[Update on Feb. 5, 10:15am]: This article has been updated with World Vision Hong Kong's statement issued on Feb. 3.
A person from Hong Kong raised suspicions about World Vision Hong Kong's "Sponsor a Child" programme after the photos of the child she was supposedly sponsoring appeared to be identical over a few years, Oriental Daily News reported.
Photos of child sent in 2018 and 2021 were identical
In a Friday (Jan. 29) post on Facebook that has since been shared more than 7,400 times, the donor, surnamed Lau, highlighted the photos she had received from World Vision Hong Kong.
The photos, which were sent annually, were supposed to update her on the growth and development the Ethiopian child she has been sponsoring since 2018.However, she claimed that in two separate years, she received identical photos of the child, named Natnael Tadele, that were supposedly taken when he was 16 and 17 years old.
Here's the photo of Tadele that she received when he was 16 years old:
And here's the photo she received when Tadele was 17 years old:
The photo of the child she received in 2019 also appeared to be much younger than Tadele.
She said the child in the 2019 photo even appeared to be a completely different person form the child in the 2018 photo.
Here's the photo she received in 2018:
And here's the photo she got in 2019, which depicted a boy who appeared to be much younger than Tadele:
Furthermore, Lau pointed out that the photo of Tadele that World Vision Hong Kong sent in 2021 appeared to be identical to the one she received back in 2018.
Here's the photo she received in 2021:
Remarking on the similarities between both photos, she said: "The clothes, the tree in the backdrop, and even the book he's holding all appear to be the same."
Thinking that she had been scammed, Lau said she had wanted to withdraw from the sponsorship programme, but did not make it in time within office hours.
Post garnered empathy from commenters
Several commenters empathised with Lau, with some even recounting similar experiences with World Vision Hong Kong.
A commenter also said a letter he received from the child he was sponsoring broke his heart when he saw that the child had initially written in pencil that his whole family had not benefited from the programme for many years.
But that part was erased, and the child wrote "Merry Christmas" instead, he said.
According to the homepage of World Vision Hong Kong, it costs HK$3,240 (S$555) to sponsor a child for a year.
World Vision Hong Kong apologised for "confusion"
World Vision Hong Kong told HK01 on Sunday, Jan. 31, that it has apologised "sincerely" to Lau for the confusion over the "processing of the photos", saying it has failed to attach updated pictures of Tadele when it emailed Lau in 2018 and 2019 to ask for her birthday wishes to the child.
As for the 2019 report on the child's situation, the humanitarian aid and advocacy group said it was sent directly by the Ethiopian office to the donor.
They added that they have already followed up with the staff in Ethiopia on Tadele's updated situation, and that they would notify Lau once they receive a response.
Tadele thanked his sponsor
Following the attention Lau's Facebook post received, World Vision Hong Kong released another statement on Wednesday, Feb. 3, to apologise for the "human error" in Tadele's annual progress report in 2019, where they attached another sponsored child's picture by mistake.
World Vision Ethiopian staff visited Tadele as well, who was filmed thanking his sponsor.
He said: "Because of your support, I hope I will be successful in the future."Yordanos Berger, Programme Manager of World Vision Ethiopia, added that the organisation has been improving the procedures of handling sponsored children's photos and personal data in a" digitalised and centralised manner", which will prevent similar human errors from happening.
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Top image via Ahyo Lau/Facebook