I AM sympathetic to the position of agencies like Cafod and Christian Aid on child Sponsorship, but also have good friends who sponsor children in the Third World. Earlier this year, I was able to test both points of view when I visited Indonesia.
In the slums of Jakarta, I met a well-dressed teenage boy in the squalid shack that was his home. He was healthy and was being educated. He stood beside his prematurely old mother while his father lay on a bed within a few days of dying_ There was no money to pay for health care in the family. The smaller brothers and sisters tottering from malnutrition, came in and out of the doorway.
In another place, a mother eagerly showed off her daughter's school reports to me while the girl herself,. uncertain of her role, looked enquiringly on. There was no water or electric light in the wooden, oneroomed home. Father had been reduced to begging to support his wife and other children.
In both cases I was seeing sponsorship at the sharp end, and it hurt. I could quote a number of similar other cases.
As someone with children of my own, I was appalled at a system which produces such division and indignity within a family, while the causes of such suffering continue to go largely unattended.
It is, of course; much easier to raise money for the child than to fight the causes of the suffering. Even where some community development is added to certain of the sponsorship schemes, the children have been described as a "marketing medium to attract the interest of donors". I wondered if the addition is to divert the awkward questions that are increasingly being raised.
The arguments will go on. I have seen enough.
Ken Forrest Head of Community Education, Christian Aid, PC) Box No 1, London SW9