New Year's Resolution: Sponsor an Overseas Child in 2010

With the kids of OI Haiti in Jacmel, who have survived hurricane after hurricane.

But OIWW is only one option. Other options include the Afghan Child Education & Care Organization (AFCECO), Hope for Afghan Children, Children’s Hope of Sri Lanka, Asociatia Ovidiu Rom in Bucharest, and the Tanzanian Children’s Fund.

Luckily, many of these projects, primarily the orphanages, have child sponsorships available on one Internet platform – CharityHelp International (CHI).

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Children of the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization in Kabul.

Orphans International Worldwide accepts only ‘biological’ orphans, although most orphanages in the world have many ‘economic’ orphans. There are also projects for children with special needs.

Biological orphans are children who have lost both parents, or children with one parent dead and the other missing.

Economic orphans are children whose families simply can’t afford to keep them. In the future, economic orphans will be increasingly provided for UNICEF-backed “family care.”

Special needs children are kids who have physical or emotional impairments, or live on the streets, among a host of other possibilities.

The Orphans International Worldwide Family Care model, about to be rolled out in Haiti, maintains the family unit by providing for basic expenses (about $25 per month) to the extended family – aunts, uncles, grandparents – to cover the kid at home.

Orphans International can maintain ten children in Family Care for the cost of one child in an orphanage, in “Full Care.”

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Hearing impaired kids and staff signing the international hand signal for “I love you” at
Children’s Hope outside Galle, Sri Lanka, run by Carla Browne and Subodha Vihanga.
Studies submitted to the United Nations show that funding in family care is used almost exclusively for its intended use and is not squandered by the caregivers.

Sponsorship programs run the entire gamut, from organizations that feature Sally-Struthers-walking-though- the-slums to the following projects that I know personally and can vouch for:

Afghanistan

Project: Afghan Child Edu. & Care Org. (AFCECO)
U.S. Sponsor: CharityHelp International
Leadership: Andeisha Farid

Haiti
Project: Orphans International
U.S. Sponsor: CharityHelp International
Leadership: Jacques Africot

Indonesia
Project: Orphans International
U.S. Sponsor: CharityHelp International
Leadership: Bill Tenda, Mareska Mantik

Romania
Project: Asociatia Ovidiu Rom
U.S. Sponsor: The Alex Fund
Leadership: Leslie Hawke, Maria Gheorghiu

Sri Lanka
Project: Children’s Hope
Leadership: Carla Browne, Subodha Vihanga

Tanzania
Project: Rift Valley Children’s Fund
U.S. Sponsor: Tanzanian Children’s Fund
Leadership: India Howell

In general, CharityHelp International-affiliated organizations use 8% of funds collected to cover overhead (administration and credit card processing costs).

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Doffie Rotter in Connecticut sponsors ten children in Afghanistan through CHI.

I met retired psychology professor Doffie Rotter recently in Hartford, Connecticut. She sponsors ten children in Afghanistan through CharityHelp International. She has also built a library for orphans in Kabul.

Hope for Afghan Children is a group of ordinary people who have become child sponsors and orphanage founders through the work of the Afghan Child Education and Care Organization (AFCECO). Hope for Afghan Children’s website is their gathering place.

The goals for Hope for Afghan Children are straightforward:

Bring public attention to the plight of children in Afghanistan;

Further the efforts of AFCECO in providing education and a safe haven for Afghan children;

Build a support network for Afghan child sponsors and donors to spotlight fundraising events and opportunities;

Explore ways to pool resources, promote activities and brainstorm effective fundraising strategies; and

Encourage others to become child sponsors.

Doffie spoke to me over lunch this week about why she sponsors these kids. “Sponsorship is a lot of fun! To get on Skype and watch your kids have a party is just joyous,” she told me with a smile.

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Doffie Rotter with AFCECO’s Andeisha Farid, visiting the U.S. last summer from Kabul.

I have a personal relationship with real children in Afghanistan. I chose them through pictures on the CharityHelp International (CHI) website. I e-mail them, and they write to me.

Photos and short stories of the children needing sponsors are posted on the AFCECO and CharityHelp International websites.

And as soon as you begin to sponsor a child, you develop a real relationships with that child, exchanging emails and photos, visiting them via Skype, etc.

And the best part is that you can “watch” them grow and change from month to month and year to year. A real friendship, nothing anonymous about it.

The younger children get help from the English-speaking staff, but the can all draw you a picture or poise for a photograph.

“Where are you from?” “What do you do?!” The director in Kabul, Andeisha Farid, tells me her kids like to hear about the details of my life.

My family, my dogs, the birds that gather at my feeder when it snows. They are fascinated.

For those kids, dealing with us is such a strange, exotic, exciting experience. They may not grasp that my contribution feeds them, but they know me as their friend.

“How are you?” I ask them. “I am so proud of you! I send you my kisses!” These e-mails can change a child’s life as much as our money can.

The sponsorship money provides for safety, health, and education. In the long run, the warm personal relationship can mean as much or more, for both the child and the sponsor.

I feel a moral obligation to do something in this world. For me, particularly in Afghanistan.

The notion that you are doing something, that you are helping somewhere, is transformative.

I have heard that many child-sponsorship organizations send the same picture of the same child to many, many sponsors. Orphans International has 4-5 sponsors per child, CharityHelp International-affiliated organizations average four sponsors per child.

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With the children of OI Indonesia at Christmas in Manado, North Sulawesi.

CharityHelp International welcomes sponsors from around the world, including Italy and Spain, Australia and Japan.

Two Italian families have actually brought their sponsored children into their home for a year, attending the local high school – a one-way exchange program. These girls will return to Afghanistan. They hope to grow up to be journalists, professors, doctors.

Orphans International, like many sponsorship organizations, encourage their children to grow up to become a part of the local leadership necessary to move their nations’ forward.

“Many programs try to remove kids from their countries,” Doffie said,. “AFCECO’s mission is to keep our children in Afghanistan, because they love their country.”

“I think the personal relationship bridge is what distinguishes the CharityHelp International-related sponsorship organizations from others,” Doffie said.

Another child sponsor, Orphans International Worldwide supporter Ethel Grodzins Romm, has another motivation. “If we can keep one child from growing up to be a terrorist, we save so many lives.”

“Some 25% of all blow-up armies are comprised of orphan boys under the age of 14. In most cultures, kids without families have no identity,” Ethel told me.

“Terrorists can easily take care of that: Here’s a gun, here’s a uniform, blow up yourself and everyone around you, and go straight to Heaven. That’s identity.”

I wrote to my friend India Howell, founder of the Rift Valley Children’s Fund in Tanzania who I met here in New York years ago. What is up in your universe?, I asked.

Life here is electrified! The kids are beside themselves with excitement and anticipation. If volume is an indicator we have crossed the Richter scale by miles!

I think next year I will issue ear plugs to all adults as the kids can’t seem to speak below a booming volume.

This morning all the kids and volunteers will work together to scrub the Rec Hall and then decorate for our Christmas Festival. Every house will perform a song (practicing our public speaking skills) and then we will have a feast of Goat Pilau.

For some this will be their first Christmas here so the other kids (veterans) have been filling them in about all of our “traditions” beginning with a new pair of P.J.’s on Christmas Eve.

I learned years ago that the new P.J.’s mean that I have to have a new shirt or dress for each kid to wear on Christmas or we can’t get them out of their P.J.’s for lunch!

Thank heavens our container arrived. We have been madly pawing through boxes of donated clothes for the last week in search of a “new” something for 100 kids.

Wild times but it sure is fun to see those shining eyes and big smiles! Happy New Year!!

All of these programs for children around the globe discussed here are non-sectarian. None have hidden agendas, such as World Vision’s quest to lead the children in their care to Jesus, as the personal savoir.

These programs are all “normal,” even “liberal.” I personally know their leadership and can vouch for their integrity.

If you resolved to be involved this year, child sponsorship can alter your world.

Originally published in The Huffington Post, December 31, 2009.

About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

View all posts by Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.

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