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Through Compassion Philippines, Locals Can Now Sponsor Children

Following in the footsteps of South Korea, the most-Christian country in Asia opens its own fundraising office.
Through Compassion Philippines, Locals Can Now Sponsor Children
Image: Courtesy of Compassion International

Three years ago, a group of nearly 48 former Compassion International–sponsored children in the Philippines decided it was time for them to start investing in kids in their own country.

“Because we believe in the power of Christ and the strategies of Compassion in changing lives, we came together and decided that it is now our turn to do the same,” said Glendy Obahib, one of the core leaders of the Compassion Alumni Sponsorship Movement (CASM). “We were blessed with the gift of sponsorship and now we want to become a blessing to others through the same sponsorship.”

A new initiative from Compassion International will make this work even easier. Filipino nationals will now be able to sponsor children within the country and fund community development programs thanks to the establishment of Compassion Philippines Inc., an in-country support office.

The sole focus of Compassion Philippines will be fundraising, unlike Compassion International, which runs the programs. Compassion Australia is helping the new organization set up a legal identity and consulting on registration, insurance, and hiring so that Compassion Philippines can operate as a separate legal entity from Compassion International in the Philippines.

Currently, according to Precious Amor Tulay of Compassion Philippines, the new organization is pursuing bank account approval and securing government permits that will allow them to raise funds and enable donors to claim tax deductions.

Compassion’s staff hopes that this transition will increase support to the Philippines. Today, most of the funding for sponsored children in the Philippines comes from the US, Australia, and South Korea.

“By equipping local fundraising teams, we’re taking important steps towards self-reliance and reducing dependence on external funding sources,” said Tony Broughton, the chief operations officer of Compassion Australia, in a press release. “This means more significant and sustainable impact on breaking the cycle of poverty.”

Since 1972, Compassion International has teamed up with churches to offer “personal, individualized,” and long-term care to 200,000 Filipino children. This year, 475 churches in the Philippines are delivering Compassion-funded assistance to 105,000 children.

In becoming a donor country, the Philippines is following in the footsteps of South Korea, which achieved this status in 2003. Among the 29 countries where Compassion has sponsored children, only South Korea and the Philippines have transitioned to opening their own local support offices. (Outside the US, Compassion has 14 support offices.)

This transition rests on several factors. The Philippines has strong financial capacity and boasts Asia’s second-strongest Christian GDP per capita. The country is also a majority-Christian nation, and local corporate donors will have few qualms about—or might even have a strong interest in—giving corporate social responsibility funds to an explicitly Christian organization.

Compassion has a strong presence in the Philippines, including an extensive community network and thousands of Compassion alumni who financially support children, sponsor leadership programs and training, and do informal fundraising.

The Philippines’ Compassion Alumni Association (CAA) counts about 2,500 alumni in 10 chapters, located in Davao, Butuan, CDO, Iligan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Laoag/Baguio, Metro Manila, and Pangasinan.

Levi Carupo became a sponsored child at age eight and was one of the first in Compassion’s programs to receive a college education. Now a partnership manager for Compassion International in the Philippines and the current CAA president, he noted that several of the alumni group’s chapters conduct disaster preparedness, child abuse prevention, and social work trainings for Compassion young people.

“One day we will see a former Compassion-sponsored child become a community leader—a town leader, a mayor who is engaged in his or her community,” Carupo said.

Currently, both CAA and CASM are sponsoring Filipino children by pooling their members’ donations and sending funds through one of Compassion’s global office websites, generally in the US or Australia. CASM sends gifts to its sponsored children, and each child has an assigned letter writer to nurture a personal relationship between CASM and the child. CASM also generates funds through a portion of the registration fees that the Compassion Alumni Leadership Movement collects for its leadership trainings for Compassion-sponsored youth.

As the funding model changes, Noel Pabiona, the national director for Compassion in the Philippines, wants to widen the scope of children being helped by partnering with more churches, including those in the poorest communities.

Currently, the organization has 70 partner churches in tribal communities, led and pastored by indigenous people. It has also become more active in helping communities with significant Muslim populations.

“The good thing about helping the poor [is that] whether you are Muslim or Christian, you are welcome in the community,” Pabiona said. “Even among the Muslims, they welcome help from Christians. The example of Jesus is to show unconditional love overtly, and the rest is up to him. People will be more receptive to your message if they see Christ being demonstrated in your life.”

Compassion offers one-on-one programs to help children and provides resources for complementary interventions or activities that promote children’s overall development. Beyond child sponsorship, the organization offers financial assistance for around 100 Filipino children annually who are suffering from catastrophic illnesses, such as cancer or kidney disease, that require expensive and prolonged medical treatment.

Beyond additional funding, the success of these initiatives rests on partnerships, Pabiona stated. For instance, Compassion is working with Convoy of Hope to provide meals to address child malnutrition. They have teamed up with megachurches and chambers of commerce to help construct school buildings for high school students in eleventh and twelfth grades. (For years, students only needed to finish the equivalent of tenth grade to be considered done with high school, so some schools lack the infrastructure for older students.)

In parts of the country where the organization has active programs, Compassion maintains an open line of communication with local government officials, which allows them to make suggestions as concrete as paving a new road so children can walk to school more easily.

But Compassion’s most enthusiastic cheerleaders are likely to be those who know the organization firsthand, said Pabiona. As an example, he described a former sponsored child, now a licensed engineer, who cleaned the air conditioner of a Compassion partner church during his free time.

“The Lord doesn't just use the ministry to equip [young people], but it also transforms their lives,” he said. “They know Jesus, and they have hope in this life and in the life to come.”

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