Sponsor A ChildI was at the mall with the kids today and we came across a World Vision campaign. Carl sponsors a child with World Vision and we have been talking with our daughter about “helping another little girl” for quite some time. We thought it would be a wonderful way for her to understand that others need us and that we can all make a difference.

She looked at all of the pictures of little girls in need and she picked one the same age as her. The picture was striking. And somehow looking at my daughter and knowing she was the same age as someone else’s deprived child really got to me. Of course, we sponsored her. Once I actually took the time to stop and look into her eyes, I couldn’t help myself. I know we can’t afford to help them all. But can we afford to turn our backs on the ones we can help?

Our Challenge

There are so many causes. In our family, we each have a small “charity budget” and we allocate it as we see fit. We feel that this helps us focus our dollars on the causes we want rather than simply donating to those who happen to ask. Still, as I browsed through the various Child Sponsorship websites tonight, my maternal instincts went wild. I don’t know how much longer I can resist these babies in support of other causes. This week we’re going to look into how helping these children helps the world in general. Are there better ways to help them? To help us all?

Will I re-direct my charity budget to sponsoring a child? We’ll soon know. One thing’s for certain, at the end of the week, I want to be able to look them in the eye.

Our Tale

This week’s research was all about Google. For those of you who’d rather skip the details, please feel free to go to Our Findings.

To Foster Or Not To Foster?

What interests me about fostering is that it has potential to change the world overall.  Last year, I read Greg Mortensen’s book Three Cups of Tea (co-authored with David Oliver Relin).  Not only was it a great read, but it got me thinking about secular education as the potential answer to world power struggles.  I mean, here is a man dedicated to schooling children who might otherwise be recruited to fundamentalist organizations simply because they have no options.

The arguments I hear against fostering are twofold.  First, I often hear people say that we should first help the poor in our own backyards.  Well, I live in Canada people.  I pay taxes.  And there are social programs.  Not that there aren’t children who slip through the cracks, but I suspect helping them would involve actually looking for them and then convincing them to accept my help.  Is a child suffering from famine in East Africa not equally deserving of my help?

Secondly, I often hear that children in some of those countries don’t actually receive the aid we send regardless.  From what I’ve read this week, it seems that this is a fairly complex issue.  There are organizations out there that are basically just scamming; however, there are lots of resources out there to help us understand which organizations are really making a difference.  (This Charity Navigator site was very helpful in analyzing the various charities.)

There is also the issue of child versus community sponsorship.  Clearly, marketing sponsorship of individual children is a lot easier than marketing community sponsorship as people (including me) want to connect with the little dears on a personal level.  We want to see and feel that our money is directly helping.  But, if I look at it objectively, it really makes more sense to support the advancement of the community so that they can become self-sufficient.  The old “teach a man to fish” adage applies here in spades.

Personally, I don’t really need my money to go to one child per se.  In fact, I’ve often felt bad when my husband sent his sponsor child something by mail.  I would think “What will the other children feel if they don’t receive anything?”  I suppose that’s all just part of life.

The Organizations

For me, selecting an organization is about personal preference.  Obviously, giving through a reputable organization is key, but there are also a lot of smaller decisions to make.

Individual vs community focus.  Since I’ve already discussed this at length, I’ll just say that I’m leaning towards community sponsorship.

Sponsor access.  Related to the topic of individual vs community focus is sponsor access.  Some organizations allow letters and gifts to be sent directly to the children.  I think this is nice for our kids in order to help them understand just what’s happening.  For me, it’s not necessary.

Religious affiliations.  I have to say, I take issue with asking children (or anyone, for that matter) to convert in order to receive help.  I feel that the profits in most religions teach the same message: give freely and ask nothing in return.  I tend to agree.  Having said that, many of the reputable Christian child sponsorship organizations do not force Christianity on the children.

Overhead and salaries.  The legitimate organizations share their financial information freely.  I like to make sure that any charity I support is doing its best to get my money to the people in need with as little overhead as possible.  I am not; however, a stickler when it comes to management salaries.  After all, I am compensated for what I do based on my performance – and I feel that others should be as well.  If someone runs a multi-billion dollar company well, charity or not, they should be paid for it.  If they choose to then give a portion of their salary to charity, that is up to them.

If you have similar criteria to me, here are a few charities that are worth checking out.  World VisionCompassion InternationalSave The ChildrenPlan Canada.

What Gives?

In the past, I’ve always opted to allocate my charity budget to children’s hospitals and/ or cancer research.  The former because I feel that I am lucky to live within reach of these facilities should my children ever require that kind of care.  And the latter because cancer has had such an effect on so many people that I know and I feel that we must be close to finding a cure.

The thing is, unless I’m really on top of it, it’s easy to forget these contributions until requested or until tax time is upon us.  I like that sponsorship programs are a commitment.  Carl never forgets his monthly contribution to World Vision.

Our Findings

Worth Our While?

After a week’s worth of reading the good, the bad and the ugly on sponsorship programs, I still feel that they are as worthwhile a way to help as any.

In the end, it’s really a personal choice.  I can’t stop supporting children’s hospitals because my own children’s health is the most important thing to me.  I know it’s selfish in a way, but I feel strongly that it’s right.  So, should I divert my cancer research funds to sponsor a child?  I’m not sure I can do that either.  Not for now.  Hopefully soon we’ll find a cure and then I can divert my dollars to another cause.

The one “edge” that I think sponsorship programs have over other charities is the learning aspect.  It remains an excellent way to teach children to give.  So, we’re going to increase our charity budget so that each of our children can sponsor a child.  It is, after all, a valuable learning tool for them.  And we’re helping children in poor communities get on their feet.  We hope they’ll have options.

As for the rest of my budget, I am going to leave it just as it is.

The Goodness

Every day, more than 30,000 children die of starvation – that’s around 11,000,000 children each year.  (Source: Starvation.net.  Not for the faint of heart.)  So, if 11,000,000 people each sponsored a child, would we end starvation for a full year?  I’m thinking it’s likely more complex than that.

But think about what a difference these 11,000,000 children could make if they grew up fed, cared for and educated.  They could establish stable governments, advocate for tolerance, fight disease, protect our land and water.  And help control population growth.  We all need to work together on these issues.  And 11,000,000 would be a good start.

So, whether you decide to give to a child or another cause, I don’t think it matters.  Giving is contagious.  Just give and others will give too.  Share the goodness.



Interested in our other challenges? Check out The Goodness Challenge.

Image: africa / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Just a small town mom trying to make the world a better place for my kids. One small change at a time.

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