Today in My History
2001: An "Art-ful" Day
2002: Nice Weather for Ducks
2003: Clear Conscience
2004: Is Alzheimers Contagious?
2005: The Long Commute
2006: Moving On
2007: Back at the Beginning Again
Midsummer Night's Dream
Books Read in 2009
"The Ladies' No. 1 Detective Agency"
Recipes for Cousins Day Drinks
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21 May 2009
In an entry of the Pioneer Women entitled "Typos...and Compassion," I read about her friend Robin and a trip that Robin had made to India with a group called "Compassion International." A group of five bloggers went to visit the poor of East India. The bloggers each sponsor a child (or more) through Compassion, Int'l and were going to see the program and meet their sponsored child. Their adventures are detailed here.
It reminded me of the years when we sponsored children through Foster Parents Plan and later Christian Children's Fund. I don't remember most of them now, but I remember Park Hyun Joo, from Korea, who was about 3 or 4 when I "adopted" her. I fostered her for many years, from before we were married until after. I got very upset with Foster Parents Plan because I got a note one day saying her father had managed to get a job, and my sponsorship was terminated. There was never any follow-up. I felt I had a many year relationshp with the little girl. I sent her toys and clothes and even, one year, a birthday cake (fruitcake, so it would make the trip and still be good) with "Happy birthday" written in Korean on it (a student at UC Berkeley's Physics Department was from Korea and wrote it down for me).
But I never heard from or about her again. Nor was there any explanation or apology from Foster Parents Plan, so it kind of soured me on the program. I realize that the whole point of it was to help the child, but when you interact, however superficially, with a child for many years, you'd like at least to be able to say goodbye.
So when I decided to sponsort another child, I went with Christian Children's Fund. Over the years we sponsored several children through CCF, but I don't remember any of them now. Mostly the sponsorships were ended by me, when we didn't have enough money to pay the monthly fee. Nobody in the family really seemed much interested in the project anyway, which was a disappointment. The kids were getting old enough that they could participate in writing to the current sponsored child, but that never happened. Eventually, we turned to other things.
The "other things" turned out to be sponsoring the other end of the financial spectrum, the foreign students who came through town on their "home stays," some for 3 weeks, some for much longer. It was only the rich families who could afford to send their kids, as a rule, but we kept them without any remuneration to us and it was, a handful of exceptions notwithstanding, a fantastic 10 years for us. I felt we gained far more than we gave (well...except for Riccardo and that nut from Manaus). We learned about other cultures, other languages, other foods. We made friends, some of whom are still friends today, 20 years after we first began the program.
I always thought during those years that this was the way to create world peace, by getting small groups of people from differing cultures together, one on one. How could we ever, for example, go to war with Japan again when there was such love on both sides of the ocean for the families and friends that had been made during the many, many exchange programs which bring Japanese exchange students to this country, and host American exchange students in Japan?
There were "down years" after The Experiment in International Living" when I was working and putting my efforts into various jobs and didn't think much about international relations.
Somewhere in there came the SPCA and fostering all these dogs we've had trotting through our lives, a project which continues (though not at the moment; it's weird to have only our own two dogs with us right now!)
Then, through Al Gore, I found Kiva, a group which makes loans in the amount of $25 to people in developing countries. They keep the loans small so that more donors can participate. When the loans are repaid, you can either take the money back, or choose to loan to another person. We've now made 9 loans and some are already fully repaid. We helped to fund a grocery store in Paraguay, a retail store in Benin, a general store in Azerbaijan, a movie, tape and DVD business in Bolivia, a clothing store in Nigeria, a carpenter in Ghana, a clothing and dressmaking business in Tajikistan, a food production group in Pakistan, and a farmer in Azerbaijan. It's a great program and the fact that sometimes there is a lack of loan applicants is a testament to the desire of people like me, who aren't rich, to help someone who doesn't have much and give him or her a leg up so that he or she can become self-sustaining. The old "give a man a fish and he'll eat for the day; teach him to fish and he'll eat for life" bit.
But then I started reading through Compassion International's web site and seeing all those kids who are waiting for sponsorship. I have to admit that the missionary aspect of these organizations bothers me a little bit, but missionaries are generally the only people who end up improving the lives of the people to whom they minister, so I'm more inclined not to focus on the religious statements..
...and concentrate more on how many kids they've helped and for how many years they have been in business....and that one child that I could help.
As I looked through the pictures, all of them endearing, I kept coming back to one, a little girl who had been waiting for a sponsor for more than 6 months. I finally decided to bite the bullet and sponsor her. Her name is Medam Anjali (first name printed second). She is almost 7 years old and lives with her mother, father and 2 siblings (it doesn't say if they are boys or girls) on the plains of Nandyl, an area of about 320,000 residents, in India. I have just sent the first introductory letter (they send you a form with about ten lines on it...can you imagine me limiting my correspondence to TEN LINES??? and decorated it with stickers I had made a couple of years ago, of the family and dogs.
But it's been a whole week since I sent it. I think it's time to write another one, don't you? I think I'll send her the photo of Lizzie jumping up on the front window and tell her about our crazy dog.
I recently did an interview with a playwright who has co-authored a play called "Rose Colored Glass." It's about an Irish woman and a Jewish woman in Chicago, neighbors who never spoke to one another, until he Irish woman's granddaughter got them to help her bring a young Jewish boy over to the United States to save him from the concentration camps (I will be reviewing this play this weekend).
This is from the article I wrote about her:
It's difficult to comprehend the vastness of the plight of people around the world. Thinking about how much need there is makes you feel helpless (unless you're Oprah, Madonna, or Angelina Jolie!). But everyone can relate to the woman trying to sell DVDs in Bolivia so she can help feed her family, or a little girl in India waiting for some "rich American" to sponsor her.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
MILES TO NOWHERE: 106 miles