Sunday, March 24, 2013

Let's hear it for the boys

I have a feeling boys don't find sponsors as easily as girls do. I haven't done any super scientific research on this theory, nor have I actually asked Compassion about it, but I've felt this way for a long time. On any given day, you can check Compassion's website, and there's about a 99% chance that there will be more boys listed who need sponsors than girls. Sometimes the difference between the two numbers is staggering. Today the numbers are a little closer- 1500 boys and 1300 girls. But still- why are boys hard to place with sponsors?

I have a few possible reasons in my head. For one, I think that a lot of times, women are the ones who feel driven to sponsorship. All the Compassion bloggers I follow are women (maybe it's just that women like to blog?) Whenever a married friend of mine decides to sponsor, then posts about it on facebook, I see the wife get all excited about it, but the husband doesn't say anything (exception: when my in-laws started sponsoring, my father in law posted a picture of their little girl on his facebook. I think some people thought they were adopting her at first!)

Then you have the fact that, let's face it, a lot of times the girls are cuter than the boys. The girls are more likely to be dressed up: pretty Indian girls in beautiful saris, prim Haitian girls with their hair in bows, the random little girl wearing a princess Halloween costume or a tutu....boys are less likely to be dressed up. Boys are less likely to be compared to pretty baby dolls or precious princesses. And when you get to the older kids, well, I think some people believe it would be easier to write to a young woman in her late teens than a young man. Maybe they even think that the women need sponsorship more than the men do- after all, we all know that, as James Brown said, this is a man's world. In your head you can imagine sponsorship providing more opportunities and being statistically more helpful to females than males. I don't know why, but I really think that's how our brains work.

And I admit, I'm guilty of this bias, too. I am well aware of women's issues globally, and I think that's a tiny, sort of noble reason for my bias. I also know it's easier to find girly stuff to send in the mail- sweet stickers, pretty paper, paper dolls, sparkly cards, and all sorts of other fun stuff. If you look at my Compassion photo album on facebook (where I try to convince my friends to become sponsors), you'll notice that most of the kids I have chosen to advocate for are girls. My first sponsor child was a girl. The first time I requested a correspondence sponsorship, I asked for a girl. I was told the wait would be longer the more restrictions I put on their search, but I was fine with that. I didn't think I could write to a boy. What could we possibly have in common? What would I send him? What could we talk about?

The second time I requested a correspondence sponsorship, I didn't place any restrictions on Compassion's search. I wound up with a 13 year old boy named Tae who lived in Thailand. He was a little grumpy looking in the first picture I got, but I received an updated photo within a month or two of writing to him, and he was a handsome, smiling young man. Tae's letters were smart, inquisitive, and frequent! His fierce pride in his country and his intense desire to learn about mine shined brightly through his letters, even though I could not make a lick of sense out of his writing (I can't read Thai! To me, it's all beautiful squiggles.) We talked about Thai movie stars, Thai sports and how they compared to American sports, his schoolwork, the drawings he sent, Thai customs and holidays...he shared so much with me. With each new letter, I learned something about Thailand. That led me to do my own research on the things he mentioned, and I learned even more. His letters had depth and character. He told me when he visited a dinosaur museum with his school. I LOVE dinosaurs (don't even ask me how many times I've seen Jurassic Park, because I lost count when I was about six.) I think I was even more excited about his field trip than he was! Tae left Compassion's program last year so he could work to earn money to help his family. Even though we will probably never speak again in this life, he holds a big piece of my heart.

My next correspondence child was Said in Tanzania. This time I was a little less disappointed when I received a boy, because I felt more comfortable with the idea, since I had been writing to Tae for a few months. I don't have a favorite sponsor child, because I love them all dearly, but Said's letters are some of the most fun to receive! This boy has so much love in his heart. He sends me at least one drawing with each letter. He gives his mama hugs for me. His letters give me a feeling that if I ever get to meet him in person, he will absolutely flatten me with a giant bear hug. He is always telling me to "welcome to Tanzania", praising his homeland. We have stuff in common, too. My hero, Jane Goodall, worked in Tanzania. Gombe Stream National Park, where she studied as a young woman starting in 1960, is in Tanzania. Because of my love for Jane, I knew some about Said's country going into our sponsorship of him. In fact, I mentioned Jane and Gombe in my first letter to Said! Since then, almost two years ago, I have received so many wonderful, love-filled letters from this boy, who so desperately wants me to learn Swahili, and is absolutely giddy when I send him verses in his native language (thanks, Bible Gateway!), who loves to draw me pictures and share Swahili words with his drawings...I love this kid so much!

I guess my point of this post is as follows: don't ignore the boys. I know that on the whole, they're not as "cute" as the girls. I know that if you're female, you may feel weird writing to them at first. I know it's hard to find stickers that appeal to boys, especially ones that aren't licensed characters whose popularity in other nations you're unsure of. But don't discount them just because they're boys. I have learned more about my boys' countries and lives from them than I have from my girl sponsor kids. My boys have generally been more exuberant, open and friendly than the girls I sponsor. It is completely possible to have a wonderful, fulfilling sponsor/child relationship with a kid who happens to be a boy. So don't count them out!

A bonus picture I received from Tae's center (that's Tae on the left.)

The very first picture I received from Said, on his very first letter to me. Don't ask me why the bus says "hood." And for the record, I have received about six or seven drawings of jam from this kid. I think that's awesome. Obviously he loves jam!


  1. I agree with you. I don't think boys are chosen as quickly. Compassion has chosen five children for me- 3 boys and 2 girls. I have had 5 boys and 6 girls though. I first requested a girl correspondent. Then I asked for a girl 13-16. After that I asked for a boy. So, obviously, I preferred girls at the beginning. But now that I have Juan in Mexico, Junior in Ecuador, and Mainor in El Salvador, I really love the boys! I love my girls too, but my boys have a special place in my heart.

    So yeah, I agree with you completely!! Thanks for this great post :)

  2. I really enjoyed this post....I agree with you. When I started sponsoring, my first was a girl. And then after graduating high school, I added 3 more girls. But then I started thinking that maybe I should consider I sponsored 2 little ones, because I thought that there was no way I could write to an older boy. Then Compassion assigned Oscar and Earl John to me....they have been such precious relationships!! They write more than a lot of our girls.

    I also notice the same thing as you about when couples sponsor, it's usually the wife who's excited and the wife who picks the kid....and usually they choose either a girl or a little boy. Except for my parents like to choose the kid together or let Compassion pick. And my husband...he likes when we are assigned older boys as correspondents!!

  3. My first sponsor child was a boy and then he aged out of the program. Our newest sponsor child is a young girl because I wanted to switch it up. Apparently, this is the same trend with adoptions. Girls are more likely to be adopted than boys and the waiting time is much longer for a girl. Thank you for writing this post and bringing awareness to the young men that need just as much love and care.

  4. Out of my current 24 kids, 13 are girls and 11 are boys. Pretty even.


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