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Episode 87

How Sponsorship Works

Amanuel Roba, Associate Director of Sponsorship

You are listening to Together by AGCI. I’m Melissa Rush. Today we’re talking about all things sponsorship. I was lucky enough to chat with Amanuel Roba, AGCI’s Associate Director of Sponsorship about this important program and the truly life-changing impact it can have on children and families. AGCI’s one-to-one sponsorship program in Ethiopia is truly unique and is a simple way for people to have a direct impact on children in need. Let’s get into our conversation.

Well, we are so lucky to have Amanuel joining us today on the podcast. Amanuel just happens to be one of my most favorite people and also is our resident sponsorship expert. So, thanks for joining us today, Amanuel. Thank you for having me, Melissa. It’s nice to see you again. Good to be here. So, I would love if you could start off by just so for people who are like what does it even mean to sponsor a child? Like on a basic level, what, what does that mean? Yeah, so to sponsor a child is actually to kind of stand alone with a child and support a child that is in a unique place of like not having like a meet, a need met, especially like educational and also some of this sponsored child have different circumstances that their families are going through.

So basically, it’s like sustaining this child and giving this child a better future and you know, so that they can drive, and they can be like, yeah, like a productive citizen. So yeah. Awesome. That is super important and why, you kind of touched on this a little bit, but just like holistically, why is sponsorship needed? We just have one sponsorship, one-to-one sponsorship program in Ethiopia at this time, but so why is it needed specifically in Ethiopia? It is definitely needed in Ethiopia because there are a multitude of children, millions of children that are coming from like a lot in income families where most of their families are, doesn’t have a permanent jobs where they are not able to support these children. And that means like these children are not able to go to school and that is also gonna affect them in the future and also just go in that circle of poverty and all those things. So, it’s just we’re trying to break that and like sponsorship will help these children to be able to go to school to be able to study and what they want and at the same time also like provide something for the family aside from school such as like with the food and some other assistances. So definitely sponsorship is needed for these reasons.

So, for, you know, it’s mostly Americans listening to this and when they hear like you know, sponsorship to go to school, they might be like, well isn’t school free, why would you need, why would you need sponsorship to go to school? Can you, can you explain that? Yeah. In order to go to school, like you need like school supplies cuz the government is not, or the schools are not gonna provide you with school supplies like exercise books and notebooks and all those things. And at the same time also the children are not able to sit down and focus while their stomach is hungry. Yeah. And like all those things and these kids are coming from these areas where the families probably eat once a day if they can afford that as well. So, with this like it helps ’em to focus, it helps them to go to school and there is so many needs and some of these kids are like far away from schools as well. So, there’s that long travel, which is probably walking things like, so yeah it definitely assists them with that. So, sponsorship is definitely a needed thing so that these kids can contrive and yeah. Yeah, thank you for explaining that.

Yeah, it’s def it’s different than you know, the system here where we have, you know, for kids in low-income families at public school free and reduce lunch and some supports to you know, help make sure that they get to school. Whereas you know, unfortunately for a lot of kids in Ethiopia, if they don’t get this support through sponsorship, they’re not gonna have any of the resources in their family just won’t be able to send them to school. They might, like you said, struggle to focus if they’re, they’re not getting the food and nutrition that they need. And so, this is just really kind of like a wraparound service for the kid and their whole family. Can you talk a little bit about AGCI i’s history with child sponsorship, like how long we’ve been doing this and kind of why we got involved in this realm? Yeah, yeah. H c I started child sponsorship in Ethiopia back in 2013 and also that as far currently like also adoption was not also an option in Ethiopian and in the intercountry adoption. And so also, you know, there’s the, the need is very huge and like there’s not just like millions of children that are orphan and most of them are like with their relatives and other things.

But at the same time also there are some kids that are in the streets which are ending up like with different like addictions and substance abuse and all of those things and in order to continue supporting those kids as why we are able like to start this sponsorship program. But at the same time also there are children, one of the reasons the children ending up is also for the family are coming from poverty, they’re unemployed and all of those things. And so, part of the sponsorship program is to family preservation, like keeping that family together and so that these kids are not going to a distribution, these kids are not getting up in the street so that’s gonna help out with that. So that’s, yeah, the reason behind it and there was there’s over a thousand children that has been supported since then. Currently we have over, wow over 830 sponsored kids in Ethiopia and in Ethiopia we work over like different regions as well, like over four regions like in Addis, in Gambella and also in Oria region. So yeah, I mean our sponsorship has been posed for a little bit cause of like there has been a conflict in the northern Ethiopia for a little bit. So yeah, but currently we’re hearing some good news and updates and you know, and hopefully we will be able to see like what we can about that.

But currently there’s that need and also just assessing that need and that’s how it started, and I think it does grow to sponsor over the 800 kids and we’re hoping this numbers continue and a lot of children who are in that unfortunate places would be able to ha get this support and you don’t get their lifechanging and impacted. Yeah, absolutely. That is amazing that amount of kids, so it’s been about 10 years then that that program’s been going on and to have supported over a thousand kids, that’s pretty amazing. And I just wanna like emphasize because I think this is something we don’t talk about enough, but when international adoption in Ethiopia closed most, I think like most agencies we’d been previously doing adoption in Ethiopia, they just left and we were like, there’s still a huge need here. We can’t leave these kids and families who need support. And so, we found a different way to do that which is actually more, which is in line with our ultimate goal with which is to like have kids stay within their first family whenever possible. And sponsorship really does make that possible because if you are struggling to have enough food to eat, you know, you might seriously consider relinquishing your child to an institution just to ensure that they get, you know, basic meals.


And so how amazing that you could, you listener could step in, and you know, be that person that makes a difference of that child growing up within their family, getting an education, you know, or growing up in an institution with no, you know, real path to family. So anyway, it’s, it’s, it’s a pretty, pretty cool program. So, on that note, there’s obviously, you know, I’m sure people listening have heard of child sponsorship programs. There’s a lot of different organizations that that offer that How are, how is AGCI different? AGCI i’s sponsorship approach are I believe it is very unique and it is obvious that like these children need support like with the school and school supplies and as part of our education sponsorship program, that’s what we’re doing. But at the same time, not just that but we work holistically with these children and not just with the children, also with the families as well. So, we have the saving account that we kind of open up where like we are empowering them economically as well and like I’ve been being from Ethiopia as well, like our saving culture is not that much of a thing and like you know, families are not considered of like the future and like how they’ll be able to support.

So, we’ve been providing training for the children like and their like families on these things and how they’ll be able to support those and that has helped them like when the child gets sick, when the child like needed something for school and those reasons as well. And at the same time we also have a family strengthening aspect of the, our sponsorship program we where we get to do different camps and also like create that play and connection with children and like their like either families guardians or like relatives where they’re like at currently which is like these families are trying to find a job and or like work as a daily laborers and or like a pity trading and things like that. And they would spend all day outside of their home and the children yeah would not have that much of like contact with their families and a time to play a time to have a conversation, a time where they could interact. And so, we we’re trying to bring that and as part of that there are times that this children has been like this is my first time I get to play with my, like with my parents, you know like to see my parents play with me like that. And so, we provide, we facilitate that, so we try to like strengthen that family bond as well.

So, we operate like holistically and that I think is makes us, is just not about education and like providing that but it also is like empowering the entire family or the caregivers or which these kids have. Yeah and it’s super cool this fall, Amanuel and I were in Ethiopia at the same time actually which was amazing and we got to attend a day camp that AGCI put on for kids and families in our sponsorship program and it was so awesome to see, you know, moms and dads playing with their kids, really connecting with them and like learning, you know, different tools and like ways to engage because I think people, you know, and if you’re a parent maybe you feel differently but I think sometimes people think like, oh yeah, it’s just automatic how you play with a child or how you do these things but it’s not necessarily And so to like learn those skills of like how to really connect and the importance of play I think is just so cool and it is like a huge differentiator. So yeah. Thank you for talking about that. Yeah. Cool. So how do children join AGCI sponsorship program? How do they apply? Are we finding them? How does that work? Yeah, how it works with how we kind of operate is also we work with different government bodies, and we have those relationships

We work with the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, which they have offices and like different bureaus in each location that we work at. So, what we do is we usually, they also have a list of different families and children that really need support and that are like in a Unix like condition of like not their needs, their needs not being met and they’re not attending school or having a difficulty like continuing their school and dropping out and notes. It’s not. So, what we do is we accept those lists and we, our local team in Ethiopia kind of meets with the family, meets with the child and make sure like you know, they check their like their circumstances where they are any like communicated and all that. So, we go through all those assessments and like if we think like okay this child definitely needs our support and there is no other way or like means of for them like to be able to be supported. So yeah, we go through that route and yeah we definitely make that follow up and that’s how this child is able to be like part of the sponsorship program and once those children are identified then yeah we kind of bring them to our sponsors and require like willing and happy to support them and yeah, that’s how these children are able to come to our program or join, enroll in our sponsorship program. Awesome.

So, it sounds like it’s really ensuring that kids and families that are like in most need or get or you know have access to the support that they need, which is super important. So, we kind of touched on this a little bit but I’d love for you to go a little bit deeper in, into this. So, we often, you know when we talk about sponsorship, we say it can be the difference between a child staying with their family or entering an institution. Can you just expand a little bit on what this means and why that is the case and in Ethiopia? Yeah, this is the case because most of the children have no options and these families are not options and we see a lot of children, especially in the capital that they said about like from the statistics we have over 60,000 children that are in the streets and wow. So, like when you kind of hear those kinds of numbers and see that like you can also like see the data that most of the children, whether if their families are not employed or if they had some like, like domestic like abuses or like domestic violence and things like that.

Like kids tend to end up like on the street or like even within institutions only like a few hands of them are like going to institutions which most of them are going to be like with like substance abuse and addiction and all of those things. So yeah. And even it’s like the institutions are not that great and not really in a good condition, which even AGCI has been like trying to like even bring like some support to those institution and so that we can share our like yeah you know, best practices and things like that but you know, there isn’t any other options for them and that’s why like sponsorship is needed is cause like what we are trying to make sure is like the families are staying together and the children are raised in an environment that where there is a love whereas there are a care and like they’re not like away from trauma things that and sponsorship like plays a unique role in this cuz it brings the families together and that’s why we’re just not working on only providing the education cuz we, that’s important and that’s their future and that’s the sustainability part of it. But at the same time also like the family has to stay together cuz if we don’t work also in the families absolutely these kids are gonna be back into like that cycle again. And so, we’re trying to prevent that.

So sponsorship is, plays like a big role in this. Yeah, absolutely. Thank you for, for kind of diving into that and why it’s so important. I would love if you could share the story of a, of a child that maybe you’ve met that and the impact that sponsorships had on their life. Oh yeah, I mean we hear like dozens and dozens of stories like each time cuz that’s, there’s definitely this, like there is an impact that the sponsorship program is bringing into families and kids and I mean we have had some kid, some like children that have even graduated like college and who has like one of the girl her name is here, which have in in one of our to grade program that she’s been part of our sponsorship program, which she was able to go ahead and graduate college with a high point with a good point of like she graduated of accounting and now she get to work and wow. Study that. Yeah. Yeah. In something that she’s interested at now she’s not just herself but she is able to support her families and you know, being a means for them like to live like a better life.

So this is one of the stories and also we have a lot of stories of like how sponsorship have impacted families and brought families together and I mean there are, we have some children in our sponsorship program who are special needs children and with those like with those kids as like if the children are not sponsored and not able to go to those schools, their parents are not able to go out of the house even for looking for a job. So, this is sponsorship. Wow. Yeah. Sponsorship has that effect, you know, like it is the way for the family to even go look for a job and work and since then, you know, there is like we can see like how much change and like a better life that the family is leading currently. So yeah, we get to see all different kind of impacts and even some of the kids who has not been in a good like medical condition or like they have the, where we the sponsorship is able to kind of support those kids in a places where they’re like, you know, vulnerable and, and where they wouldn’t have had any other support without like the sponsorship that they’re receiving from AGCI. So definitely there is that impact or yeah and we hear so many stories. Yeah, that’s awesome.

I know it’s always so great especially when you know there are kids who have been in the program for a long time and they, you know, go through, and yeah end up like you say end up graduating college and like, I mean that’s just kind of the dream, right? To be like breaking the cycle for themselves and their family, like pursuing you know, what they’re interested in and passionate about and you know, kind of creating a different future for themselves and their, you know, if they choose to have children it’s pretty cool to, to get to witness that is sponsorship needed forever for a child? Like how are we helping families? How of build sustainable futures? I know you mentioned savings accounts, if you could talk a little bit more about that, that would be great. Oh yeah. So yeah, our sponsorship program is not for everything. We just wanna make like empower those kids and families so that they could be in a better place than where they are like at the beginning. So, what we wanna make sure is like all these children are vulnerable children, these children are not an ideal condition that when they join our sponsorship program and our hope and our work is just to make sure that they’re like alleviated from that and has a better life and like for themselves and you know, like for the families and for the people around them.

So, our hope is usually it’s an educational sponsorship program so we make sure we focus on like them going through that like they’re succeeding in their education. So yeah, we help, and we also work with the schools and just checking those and like making sure that, you know, they’re attending the school and they’re taking everything that they want to take like to help them get to that dream and where they want to be. And yeah, our sponsorship programs stops once they are have graduated once they’re in a better place, one they have like, you know, like a sustainable job where their life is changing and that’s what we want to see and like what we want see is like their dreams coming true and just like for them to be happy and like for us. Yeah, that makes it happy. And I think that’s where we are and that’s where like with when we are looking for sponsors, just like making sure like yeah like sponsors are being like they’re able to help these children achieve where they want to be. Yeah, absolutely. So, you, you shared some kind of stories and impacts that you’d seen but like kind of looking at, you know, the group of kids sponsored as a whole, like what kind of outcomes do you often see for kids who receive sponsorship support? Yeah.

Oh yeah, we, we definitely see a lot of differences between children that are being sponsored and not sponsored and especially in like in Oria region, the projects that we did, we work with two schools, which is in the g nono and Gja area and I had the opportunity to meet with the like school director and like just try to like ask like what is the difference and like since like we started sponsoring like the skits, what differences have you seen? And definitely what we have observed even with them and with the others is also is like the, the dropout rate has been significantly decreased and from what they told us is like from the year that we, cause we started working with them in 2001 and prior year they had about 132 kids dropped out of school and the next year, like since after that sponsorship started, that number has dropped to only 29. So that’s wow. Significant and that’s huge and you can definitely see that how sponsorship is making impact on that and also since the kids are able to receive support, they’re able to, you know, have some to at home they are better focused when they come to school. Yeah. So, you can definitely like see that and, and I think and also they do good in their exams and also like passing like from one grade to another grade.

So yeah, you could definitely see that like that passing grade has also increased and yeah, their scores have increased so you can definitely see that like the sponsorship is making impact on their future and yeah. And on their education. That’s so awesome to hear. Not to talk about the negative side of things but for kids who aren’t able to receive that support, what kind of, what, what’s, what does the future hold? It is, yeah it is very like tough even like to hear that cuz you know, to see the difference cuz you, we from the school, what we’ve been told and even from the things that we see is like we see like multitude dozens and dozens of children, which are hundreds of children being on the streets, being addicted, being abused, yeah. And all of that. And not having that future and like when it comes like their late first school then also, you know, like that they continue to be like engaged in different like criminal activities and things like that. So yeah, definitely there is like a future impact within the community in their life, like when they’re not able to attend school. So, you definitely can see like how children that are sponsored are being empowered to, to kind of lead like a better life in the future and have like just their dreams come true. Well over here is like they’re not able to go to school.

Like there is no means of transportation, there is no means of like school supplies and like Yeah. And they’re being recruited and taken advantage of by like, you know, different people and like you get to see and like it’s very like evident. Like especially when you go there you get to like see and experience those things. So there, there it has a huge difference and like sponsoring one child, like have this huge difference in that child’s life. Yeah, absolutely. That’s a pretty stark difference. So, after listening to this, if someone is like, man that is an amazing impact, I wanna get involved in this, what do they do? Oh yeah, that’s definitely a great question and it could definitely make a difference. I mean we currently even have a lot of children that are waiting to be sponsored and if they want to take action and that, that would be wonderful cause they’d be changing like this children’s life like and impacting not just the child but also the entire family. So, they hire yeah, we have an opportunity for them to be part of this and just like making a difference in this children’s life. It other, you know, these children has probably not a lot of opportunities like to continue and like to like for them to achieve their dreams and to get to where they want to be. Okay.

So, I think we have a chance here and like our goal would be is like companies like sponsor a child and just be part of like making impact in natural’s life and in their family’s life and in in their future. Yeah. And something that’s cool about this program is it’s a one-to-one sponsorship program so you are the only person sponsoring that child and having that direct impact on their life and it’s kind of a fun thing to get kids involved with. We have, you know, some little bios and a little photo of kids that are in need of sponsorship and so you can, you know, pick a child who’s the same age as your children or you know, have kids help in, you know, selecting who you’d like to sponsor support. You really can’t go wrong. Every kid is amazing, and they all need your help. So yeah. Head door, website and sign up today. Yes. Make a difference. Yeah, definitely. I think yeah, you can definitely go to the website, make a difference in the child’s life. If you haven’t sponsored, then you have an opportunity to sponsor and if you’re already also a sponsor there’s an opportunity to sponsor more kids in there and just yes. Be part of like yeah, many children’s life.

So yeah, we advocate for these children, and we invite you to kind of come along with these children and yeah, we’re grateful and thank Yeah, thank you for your support. Yeah, thank you for your support. It really, really makes a huge difference. Thank you so much for joining us Amanuel, it was great to talk to you and I hope that people listen to this and sponsor more kids. Thank you so much Melissa, for having me and yeah, for letting me speak on sponsorship and yeah, I’m excited about this. That was Amanuel Roba, AGCI’s Associate Director of Sponsorship. If you would like to sponsor a child, it’s easy to get started. Just head to our website and make a difference in a child’s life for just $40 a month.

Thanks for listening to Together by AGCI. As always, if you liked what you heard, please rate or review us wherever you listen to podcasts. If you’d like to read or watch even more stories, check out our website, Reach out to us and let us know what you think on Instagram @allgodschildreninternational or email us at We look forward to sharing another story of hope the next time we’re together. We’ll talk to you soon.