New Internationalist

Letters

Issue 114

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[image, unknown] LETTERS

[image, unknown] CHILD SPONSORSHIP[image, unknown]

Cartoon by R. K. Laxman. Friends, not patrons
To balance the sometimes doctrinaire criticisms of child sponsorship in your May issue, please hear a voice in support of its practical human value.

Most good-hearted but non-academic people in the West have little understanding of Third World communities and scant motivation to learn more. For them, it takes the fundraising work of such as World Vision to poke a hole in their attention.

For my family, it was the chance to help one child in need — and to keep up a postal dialogue — that did it. We became involved.

Later my husband visited our sponsored child, Maria Cristina, at her island home near Mindoro, Philippines. In sharp contrast to the Santo article (Ruth Seitz), he saw our sponsorship working creatively as an ingredient of a WV-funded community development project.

With the help of Filipino WV workers, the village has better health, better food, a surplus to sell and improving citizen-status. Maria’s mother, now trained as a health auxiliary, can support all three children herself.

We feel close to this family and their neighbours — as friends, not patrons. We now see sponsorship as a route into community development, not as an end in itself But it took a single child’s need to involve us.

Carole P. Hurst
London, UK

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Could do better
The criticism you directed at child-sponsorship programs was justified. You brought to our attention factors which make this kind of aid look destructive. In return I have three criticisms of my own to direct against your treatment of this topic.

1. The subtitle of this issue was ‘There are better ways to help.’ Where were they? Having shot down the one thing an individual can do and feel there has been some impact, you leave us with nothing.

2. On the page entitled ’The Facts’ you gave us much more than facts. You say of World Vision that it ‘is one of the most right-wing of all the international voluntary agencies’. You support this accusation, merely by pointing to its ability to survive in right-wing regimes. You’ll have to do better than that.

3. Your writers seemed ill-disposed to the religious underpinnings of some of these organisations. This was never made explicit. It was left to us readers to piece together from, among other things, examples of ill-considered letters written by sponsors to their children. Are they the failings of Christians only; or do they represent the failings of all of us in the west who are trying to reach out to another world? You may quarrel with their workings, but you’ll find that by far the greatest number of humanitarian organizations in the west are Christian or have had Christian foundations.

Douglas Ball
Mississauga,
Ontario, Canada.

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Hiding our heaven
Your issue on sponsored children is excellent, and documents many of the things which I observed when I was working on an Indian Reservation in South Dakota, USA, and knew some foster children.

I would like to point out one bit of ethnocentricity. Over and over the articles stated that a major problem with the program was the creation of new - and largely unfulfillable — desires and consumer demand; that the effect of the letters was to present a consumer paradise in the western world. The implication was that we in the industrialized nations can afford to live such a lifestyle while ‘they’ in the Third World cannot I think it is time that we in the industrialized West realize that WE cannot afford such a lifestyle either, and thus instead of stating that we must hide our heaven from the poor, it is more appropriate to say that we must wake up and change the way we live, and not advertise a polluting, non-sustainable way of life.

Without such a statement, the authors of your articles sound a bit like selfish rich people who have one way of life for themselves, and another for the rest of the world. I am sure that was not the intent of any of the authors.

Kate B. Showers
New York City,
New York, USA.

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The human factor
It is only because of the personal involvement that sponsors give so regularly and so generously.

Your May issue compares the differing forms of aid mainly from the financial aspect without allowing the concern, possibly affection —felt for the sponsored child to have any weight in the balance. Surely a caring attitude — leading maybe to understanding — from 1,000,000 sponsors in the West must have some value, for it will only be when the richer countries feel some responsibility for the misery of the poor that any lasting improvement will be achieved in the living conditions of the Third World.

Joy Roberts,
Sussex, UK

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‘CHILD-to-child’ explained
The reference to ‘Child to Child’ in your May1982 issue may have unintentionally given readers the impression that the CHILD-to-child programme is a programme in which children of the industrialised west’ sponsor’ remote children in the developing countries. In fact, the CHILD-to-child programme encourages children of primary school age, usually in the Third World, to concern themselves with the health and general welfare of their younger brothers and sisters or other younger children jn their own community.

I will willingly send explanatory literature to anyone in any country who asks for it

Duncan Guthie,
Administrator CHILD-to-child
Institute of Child Health
30 Guilford Street
London WC1 1EH, UK

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[image, unknown] LITERACY[image, unknown]

Cultural imperialism
Cultural imperialism is alive and well and living in the pages of NI. I was shocked by John Humphries’ letter (June 82) asking for English reading books to send to schools in Kenya. That the intention is kindly I do not doubt but the end result seems to me disastrous. Fortunately, the very next letter from Anne Forbes showed some awareness of the possible adverse effects. Language is the vessel for a people’s culture and carries their history in its structure. To encourage children to read English books when books in their own language are not freely available is to imply that their own language and culture are not ‘good’ enough for school. Also, given the grossly unfair access to schooling in most Third World countries, introducing English into primary schools means that the few precious years when the majority of children attend are partly given over to learning something of no use to them at all.

Effort and money could be far better spent in helping local communities produce their own books. The purchase of printing presses and training in their use so that local authors might ‘speak’ to their own people seem far preferable reading foreign authors in a foreign language. Tape recordings of local story tellers and singers could be translated into written form thereby preserving the great oral traditions of many people and creating reading materials which were already related to their lives. Why not send out a few writers, poets and printers to facilitate this process, rather than thousands of books which are, however unintentionally, propaganda for a foreign culture.

Patience Vince,
Charlton,
London, UK

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Renaming NI
I agree with Martin Wilkinson (March 1982) that a change of name for your magazine might add to its appeal.

Some suggestions:
Symbiot, Team work, Earthlight One World, Planet Empathy; Contact, Change!, The Real World, Humanity, Link, Meliora (which I think is Latin for ‘better things’) Sapiens, Earthscope, Free Earth, Espero (Esperanto for ‘hope’).

L. Clarke
Middlesex, UK

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Sri Lankan baby farms
I was astounded to read T.B. Peramunetilleke’s article on Sri Lankan baby farms (Update NI 109). It was a biased and misleading report. I have been involved in inter-country adoptions for eight years in a variety of countries. The children I have seen arrive in Australia have frequently been in a grossly deprived condition and some have died. These children were not bought, they did not live on a ‘baby-farm’; they were dying because they were ‘untouchable’ — unwanted and neglected.

I have adopted a child from Sri Lanka. Her adoption was legal: by Ceylon law and by Australian law. I know of 20 other children in South Australia that were similarly adopted: LEGALLY! All the children came from recognized orphanages, so where does the amazing (and dubious) figure of 9 legal adoptions out of 642 babies come from? And could the term ‘babies’, like the figures, be deliberately used to emote sympathy? Many of the children in Australia from Sri Lanka were not babies at the time of their adoption.

I resent the implications and feel I and other adoptive parents are owed an apology. I did not buy my child — I adopted her! Nor did I pay out $5 .000 — the whole procedure, including air-fare costs, came to $2,389.00. So could Peramunetilleke please substantiate the wild claims or at least explain why this type of article was written: it was not enlightening and it was most misleading.

Kathy Dancer
(former President of the Australian Adoptive Families Assoc.)
Mile End, South Australia

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Unstoppable volunteers
I would like to pick up Mr. Wood’s point made in ‘Volunteer Breakdown’ (NI 107). I too wrote countless letters to the charities requesting volunteers, but received not a single reply.

However, as I am going to emigrate to the Middle East anyway to strive against poverty and ignorance, I don’t need their organisations to guide me or provide for me. My advice is: don’t put up barriers between you and those in need.

Elizabeth Shaken
Glasgow
Scotland, UK

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