the remains of an abandoned School building project in their village in Myanmar.

Eint and Hnin stand in the remains of an abandoned School building project in their village in Myanmar.

Where does my sponsorship money go?

80p of each pound you give goes straight to the country where your sponsored child lives. 

How do we decide where your money is spent?

We don’t.

We ask communities and our local staff in the communities where they need it the most and let them decide.

  • 80% of your sponsorship gift goes overseas (whilst 20% is spent in the UK on raising awareness and finding more supporters).
  • Of the 80% overseas gift, 70% goes directly to your sponsored child’s community.
  • The remaining 30% is used to fund other vital work in developing countries and running child sponsorship so that you can receive messages from your sponsored child and hear how your gift is changing lives.

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How are children chosen for sponsorship?

Once a community has been identified as suitable for child sponsorship, the children from the community volunteer themselves for the child sponsorship programme.

We always require permission from a child’s parents before we include the child into the child sponsorship scheme.

ActionAid views the relationship between the sponsor and the sponsored child as a partnership. It is explained to the children before they join our child sponsorship scheme that they are acting as ‘ambassadors’ for their entire community, and that they have one supporter in particular who they are linked to.

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How does my sponsored child benefit from my support?

Child sponsorship was originally set up to provide a few children with the books, uniforms and equipment needed to receive an education.

However, over the years our experience has shown that children were only making so much progress without their family and community thriving around them.

We have learned from years of experience that a child can’t be supported in isolation from their community. To single out a few lucky children to receive special education, gifts or other individual benefits would only encourage dependency and wouldn’t help them to improve their standard of living in the long term.

For example, if the land in the area where a child lives is infertile and food is hard to grow, that child will not be able to support either themselves or their family when they have left school. Equally, if there is no clean water supply, people will continue to get sick. We believe the best way to help is by tackling the root causes of poverty.

So our child sponsorship programme has evolved to help the whole community in a long-term and sustainable way by providing clean water, healthcare, agricultural programmes, income generation schemes and education centres in areas where schools were not available.

All these programmes are linked together: we know that if a child is hungry or is constantly ill through lack of clean water and healthcare, their ability to attend school will be seriously affected. 

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When will I see the difference my child sponsorship makes?

You will be able to see first-hand the difference your support is making and the progress that can be made and the impact of the development process on the lives of individuals, their communities and families.

We share regular news, messages, letters or drawings from the individual children and reports from the country programmes to help sponsors learn about the places in which we work and the development issues.

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Chid sponsorship helped repair an old school playground in Doti, Nepal.

Chid sponsorship helped repair an old school playground in Doti, Nepal so children can play safely.

How long will my sponsorship last?

There is no set sponsorship period.

As a sponsor, you will see a child through his or her formative years and help him or her grow. This means making a long-term commitment to a child and their community.

There is no minimum requirement but most of our sponsors tend to sponsor for at least five years.

You can continue to sponsor your child up until they reach the age of 18, when they leave the sponsorship programme.

There are occasions when sponsorships can end earlier than expected. This might be due to a number of reasons, from the child migrating out of the community where ActionAid works, to the community becoming self-reliant and continuing without ActionAid’s support.

If this happens, we ask our sponsors if they would like to continue sponsoring a new child.

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What happens if I need to cancel my support?

You can end your sponsorship at any time, for any reason, without causing any harm to your sponsored child.

Because of our  unique approach, your child and his or her family will continue to benefit from our investment.

Projects are designed to benefit all families living in the area regardless of whether or not they are part of the child sponsorship scheme.

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I don’t live in the UK, can I still sponsor a child with you?

You can donate via credit card, sterling cheque, or bank transfer. Credit cards payments are the most effective option for overseas sponsors, and you can set this up easily online or call our Supporter Contact Team on 01460 238 000.

All these methods do, unfortunately, incur a bank charge and because of this we advise our supporters to make their payments either annually or quarterly, to minimise the cost.

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Child sponsorship helped pay for computers in schools in Brazil.

Child sponsorship helped pay for computers in schools in Brazil.

How do I write a letter to my sponsored child?

Letter-writing is an important part of your relationship with your sponsored child and his or her community.

  • Instead of lengthy letters, we suggest writing hand-written messages on coloured postcards.
  • Please remember to keep your sentences relatively short and simple.
  • Only a few sponsored children speak English so your messages will be translated into their local language by our field staff.
  • Children like to know more about you, your family and friends, where you live, where that country is, what pets you have, what animals there are in the country, which sports you like…any of these is a good place to start! Read our blog for more letter-writing tips.

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Can I send a gift to my sponsored child?

We appreciate the gesture of a gift to sponsored children, however we do not encourage special gifts of money or goods to be sent to individual children for several reasons.

  • This might cause jealousy and unhappiness because not all of the children within the community are sponsored.
  • Some sponsors might send gifts that are unsuitable in nature or value, which might confuse or disorientate the child and their family.
  • In the countries where we work postal systems can be unreliable, and we cannot guarantee that a parcel will arrive at its destination.
  • Additional resources may also be involved as ActionAid staff would have to collect and deliver any packages to remote areas that are difficult to reach and in some cases customs duty may also be payable. These costs often outweigh the value of the gift.
  • Wherever possible, we also try to purchase items for the community locally; this not only ensures better value for money but also helps to improve the local economy.

To avoid disappointing supporters who want to give a little extra, we have set up a Gift Fund for each programme and donations to this fund are used to benefit all the children in that community.

The children are asked what gifts they wish to receive and sometimes this money is used to buy sports or play equipment, books or to buy a small gift for every child in the school. 

Please get in touch with our Supporter Contact Team on 01460 238 000 – our lines are open from Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5.30 pm — to learn more about donating to the Gift Fund.

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Can I visit my sponsored child?

Yes, you can visit your sponsored child. For many people, a visit to meet a sponsored child or to see an ActionAid project is a transformative experience and the best way to see how their support is making a difference. We can’t cover the costs of your visit, but our local staff will help you make arrangements to meet your child. We usually require two to three months to organise a sponsor visit, so please do get in touch!

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Can I post a photo of my sponsored child on social media?

We kindly ask that you don’t share photos of your sponsored child on social media. The consent that we get from children regarding photos is only applicable for ActionAid’s work, so the child may not expect to see a photo of themselves shared on social media.

Another reason is that photos often have identifiable landmarks or other elements that may make the child’s location known, which could potentially put the child at risk.

For these reasons, we state in our safeguarding policy that photos shouldn’t be shared online without ActionAid UK’s approval.

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Can I sponsor a girl?

Yes, you can sponsor a girl. ActionAid is an international charity that works with women and girls living in poverty and we focus specifically on girls’ education and ending violence against women and girls.

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Ça Depend can go to school in his village in Democratic Republic of Congo thanks to child sponsorship.

Ca Depend can go to school in his village in Democratic Republic of Congo thanks to child sponsorship.

Can I sponsor a boy?

Yes. We include boys as children who can be sponsored, so that our work continues to also benefit men and boys living in poverty, and everyone in their community.

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Can we sponsor a child as a school or group?

Yes! We can easily set up a child sponsorship for your school or group. The easiest way to do this is to speak to our Supporter Contact Team on 01460 238 000. Our lines are open from 9am to 5:30pm from Monday to Friday.

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Sponsor a child now


Page updated 30 March 2020