With budget flights and charity-organised tours, more and more of us now have the opportunity to visit a child we have sponsored, possibly, for many years. Whether or not we take up that opportunity is a very personal decision, but some of the following points may help you decide if this option is for you.
Suss out the scams
If ever you are offered the opportunity to visit your sponsored child, be very careful to check out where the offer comes from. Scammers and bogus tour operators are quick to cash-in on this relatively recent type of travel opportunity. Before you do anything else, contact your registered charity to check if the offer is in fact legitimate.
Eyes wide open
There is usually a profit-making reason behind even legitimate charities offering to connect sponsors with their sponsored child. By taking small groups abroad and arranging air bookings, accommodation, meals, and visits to communities, your charity is acting as a tour agency. The funds the charity receives from sponsors for doing this goes back into furthering the works of the charity. By making yourself aware of this, you will not become upset at the thought you have been ‘overcharged’ or deceived.
Hidden costs for charities
If you decide to arrange an individual visit to a sponsored child (rather than through a group-tour) be aware that there will be considerable costs to the charity. Prior to your visit, staff will be required to take time away from their regular duties to prepare your itinerary. They will also need to accompany you on the visit, provide your transport and, usually, your meals for the day. While they will welcome your interest in their work and in your sponsored child, you should always offer to cover any costs involved in your visit (contact your New Zealand based charity for advice on how much this should be, and pay the money to it before you leave).
A balancing act
The cost of travelling to visit a sponsored child is likely to be far in excess of several years worth of sponsorship. And, more than ever, we are also being called to consider the cost of air travel in terms of climate change. However, these are not necessarily reasons to shy away from the idea of a visit. Ask yourself whether such a trip can further help serve the cause you are already supporting. This is something you can talk to your charity about (and they may well be able to supply you with materials that will assist your aims). Can you, for example, come back and prepare a presentation about your visit which can encourage others in your community to sponsor a child? Is there an opportunity for you to talk to school groups about what you have learned from your visit? The local media may well be interested to learn where you have been and why – this is another way of spreading the word about your charity’s good works. Even within your own family, there may be opportunities to talk to grandchildren about your visit, and by doing so, encourage a new generation of givers.
Donors who visit their sponsored child frequently return home with a renewed dedication to their charity, and a determination to dig deeper than they ever thought possible in order to further their ability to sponsor. However, the decision to stretch your giving shouldn’t be made in the heat of the moment. Visiting a sponsored child and their community can be an intensely emotional experience. It is always best to wait until you are back in your own country before considering your financial situation.
It’s up to you
As with anything, there are pros and cons when it comes to visiting a sponsor child or overseas charity – but at the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide whether this is an option for you.