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Compassion and the Sustainable Development Goals

How does Compassion’s work fit in with the SDGs?


Compassion and the Sustainable Development Goals

After three years, thousands of surveys, hundreds of meetings and dozens of international summits, in September 2015 the United Nations approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here are the SDGs that most closely match our work, along with ways they overlap and differ:

Children in Burkina Faso leaning out of door

SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere

Two superlatives in a seven-word sentence: there’s the first reason some are saying the SDGs are overly broad. Compassion’s goal is bold as well, but it's focused on children both because God commands it repeatedly and because it makes the most sense.

Our mission gives us the specificity and scope the SDGs don’t quite have: “Releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.” We believe (and independent studies have proven) that child sponsorship is one of the most effective ways to defeat poverty. 

Young boy holding chillies.

SDG 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Compassion is not a food-relief organisation, but in the course of ministering to children holistically through local churches, food security and hunger often must be addressed in order for children to develop and grow.

Mums and babies in our Child Survival Programme benefit from access to proper nutrition. Our RESPOND Initiative helps families grow crops for themselves, raise livestock and receive emergency nutrition supplies for malnourished children—and this just scrapes the surface.

Young baby getting a health check up in India

SDG 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages

Compassion’s approach to ensuring more and more adults live healthy lives is to start when they’re children. Our emphasis is on meeting the needs of the poorest of the poor when they’re most vulnerable.

Girls studying at desks

SDG 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all

Education is a cornerstone of the Child Sponsorship Programme: all Compassion-assisted children of primary school age are required to attend school, and Compassion’s partner churches, with the extra support of sponsors and donors through RESPOND Initiatives, provide these children with tutoring, school fees, uniforms, libraries with books and computers, and other resources, depending on what is needed.

We also provide a modern curriculum that is adapted for relevance in each country where we serve. For teenagers, vocational training is also offered, sometimes in conjunction with local organisations and sometimes directly through the church. Our goal is to ensure every young adult graduating from Compassion does so with a locally marketable job skill of his or her choosing.

Young girls in Thailand

SDG 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Boys and girls receive equal treatment and opportunities throughout their time at a Compassion project. But we know that in some parts of the world that is not enough.

A crucial aspect of our water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH) efforts, is providing teenage girls with supplies, safety, privacy and dignity so their transition into puberty does not result in them having to miss school a few days every month, fall behind in school, and eventually drop out just because they are becoming women.

Local church partners also work to educate parents and the broader community on harmful issues like child marriage and trafficking, in order to raise awareness of the dangers and help prevent it from happening in the first place.

Water pump in India

SDG 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

Every year, the local churches who work with Compassion identify the child development centres that have critical needs for WaSH interventions. These are funded through RESPOND Initiatives and can include drilling wells, installing water storage tanks and plumbing, building bathrooms, teaching children and their families about the need for safe water, and so much more. We know safe water is the key to avoiding dozens of deadly diseases and ensuring young children can grow up healthy.

We also ensure that every well and water system can be sustained locally: if a part breaks, locals will know how to fix or replace it and will train others to keep equipment running.

Solar pannels

SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all

Like some other SDGs, this one isn’t a direct aspect of Compassion’s work, but there are thousands of people all over the world—especially in rural areas of poor countries—that have solar-generated power because of interventions provided through Compassion.

Women picking crops

SDG 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all

Here, too, Compassion’s indirect influence boosts and sometimes even creates local economies in far-off locales. For instance, projects that provide greenhouses, cooperative farms and fish farms introduce the opportunity for families to grow valuable, marketable and sustainable food businesses that raise the standard of living for their entire village.

Our partnership with local churches covers other goals as well, such as SDG 10: “Reduce inequality within and among countries” and SDG 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.”

By partnering with 7,000 local churches around the world, Compassion works to combat these bigger issues, one by one, child by child, family by family. The local church is uniquely qualified to understand the real needs of its community and to reach those who need its care.

Unlike the MDGs, the SDGs highlight the need for holistic development, something Compassion believes is essential to the progress of the world’s neediest children. Through our child development programmes, Compassion loves to see children flourish in all ways.



WORDS : Jason Hackett

PHOTOS : Compassion UK


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