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“Change a Life, Change Your Own is a long-overdue adult discussion about how child sponsorship, a spectacularly successful fundraising tool, infantilizes both donor and recipient, turning good intentions into paternalism and reinforcing stereotypical Western ideas about helplessness and hopelessness in developing countries.” - Ian Smillie, author of The Charity of Nations, Freedom from Want, and Diamonds
“Change a Life. Change Your Own.” “For less than a dollar a day.” “For the cost of one coffee a day.” With these slogans, and their accompanying images of poor children, some of the world’s largest development organizations invite the global North to engage in one of their most prominent and successful fundraising techniques: child sponsorship.
But as Peter Ove argues in Change a Life, Change Your Own, child sponsorship is successful not because it addresses the needs of poor children, but because it helps position what it means to live ethically in an unequal and unjust world. In this way, child sponsorship is seen as more than an effective marketing tool; it is a powerful mechanism for spreading particular ideas about the global South, the global North and the relationship between the two. Through sponsorship, the desire to raise money, secure “appropriate” childhoods, and become better people ends up taking priority over the goal of living together well on a global scale.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with child sponsors and sponsorship staff, Change a Life, Change Your Own explores the contexts in which sponsorship promotional material is produced, interpreted and acted upon. This is not an exposé on the use of sponsorship dollars or high administrative costs; it is a clearly written and compelling account of how the problem of development is constructed such that child sponsorship is seen to be a rational and ethical solution.