It’s a day full of excitement and happy chaos—the registration day at a new Compassion centre. Here’s a behind the scenes look at what happens when children are registered into Compassion’s program for the first time.

How are new communities chosen?

There’s months of groundwork that goes into preparing a local church partner to open a new Compassion centre.

Compassion field country offices have the responsibility of determining where to open new centres. They work with the local church partner to identify communities and regions with the greatest need.

Once a new location is agreed upon between a local church and Compassion, child development workers are recruited and trained. Pastors and members of the church’s Board are also trained so they have a better understanding of their partnership with Compassion and know how to best monitor the program. Once training has taken place, a mass registration day is organised.

Child registration day

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On registration day hundreds of children from the local community, accompanied by their parents, are invited to the centre. Sometimes there can be up to 400 kids!

The registration team is comprised of several members—some from existing projects and others from the Compassion field office.

They work off a set selection criteria to ensure that Compassion is reaching the most vulnerable children in that community. Staff may look at factors including the families current living conditions, employment status and how many siblings are in the family.

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Parents answer a set of questions that are designed to allow staff to get to know them better. Another team’s job is to verify and cross-check all the information that is gathered by the first team of interviewers. That is where the final decisions are made.

It’s a long day for local staff and sometimes a little overwhelming as they make decisions they can potentially affect children’s futures.

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Mawuko Amegasi, a Centre Director in Togo, recalls one hard registration day he experienced.

“On one registration day in Tabligbo, the poverty was so obvious in the eyes of both parents and children. I saw kids who were hopeless, starved and malnourished.

At the end of the day when we were about to leave, we had already identified the 200 kids we would register but there were still hundreds of them whom we could not enrol. I could not hold back my tears on that day. I had a sleepless night and kept thinking about those kids and their parents.‘’

Child profile photographs

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The last part of the day is taking photos of every registered child. It’s often the most complicated part. At the forefront of the teams’ mind is protecting the dignity of every child and sometimes this means children cannot be photographed in the clothing they came in. They will often borrow clothes from siblings or relatives, and staff also ensure they have spare clothes on hand.

For many children, this will be the first picture they have ever had taken! And so sweets are sometimes needed to encourage excited children to stand still.

Waiting for a sponsor

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Now comes the most important part of all for a child: the wait for a sponsor.

From the day they are registered, children will receive all the benefits of the Child Sponsorship Program. But the relationship with a sponsor and the encouragement they’ll receive through letters is missing until that special day they are told ‘You have a sponsor’.

Words by Bernard Gbagba and Rebekah Wilesmith.