“If you want to get young people involved – inform us, engage us, show us, then give us interesting opportunities to do something and not just give money. My time is my money! My role in fighting poverty is to raise awareness, helping change the mindsets of others, and empowering those around me.” Dawn is a 19-year-old Londoner: her words have left a vivid impression on me, nearly a year after I met her.
Dawn was one of more than 100 young people I interviewed on a four-month learning journey during 2019, which took me to five different countries. In crowded restaurants, on living room couches and over more cups of coffee than I can count, I listened. I wanted a deeper understanding of the ‘new generation’ of potential and current supporters of Compassion International (the child sponsorship organisation I work for). I wanted to find out: What motivates this younger generation toward making a positive impact in the world? Where does their faith come into play? What do young people know about vulnerable children and youth globally, and how could we serve together?
What I learned through the journey encourages my heart. As poverty, injustice and disease are on the rise, a compassionate generation is also rising. And they are ready for their voice to be heard.
A generous generation
Today’s young people are often referred to as the ‘Me, Me, Me generation’. However, I’ve discovered a generation putting their own mark on generosity and sacrifice. Young people like Dawn. Her genuine care and passion for those in need captivated me: “I have always felt called to help children in need. When kids get sick it’s different than an adult getting sick; it feels more urgent. When I was 12 my family found out baby twins in Minsk were in need of urgent medical need, so I decided I would give all of my birthday money towards helping them get the medical treatment they needed.”
Many of the young people I spoke to felt the same as Dawn. They see ‘generosity’ as more than sacrificially giving money. They believe in charity in action, showing a readiness to give more of themselves – time, talent, voice and money – as a way to make a difference.
Perhaps their generosity isn’t as easily recognised because it’s playing itself out in many unconventional ways: through activism on social networks, creating content to influence their YouTube subscribers, or spending their money on Fairtrade clothing brands. But this new generation does also give financially. According to a 2018 report, The Next Generation of UK Giving, more than 19 million millennial (25–39) and Gen Z (16–24) donors gave £4.9bn to more than 5,000 charities in 2017.
Supporting young people through sponsorship
Compassion International is one of the charities young people have been giving to. It exists to help create a world in which all children have the opportunity to thrive. Sponsorship allows donors all over the world to connect with children and youth through a one-on-one relationship that involves writing letters to one another.
I began sponsoring Ocheng Livingston, a 19-year-old man from Uganda, when I was a junior in college – and he was only three years old. Through letters and prayers, we’ve walked 16 years of life together. During those years, I’ve finished school, started my career and got married. And I’ve watched Ocheng blossom into a promising young man, using his talents on a national football team and pursuing his goal of becoming a lawyer.
A generation reaching out
In a world desperate for hope, Jesus is revealing himself in and through this new generation. Throughout the Bible, God uses young people to shape the hearts and minds of his people and to tackle the growing needs of the world. I see him doing that again, through young people like Dawn and Ocheng. As members of this new generation, they are sharing the love of Jesus by leading us into a lifestyle full of love in action. We should be cheering them on – and following their example.
WORLDWIDE YOUTH IN MISSION
Young people all over the world – including sponsored children – are getting involved in supporting others during the current global pandemic. Here are just a few examples:
Music against Covid-19
In Togo, Cheickna is using his quarantine time to work on his gift of music, writing songs that spread hope and joy. Without instruments at home, he visits Compassion’s local church partner to access their musical instruments.
Blessed to be a blessing
In Indonesia, Putri has always felt moved to help the beggars in her city. When a gift arrived from her sponsor, Putri donated the money to prepare 50 meals for the vulnerable, despite her own family’s uncertain situation due to the pandemic. “I learned that I don’t need to wait until I have much money to help others. I always can start with the small amount I have. The essential thing is that I give with all of my heart.
Frontline medical student
In El Salvador, Ingrid is studying medicine through a Compassion-funded scholarship. When Covid-19 hit, she immediately joined the frontline, attending to patients with respiratory complications and providing prevention consultations. “As a team we face obstacles, but I put all my faith in God who is in control of everything. This crisis has given me opportunities to share my faith with some coworkers and sometimes patients.”