I don't know how often I hear people say that foreign aid is a waste of money. People tell me that giving money to these causes is like throwing good money after bad. In a way, I can see their point. Oftentimes the money is wasted, and it does seem as if there is a never-ending list of causes. It can seem rather discouraging at times.
Well, let me tell you about something that worked.
Jhojan Camilo was one of the first children that I sponsored through World Vision. He lives in the community of EL PORVENIR SANTANDER in Columbia. This was the picture I recieved when I first sponsored him in 2000. He's a handsome little fellow, and as it turned out, quite a bright one too. He was a normal little boy, and did a lot of the things normal boys around the world do, except he didn't go to school and he couldn't read or write. Initially our communication was done through a World Vision worker in Columbia.
Last week I recieved a letter from World Vision telling me that I was no longer sponsoring Jhojan. My sponsorship was no longer needed in the community of El Porvenir Santander. Through World Vision's partnership with the community, it is now a self sufficient community, no longer in need of outside aid.
This is how World Vision works. The motto is "A hand up, not a hand out." When they go into a community they partner with the people and develop goals. The area becomes an ADP (Area Developmental Project). Typically, the goal is for World Vision to leave the area in ten to twelve years and when they do, the community will be able to stand on its own two feet.
El Porvenir Santander was a town without clean drinking water and sewage. Now it has both. Parents recieved nutritional instruction and are aware of health care practices, the children are no longer malnourished. Because of the military violence in the area, households were run by women who neither had the time or the means to send their children to school. Women were helped with this burden and those who wished to get an education were able to through programs set up by World Vision. Families who wished to establish a small business recieved micro loans. World Vision established a school where children not only learned the basics, but were able to enroll in music, theatre programs, sports and learned life skills. The boys now have options other than joining the paramilitaries or engaging in criminal activities. Farmers were given the means, education and improved strains to get much higher crop yields. This diversity in diet did wonders for the children and the community at large.
Much like the town, Jhojan flourished too. He enrolled in school, learned how to read and write. He began to write letters to me (which were translated from Spanish) and I to him. He eventually put me to shame, and began to write to me in English. He is not a little boy any more. He is an intelligent, articulate, witty and educated young man who will be attending university next year. Jhojan will pass on many of the things he has learned to the children that are coming behind him. He will be a leader in his community, and he is fully embracing the possibilities that life has to offer him.
If we could just ensure that our aid money went to programs that really helped to benefit the recipients, I am sure that there would be fewer grudging people in North America. While I no longer sponsor Jhojan financially ($35.00 a month - what a bargain) our relationship is not finished. We will keep in touch. I look forward to seeing what this young man will accomplish. When I really think about it, I'm not sure that Jhojan is the one who benefitted the most from our relationship.