I added this to my bucket list without knowing too much about the topic of child sponsorship. I honestly had not thought much further than
1. There are children in need all over the world
2. I live comfortably and would like to help make a difference in someone’s life.
Beyond the seemingly simple act of wanting to help is a whole range of thoughts on whether child sponsorship is really the best way. When I mentioned it to husband I thought he would say ‘ok let’s do it’ but he wanted to know more. How do the children get selected? How much of the money gets to them? How do you choose a child?
All quite valid questions. I had looked at the major organisations and stumbled across a little girl from Peru. I now had a face to the cause and I wanted to know more about how I could help 5 year old Eliana from Peru.
I started thinking more deeply about the whole thing. There was something uncomfortable about going online and looking through pictures of people like they were items in a catalog that you could add to your online cart and check out through paypal. While still thinking about Eliana I decided to dig a little deeper.
I found that some organisations don’t believe individual sponsorship is the way to go. Rather they ask for regular donations to help the most important projects at the time. My search also highlighted issues associated with some in the community being sponsored while others aren’t. If a sponsor doesn’t write as much as another sponsor will the child feel unloved? If the sponsors circumstances change and they have to pull out; how will this affect the child emotionally? Other things that I would never have thought of include children having to write to sponsors out of obligation due to payments, and that there has to be someone hired to translate letters into the sponsors language. All of these revelations left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole thing.
But could I come to terms with giving without knowing where the money had gone. Would I have felt like I had made any difference if I didn’t know what I had done? Perhaps the best giving is one where you don’t get anything in return. But what would happen to Eliana?
Emotions can be a powerful thing and I would be fooling myself if I didn’t say that I really wanted to commit to helping her…if that is what I would be doing? I had no clue anymore.
I dug around more, thinking back to the time we spent in Cambodia on our honeymoon. We volunteered at an organisation that rescues and rehabilitates animals that have been used for entertainment, bile farms etc. The thing I admired about them was that they not only rescued the animals but they also worked with the community to educate and re-skill those who used to catch and use the animals. They would give the men jobs at the sanctuary and teach them to take care of the animals and they would teach the women trades such as sewing so that families wouldn’t lose their income and go back to the black market animal trade.
I wondered if there were any community based sponsorship programs that didn’t have the associated problems that single child sponsorship has. I found that some organisations work with communities in need to plan for community improvement. They then find families that are willing to participate in child sponsorship and the revenue from sponsorship is pooled to help the community as a whole. The sponsors get the ‘feel good’ factor by getting updates on how the improved community living has benefited them.
But was this a cop out? Was I really just trying to convince myself that would be helping, that I could make a difference…
One concern was that if we sponsored a child, the organisation would be more likely to get ongoing financial support for years to come while a donation may be a one off, or cancelled for the sake of another priority. Would sponsorship keep us committed for the sake of the community and the charity or is it a smart way for organisations to guilt people into giving for the long term.
All of these honest considerations conjure feelings of shame and embarrassment for the would be donor and the person who started out wanting to help someone less fortunate than themselves sits at a computer feeling like a shallow embarrassed mess.
At the end of the day, if it helps a community, a child or an organisation are any choices bad? Sure some could be better than others, some get more of the money to the real cause while others are criticised for using money on administration. But any organisation that is not properly managed will fail to help to their fullest potential.
I was torn between what I feel really should be simple. Take the money, give it to an organisation and trust that they know more about what best to do with it that I could after a few hours of searching the web.
At the end of it all I left this bucket list item unresolved for a while not knowing what I wanted to do until one night husband and I were watching a 4 Corners news piece on the food crisis in South Sudan. With tears in my eyes I looked at husband who also looked glossy eyed and he said “we should do something to help”
So I started looking again. I found the Global parent program by UNICEF. You give monthly donations which are used in the most needed areas to help address the issues surrounding infant mortality and maternal health. The money goes to things such as pre/post natal health checks and nutrition for mums, nutritional supplements for children as well as vaccinations etc. The global parent project aims to help children survive their first 1000 days.
Having just found out that we are going to become parents in the new year it felt right to us to help other children who aren’t born in such fortunate circumstances.
The reward…knowing that we contributing to helping others. And the sacrifice…one café bought cup of coffee each per week less for husband and I…