Change a Life, Change your Own

Child Sponsorship, the Discourse of Development, and the Production of Ethical Subjects

by Peter Ove  

An examination of the ways that child sponsorship works not to raise children in the South out of poverty, but instead to convince people in the North that they are ethical subjects concerned about and aiding development

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  • February 2018
  • ISBN: 9781773630144
  • 188 pages
  • $25.00
  • For sale worldwide
  • Kindle June 2018
  • ISBN: 9781773630168
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide
  • EPUB June 2018
  • ISBN: 9781773630151
  • $24.99
  • For sale worldwide

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About the book

“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.

Biography/Memoir Global Studies & Development Sociology


Peter Ove

Peter Ove is an instructor in Sociology at Camosun College.


  • Studying Child Sponsorship
  • The “Myth” of Child Sponsorship
  • Child Sponsorship as a Fundraising Technique
  • Organizational Development within Development Organizations
  • Consuming the Child Imaginary
  • “Change a life…”
  • “…Change your own.”
  • Conclusion: “The Hard Sell of Little Faces”
  • List of Sponsorship Promotional Material Contained in Sample
  • Notes
  • Works Cited
  • Index


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