Way back when our kids were small, and managing on a single paycheck felt particularly painful (I don’t claim it’s any easier now) it dawned on me that compared to most of the world, we were extremely well off.
I wanted our kids to realize this as well. Which would take a little effort, since from their viewpoint—compared to friends and acquaintances, that is—, our rental house and battered belongings looked decidedly Goodwill. (Well, they were.)
I wanted us to look beyond: to families who would view our threadbare sofa as a luxury item, never mind its tendency to leak stuffing when anyone sat on it. To children who would delight in the fact that yes, we were having beans for supper AGAIN, because they would be delighted by the fact that we were having supper at all.
(Bureaucrats call that “food insecurity.” I call it hunger, and no child should have to endure it.)
Not that our kids ever complained, though there were occasional comments about the minuscule size of our elderly television. They didn’t even ask for candy when we checked out at Kroger. (Well, they knew better: though I do remember my baseball fanatic toddler having difficulty leaving behind a certain big orange plastic baseball bat–in fact, I’m not so sure we left that bat behind when we left the store….)
But I had a horror of raising kids who took things for granted.
So I found CFCA–Christian Foundation for Children and Aging, and we began sponsoring needy children around the world.
CFCA—now called Unbound—works particularly hard to foster close relationships between sponsor and sponsee. We were able to trade frequent letters, photographs, cards and drawings, and through these and Unbound consistently providing information about each child’s country and “project”, we felt like we really did have children around the world: in our case, Africa, India and Central America. Children who were receiving education, clothing, health care, food assistance, because of us.
We’ve always sponsored one child for each of our own, and back almost two decades ago when we started, asked for children whose ages matched those of our own three. Because of the flow of letters, all of which I’ve kept in special files, we’ve been able to watch as “our” girls grow from cute little ones to strong, beautiful women. One child who was nine when we began writing to one another is now in her last year of college, training to be a lab technician.
We learned a lot about other cultures: our African “goddaughter”, for instance, lived in a mud hut with grass roof, her mother cooking in one of two pots over an open fire. I remember the letter in which the girl thanked us for giving her a new pot for Christmas, which helped put our home Christmas into perspective. A year or so later, she thanked us for the gift of a goat, which would provide the family with milk and cheese. (She wrote a few months later to tell us one of their neighbors had eaten it….)
We’ve always sponsored girls, because I had the notion that female education might be a last priority in some societies. I like the fact that Unbound maintains mother’s groups in its projects, and that the women come to believe that they CAN change the outlook for their family, that it nurtures community.
Nowadays, you don’t even have to have to buy airmail stamps to stay in touch. Unbound lets you send e-letters and upload photos. They also have a feature where you can go online and from pictures and a brief history, choose your own child, young adult, or elderly person. They have an unbelievably small administration/promotion budget, (A+ from Charity Watch) which means that almost all of the dollars we send go directly to our children and their project, and the monthly cost to us per child seems amazingly low.
Do I sound like I’m pushing Unbound? Well, I guess I am. I love getting letters signed “your loving child.” I love the fact that somewhere “over there”, another family is aware of ours. I love the fact that half a dozen girls–and their families–have had their lives changed because of us. I love that our eldest son and his wife have their own sponsored child now.
Unbound, which is working with over 300,000 sponsees in 21 different countries, has a waiting list of over 1,000 children and elders who have been hoping for sponsorship for over a year now. (Pictures of some of these can be found on Unbound’s website, http://www.unbound.org). I wish you’d talk with your family about the possibility of taking on another member….