Who they are Organizations which exist specifically to help children such as Save the Children, Foster Parents Plan, Action Aid and UNICEF.
What they do They collect funds to help children - probably the easiest task for any aid organization. Children don’t raise any hackles for potential givers: they are innocent and cannot be held responsible for their condition; starving or smiling they always have donor appeal.
All this is rather dubious since children live in the same world as their parents and the same things which make their parents poor make the children poor. But since children at least appear to be above (or below) politics they are an attractive marketing proposition for organizations which want to help in the Third World without dirtying their hands with local politics.
The child sponsorship agencies take this proposition to its logical conclusion and virtually offer to ‘sell’ donors a sanitized Third World child f their very own. This is fine for the donor but of less help to the child who will wonder who this strange foreign person is to whom they display gratitude.
Save the Children (SCF) raises some of its funds in this way but it is also very experienced at running technically good programmes. SCFs in different countries are independent, however, and Cansave, the Canadian equivalent, has in fact been one of the first sponsorship agencies to have taken the courageous step of abandoning this form of fundraising.
Most of the other agencies like Action Aid in the UK and World Vision and Foster Parents Plan at the international level are persisting with sponsorship although trying to combine it with ‘community development’
UNICEF is actually an agency of the United Nations but it does get support from individual donations through national committees. The UN connection ties its hands as far as issues of social justice are concerned – it always has to work closely in co-operation with the local government. So its intervention has to be seen to be technical rather than political. But it has not held back on criticising large corporations and played a significant role in the campaign against bottle-feeding.
NI verdict All aid agencies help children so sticktly there should be no need to go to one specifically set up for that purpose. But if you do want to exclude adults you should resist the temptation to sponsor a child.