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* Mainly Palestinians refugees living in camps | ** Syrian refugees in Lebanon | *** Syrian refugees in Turkey

Sponsor an Orphan

Each day millions of children across the world face incredible hardship. Struggling to survive amongst wars, disasters, drought or disease – they all too often become orphaned as a result. Sponsor an orphan today and help transform the lives of children around the world.

…the person who looks after an orphan and provides for him, will be in Paradise…” (Bukhari)

For many orphaned children, the reality of poverty is a daily burden. Left wondering: where will my next meal come from? Where are we going to live? If we get sick and can’t afford medicine…will we survive? – every day is a challenge.

Deprived of much-needed educational support, health care and critical age-appropriate safe places to play and grow, these children are incredibly vulnerable and face a bleak future.

They need critical care and support – and that’s where Islamic Relief comes in.

Sponsor an orphan today.

Orphan Sponsorship: Providing critical orphan care

Here at Islamic Relief, we believe that every child deserves a positive start in life and the hope for a bright future. That’s why we’re supporting orphaned children affected by war, bereavement, poverty and ill-health, offering them the chance for a better future.

We build safe villages for children across the globe, providing clean water, healthcare and education. We protect children from dangerous child labour, we provide food security and critical psychosocial care and crucially; we also help carers to enter into work/increase their household income to provide long-term sustainable support.

Striving to ensure that these children are safe, protected and loved, we’re transforming lives.

We already support over 63,000 orphans around the world – help us to support even more.

Sponsor an orphan today.

Orphan Sponsorship Programme – FAQs 

Here’s a list of Frequently Asked Questions on the Orphan Sponsorship Programme that you can use for further guidance:

What is orphan sponsorship?

Child sponsorship is an effective way of giving that sets up a connection between a donor and a vulnerable orphan. The donor will receive an annual update on how their support is assisting the sponsored child and their family.

Is sponsoring a child like adopting a child?

No, it is not. The child you sponsor will have a family of their own, but sponsors play an important role in the eyes of the child and their family by providing funding so they can meet their basic needs.

How do you define an orphan?

According to Islamic tradition, an orphan is usually a child who has no father. The child will remain an orphan until the age of maturity/understanding.

Due to Islamic Relief’s humanitarian mandate and based on our extensive experience with the communities with which we work, we include children who have a father whose whereabouts has been unknown for two years or more, or one year for refugees and internally displaced people.

In line with the UN Convention for the Rights of the Child (CRC) of which nearly all countries are signatories, Islamic Relief has extended this classification to define a child as any human being under the age of 18. However, it is still possible to continue to sponsor a child beyond the age of 18 in order to support the education of an existing orphan.


What if a child in a community is not an orphan, but is worse off than the orphan? Can I sponsor that child?

We understand that some non-orphan families within the same communities may be worse off than orphan families, but we are unable to include them in the OSP at the moment. They may, however, be included in other Islamic Relief programmes, – such as livelihoods or healthcare or education projects – which can be supported through a one-off or regular donation. Donors can also contribute to a Children’s Fund if they would like their donation to go towards other children who are not necessarily orphans.


How do I sponsor a child?

You can sponsor an orphan by calling our supporter relations team on 0207 593 3232. A member of our team will be happy to set this up for you. Alternatively, you can do this online by visiting out website at https://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/orphans-and-children/



Can I sponsor more than one child?

Can I sponsor more than one child?


Where can I sponsor a child?

You can sponsor a child in 26 countries across Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and eastern Europe. These countries are:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Albania
  3. Bangladesh
  4. Bosnia
  5. Chechnya
  6. Ethiopia
  7. India
  8. Indonesia
  9. Iraq
  10. Jordan (mainly Palestinian refugees living in camps)
  11. Kenya
  12. Kosovo
  13. Lebanon (mainly Palestinian and Syrian refugees living in camps)
  14. Malawi
  15. Mali
  16. Niger
  17. Pakistan
  18. Palestine (Gaza)
  19. Somalia
  20. South Africa
  21. Sri Lanka
  22. Sudan
  23. Tunisia
  24. Turkey (Syrian refugees in Turkey)
  25. Yemen


Can I sponsor an orphan in the UK? If not, why not?

No, you cannot sponsor a child in the UK. We only offer sponsorship outside of the UK – there are 25 countries to choose from across Asia, the Middle East, Africa and eastern Europe.


Do you only sponsor Muslim children?

No. Islamic Relief supports people of all faiths and none. As signatories to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement Code of Conduct, we are obliged not to discriminate on the basis of religion, gender, race or ethnicity. It is our duty to support those who are most in need.


Can I choose to only sponsor a Muslim orphan? I would like to use my Zakat to sponsor a child

It is not possible to choose a child based on their faith. We follow the Islamic Relief Worldwide Zakat Policy – which has been developed in consultation with a range of scholars – and this policy states that it is permissible to help people who are Muslims and people who are non-Muslims.

Can I choose the gender, age or location of my sponsored child? If not, why not? I’ve noticed that other agencies allow donors to choose. Why don’t you?

No, you cannot choose the gender, age or location of your child. We wanted to ensure that orphans of all ages/gender/backgrounds would have the same opportunities of becoming sponsored and felt that removing the element of choice would be the best way to do this.

Can we sponsor a child as a school or group?

Yes, it is possible as a school or group to sponsor a child.

Can we sponsor a group of children or a school?

It is possible to sponsor more than one child, but it is not possible to sponsor a school because not all of the children in the class or school may be eligible for sponsorship.  However, if you do wish to support a class, school or project, we can review this on a case-by-case basis.

I don’t live in the UK, can I still sponsor a child with you?

If you have a UK bank account, you can continue to sponsor a child through Islamic Relief UK. However, if you no longer have a UK bank account, but move to a country where we have a presence, you can continue to sponsor a child through that Islamic Relief office. Do let us know and we will assist with this transfer.

If you move abroad whilst sponsoring a child, you should contact Islamic Relief UK who will put you in touch with the relevant team at Islamic Relief Worldwide or the local Islamic Relief in the country to which you have moved, so you can continue supporting the same child. Islamic Relief Worldwide or the local office would need to register you as a new donor and set up your payments

Is your programme really one-to-one sponsorship? I’ve heard that this is not actually possible.

Yes, the sponsorship is 1-2-1. Your money covers all the basic needs of one child within a family. The funds go to the guardian so they can spend it in the best way possible to benefit the sponsored child and their family. However, we are looking to reform the programme to provide more support with a focus on sustainable livelihoods.

Some charities to do a many-to-many model. Why don’t you do this? Isn’t this more cost efficient?

We believe that the Orphan Sponsorship Programme model is cost-effective and has no evidence to suggest that the many-to-many model is more cost-effective. However, we are always looking for ways to improve our sponsorship programme. We are looking at the strengths of the current Orphan Sponsorship Programme, and complementing it with proven livelihood components. It’s important that the majority of the people we support are empowered to become self-sufficient.

If this is a 1:1 model, how do you guarantee long-term sustainability?

The sponsorship programme has been running for over 30 years and is very popular with field offices and donors alike. Regarding sustainability for families, we link one donor to one child, but the family benefits as the funds go to the caregiver of the child (usually the mother, or a member of the extended family, such as an aunt, uncle, or grandparents).

We always attempt to link our sponsored families with other programmes Islamic Relief is running in the same country, such as micro-finance or sustainable livelihoods projects, so they are equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge to be able to support themselves in the future.

Don’t sponsorship programmes encourage dependency?

Based on our own experience and independent reports by respected agencies, such as UNICEF, we find this dependency does not happen in the overwhelming majority of cases. Many families use the sponsorship funds to invest in their livelihoods, such as buying livestock, or setting up small scale businesses.

How do you select the orphans who receive the sponsorship?

The sponsorship programme is for the most disadvantaged families in a target area. We must identify first those orphans who are living in a family with the lowest income. Limited resources means we must prioritise when selecting beneficiaries. We use an open and transparent process to do so.

Selection for Orphan Sponsorship Programme means choosing beneficiaries eligible for the programme based on agreed criteria, usually after a target area or community has been identified. The standard scoring criteria covers the following points:

  • Income. Prioritise those with the least income. Income relates to any money coming in to the household (i.e. salaries, pension, other sponsorship money, money from relatives etc)
  • Size of family and age of children, as well as disability. Prioritise families with a high dependency ratio (i.e. # dependents vs # breadwinners) and families with children and caregivers who are persons with disabilities
  • Housing conditions. Prioritise those living in the poorest conditions, especially those with families who do not own their home
  • Prioritise children with the poorest health status, including those who are malnourished
  • Double orphans are scored more highly than single orphans.
  • Families living in hazardous conditions (near wastewater drainage, unhygienic areas etc)
  • Unemployed mothers are prioritised over working mothers.

How does my sponsored child benefit from my support?

We look to cover the most basic needs of the family, in terms of nutrition, health and education. The cash transfer empowers the family to utilise the funds for their immediate needs. Based on our experience, sponsorship funds are life-changing for families, offering support and opportunities they would otherwise not receive.

If the orphan’s guardian receives the money, how do you know they spend it on the orphan?

Our front line staff carry out regular home visits to ensure funds are utilised correctly.

What information will I receive about the orphan I sponsor?

When you start your sponsorship, we will send you basic information about the child as well as a photo. If you are paying via direct debit, you will receive this information once we receive the first payment. This is usually four to six weeks after the direct debit has been processed. If you have made payment for the whole year via cheque/credit or debit card/postal order then you should receive the information within two to three weeks. We aim to send you a report on your sponsored orphan every year – this annual progress report is written by the field officers who are responsible for visiting the orphans and contain information about the child and the progress that they are making at school etc.

Can I contact the orphan?

You can email any letters and photographs to your orphan via the following email address: orphansuk@islamic-relief.org.uk. We will check the letters are suitable, remove contact details and forward to the relevant field office. Responses depend on your sponsored child. In some cases, the child or guardian may respond straight away; others may take several months to respond or may choose not to respond at all.

Can I visit the orphan?

It may be possible to organise supervised visits after gaining agreement from the local Islamic Relief office, the child, and their guardian. Please note that visits cannot be made directly to the orphan’s home in line with our Child Protection Policy, so the meeting is likely to be held in the local Islamic Relief office. Any UK-based individual requesting a visit will have to be Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) approved. You may only visit your child and their guardian once a year.

You would be responsible for your own travel arrangements at your own expense and risk and for providing evidence of a DBS check. You would also need to pay for the travel, accommodation, and food costs of the child and guardian if they had to travel a long distance and stay overnight in the location of the Islamic Relief office.

How do I write a letter to my sponsored child?

Letter-writing is an important part of your relationship with your sponsored child and his or her community. But instead of writing lengthy letters, we suggest writing hand-written messages on coloured postcards, so the family can put them up on their wall if they choose to.

We also recommend that you keep your sentences relatively short and simple. Please bear in mind that only a few sponsored children speak English, so your messages will need to be translated into their local language by our field staff. Children like to know more about you, your family and friends, where you live, what the country is like, what pets you have, what animals are in the country, what sports you like – anything that makes the connection more personal.

Can I call my sponsored child?

It is possible to do this, but there are strict parameters: the guardian needs to give their consent; then the child and their guardian need to come to the local Islamic Relief office – and the donor must cover the transport costs of getting them to the office. The call must be made to the office; it can last a maximum of one hour; and it can only take place once a year.

I’ve noticed that with other charities, a sponsor receives personal letters and photos from their sponsored child. Why can’t I receive a letter from my sponsored child?

If a child wants to send the sponsor any correspondence, this is sent to us electronically via the field office. We then forward it on, but the child is not obliged to do this. There may also be comments from the orphan directed to the sponsor in the annual progress report. We are working to make improvements to what we can offer to sponsors.

Can I send extra monetary gifts?

Islamic Relief no longer accepts additional monetary gifts on top of monthly sponsorship, as we found that when some orphans receive extra gifts, other children in the area felt left out. Furthermore, some gifts were unsuitable in nature or value.

There are many children who do not yet have sponsors; extra donations could be used to fund projects which support them. If you would like to make an extra donation to support orphans in general, we encourage you to give towards our Children’s Fund.

In exceptional cases – eg if the orphan is seriously ill and needs treatment or a problem arises with their housing– Islamic Relief will accept direct monetary gifts specifically to meet these needs.

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