Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Interview with Shaun Groves

Shaun Groves is releasing a new album called Third World Symphony with songs drawn from his numerous years working for Compassion International and leading blogger mission trips/tours to see the work that Compassion does in developing countries. If you want to learn more about how this album came to be, there is a brief video here. It's worth a look.

As part of the record promotion, Shaun is allowing bloggers to interview him and ask 3 questions. All my questions focus on Compassion's work, so if you want a background on what child sponsorship is, you can read about that here.

Switch Interview
Case {'Q1','Question_1'}
'Doug: Having been in several third world countries, do you ever
get the feeling that educational advancement is outpacing economic
development in certain countries? I’m not speaking about the value
of education in and of itself (my wife has a bachelors in
engineering and stays home with our 4 kids). I’m speaking of the
utilitarian quality of people being able to use their education
in the working world when they get a paying job.

Shaun: I haven't been traveling long enough to notice a change in
the value of education. So, I cannot answer the pacing portion of
the question. But I can speak to the value of education provided
by Compassion. In addition to receiving a standard education -
the kind I received, reading writing, social studies, science, math,
language, etc - child served by Compassion receive vocational
training. Every community, child and family is different. Some will
be able to put their science studies to use, go to college, work
in the sciences. Others will do the same with language, math, etc.
But some students will work as cobblers, repairmen, beauticians,
barbers, farmers - and for these jobs a basic education is
certainly valuable but the more technical vocational training they
receive because of Compassion's sponsorships program is priceless.

Compassion's aim is to develop the whole child, in part to
foster independence. In the cognitive and economic realms both
a basic education and a vocational training are essential to reaching
this goal.')

Case {'Q2','Question_2'}
Doug: How do the sponsored kids you've met refer to their
sponsors? I've heard many people refer to their sponsored
kids as "our kids" or "our grandkids" but that has never felt right
to me. I understand the sentiment, but the kids already have
parents, and I feel that would be a slight to their parents, many
of whom are working extremely hard to provide for their family in
circumstances I can't even imagine having lived my entire life in
the US. At the same time sponsored kid/sponsor, pen pal and other
titles seem impersonal and inadequate to describe the unique,
long-distance friendship that can develop over the many years of
sponsorship. How do kids you have met in Compassion's program
describe their sponsors? What sorts of titles and descriptions do
they use to describe the people and the relationship that develops?

Shaun: Almost every sponsored child I've ever talked to simply
calls their sponsor their "sponsor." But, once, when I was in
Ethiopia, I was at a Compassion child development center on the
day that a sponsor was coming to visit their sponsored child. A
party was planned with cake and balloons. And all around the
center were signs welcoming the child's "mother." It bothered me
so I asked the center's director about it and he explained that
in their culture caregivers are called "mother" or "father" - not
only the man and woman who conceived the child. So, culturally,
it was not at all strange that a sponsor, someone who had been
part of caring for a child, would be called "mother" or "father."
It was an honorable thing for the Ethiopian staff and child to do.')

Case {'Q3','Question_3'}
Doug: Does Compassion have numerical goals for sponsorship in
individual communities? If so, what sorts of factors go into
making that decision? For instance, does Compassion aim to
simply sponsor everyone who needs help, or do they aim for a
percentage of kids before moving on (e.g. 50% of kids in poverty,
etc.). Does Compassion prefer to spread out the help throughout
the many countries they serve or to saturate particular areas to
provide more concentrated help? What sorts of things go into
such the decision to grow a particular program or to start a new

Shaun: As far as I know there is no percentage goal. Each country
arrives at measures to define the poorest of the poor. Church
partners in communities where these poorest children live are
sought after. And once the partnership exists, Compassion staff
work closely with the church to locate and register the poorest
children in that church's community.

For instance, Compassion's work in India and the Philippines
began in East India and Northern Philippines where there were
more church partners and plenty of impoverished children to
serve. But the long term goal is to grow out from these regions
into Western India and Southern Philippines where there is also
a great deal of poverty but where there are fewer churches with
which to partner. There is no percentage goal that I'm aware of
in place. The progression across the country is a practical one
- start where there are qualified church partners surrounded by
impoverished children and as progress is made in these regions
continue that work but expand to areas where the work will be a
bit harder due to there being fewer potential church partners.')

End % Switch Interview

If you've read this far, I hope you found that helpful and informative. Thanks to Shaun Groves for taking the time to read and answer my rather verbose questions. If you want to listen to or purchase Shaun's latest album, that would be fabulous. If by some miracle you want to change a child's life through Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program, that would be even better.


Douglas said...

After some more reflection on Question 2 about how to refer to sponsors and sponsored kids, I guess the words work. I think for the the disconnect occurs when trying to explain the relationship to people. In our culture, people understand the various levels of emotional connection that are associated with social terms like mother, father, child, grandparent, aunt, cousin, friend, best friend, coworker and acquaintance. People, though, are unfamiliar with the term sponsor and the relational/emotional connection that is connoted by the use of the term. If I were more of an artist and less of an engineer, perhaps I would be able to explain to people the relational connection that exists between sponsor and sponsored. As it is, I usually walk away from such conversations feeling like what I've said was wholly inadequate.

Perhaps, though, it's something more easily experienced than written about. Love is often funny like that.

Kevin said...

Neat opportunity! Thanks for sharing this, Doug. I thought your questions were marvelous and quite pithy given their depth. I'm impressed Shaun did so well in answering them, too.

I think "aunt" or "uncle" might be closer in our culture for a loving, unrelated person. Uncle Kevin, that's me. :) Enemy Mine also comes to mind. Anyhow, your comment ended up nicely poetic. Well done. :)

Douglas said...

Kevin, Thanks for the encouragement. I do think aunt or uncle could be the closest word other than sponsor to describe a close sponsorship relationship in our culture. I have been called uncle and called others uncle in the same vein. Godparent could potentially work, too, though it is less common and has liturgical inconsistencies in some circles.

purple_kangaroo said...

Wow, I've really gotten out of the loop with the blogging world lately. We sponsor a child also, and I really enjoyed reading this. You asked some good questions, Doug. Thanks for doing the interview and sharing it here.