Monday, March 15, 2010

Compassion? Or Something Else?

I've spent the last week reading the blogs of the men and women on the Compassion trip to Kenya, Africa. The beautifully written blog posts- published in Africa while they were living the experience- are hard to not be moved by. And the photos are haunting, riveting, heartbreaking. Everything was so fresh and raw and honest and horrible and beautiful.

And so I keep trying to turn away, because I'm not sure what to do to help.

Sponsoring a child (or three) would be the obvious choice. But sponsor through which program? I know the most about Compassion now, and I'm impressed with them as an organization. I like that their goal is to empower the people: education, skills training, etc. I like that the money and help is specific to each family's needs. I like that there is no requirement for religious participation and/or conversion. I like that the Compassion employees are all native Kenyans.

But I'm scared to death of Christian Fundamentalists. Scared. To death. Honestly, they've given Christians everywhere a bad name. Specifically, Focus on the Family, George W. Bush, Pat Robertson, and all of those political pundits that also gather Fudies by the hordes. All of it. Makes me want to puke, shout, scream, holler, become violent, and not identify myself as a Christian.

So while Compassion itself seems like a MIGHTY organization, the fact that so many Fundies associate with it makes me worried. Not that their works are not still doing good, regardless of who's backing them. But I'm not sure I want my heart and my dollars to back them.

But perhaps that's just ridiculous too? Maybe there are other organizations that would be a better match for my personal beliefs? But what these hypothetical organizations DOING with my money? With Compassion, at least, I feel like I know where and how the money is spent...

Do you help the poorest of the poor? Or do you focus on the people that need just a little boost to get back on their feet, so that they don't join the poorest of the poor, creating a cycle?

And then there's the issue of WHERE to help people. There are people suffering everywhere... should my money and efforts stay in Tiny Town? In my state? In my own country?

I don't think I have strong feelings about this either way, but I also don't feel like I'm savvy enough about poverty, relief organizations, solutions, etc to form an educated decision.

Plus, $38/month seems so... pathetic. I mean, I feel SELFISH GIVING only $38/month. Which is silly, because is GIVING, but still. We can't afford to sponsor 10 children (though 3 seems reasonable, since we have 3 children) without making major lifestyle changes... but maybe we need to make major lifestyle changes! Why should we have so MUCH (so much, in fact, that I threw out 2 garbage bags full of junk this weekend) when others don't even have a single drop of clean water?

I guess I think that helping people wherever is better than not helping. And helping a little is better than nothing. And I guess, if pushed, I'd say that helping wherever your heart is being pulled is the "right" place to help...

Right now, my heart is being pulled to Kenya.

But you can see the mental spiral I'm in, right? So how do I get out of it and DO something, ANYTHING? Because I'm feeling frozen at the moment. Fro. zen.

None of this is articulate or even making much sense. But it's accurate in that it's exactly how my brain feels: swirling with all of these jumbled thoughts and emotions. Confused. Conflicted. Wanting to help. Wanting to turn away.


Joanne said...

I sponsor one child through Compassion, and I get a lot out of it - so much so that I feel like I'm not giving anything. I am a Catholic, so not exactly the same kind of Christian that is ... drawn to? ... I don't know what to call it so I'll say drawn to Compassion, but I don't care. I just wanted to get started and do it and I'm glad I did. If you're drawn to it, dewit! You'll be happier by doing it than sadder if you didn't.

Swistle said...

Ack, I know, I think this way too. I think you've hit on it when you say that doing a little and feeling bad about it is better than doing nothing and feeling bad about it. Cancel out the part that's on both sides of the equation. And definitely go with what you're drawn to: you can always redirect later, and meanwhile other people will be drawn to giving in Tiny Town, and other people will be drawn to giving in your state, and hopefully everything adds up.

Swistle said...

And here's your first step, if you'd like to be instructed: sponsor one child. Go online and sign up right this minute with Compassion. If later you feel funny about them, you can easily get out; if later you feel good about them, you can add another child and maybe another. But start by going to their site and signing up right now for one child.

GreenStyleMom said...

You hit the nail on the head. I feel just the same way. Sometimes I DON'T post things about religion on my blog because I don't want anyone thinking I'm fundamental! Maybe I'll go post that thing I wanted to post but didn't...

Anyway, I tend to donate to organizations where I have some sort of personal involvement. I like to give to Samaritan's Purse (it is a Billy Graham one) because my uncle works for them. I also give to the Christian Medical College Hospital because that is where I studied in India. Just makes me feel like I have a better idea of where the money is going. I also like organizations that don't waste money trying to get me to donate MORE money.

GreenStyleMom said...

oh - we also give to local charities, our alma maters, a couple environmental ones, etc, but I think those are the only two that assist in other countries

GreenStyleMom said...

and then I went and started ready the darn blogs, and now I'm smitten. I'll probably be sponsoring a child... I need to be "released from my wealth!"

Jess said...

There was an article in the Denver Post about how Focus on the Family has done a big push to get foster kids fostered and adopted in this state by encouraging their members to reach out in their churches. And they've cut the number of foster kids waiting for adoption in Colorado in half, and reduced the number of total kids in the foster system by about 15%. And that is awesome. And I was still inclined to look at the story with distaste, because I look at the organization with distaste. And I still do think that they are generally a terrible, horrifying organization that gives Christians a bad names, but it seems pretty clear that they do SOME good work.

Marie Green said...

Swistle: thank you, for everything you've said, and I think you are right. One child at a time. One baby step, feel around, let it wash over us and see how it settles, and THEN we can add more, or go to a different organization.

Greenstyle Mom: YES, I agree. I very rarely write about religion because I feel like "Christian" now means "closed minded fundie freak". I know that sounds harsh, but I really think that's the association these days. And I have very liberal views, and I feel very strongly about my liberal views, so I don't ever want to give anyone the wrong idea. Even though I KNOW "Christian" and "extremely liberal" can coexist, I'm not sure others understand that.

Jess: YESSSSSSSSS. Exactly. I KNOW those certain types of organizations can do good, and I know goodness resides in the hearts of some of the followers, but it's hard not to overlook that for the GLARING GROSSNESS. "Looking at it with distaste" is the perfect wording.

I feel so UNDERSTOOD by all of you... thanks!

designHER Momma said...

great post. I've choosen to give my money to Compassion for a few reasons.

I fully believe that my money is being used to help people.

We've choosen children that have the same birthdate (and even year) to my children. My girls write their sponsor children letter and we pray for them as a family. Our sponsor children write us back. It's great because we really feel connected to our child.

At the end of the day, I know we give money to help 2 little girls all the way across the globe out - but those 2 little girls give my family alot back as well.

I'm sure there are other organizations just as good as Compassion - but we feel really comfortable with them.

Cheers to you for feeling the pull to give.

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I've been thinking about this post since I read it earlier this week. I haven't heard of Compassion before and I'm going to go check out their website now (DANGER! DANGER! WEEPY SENTIMENTAL MOM LOOKING AT NEEDY KIDS! DANGER! CHECKING ACCOUNT BEING EMPTIED AS I TYPE!).

I feel you on this. My husband and I have decided to focus our charitable giving to have more impact (we give on our child's birthday to one child-focused charity and we give a lump sum around the holidays to one charity) and only give to other charities after talking it over with one another (to minimize my guilty impulse giving).

It's so, so hard to navigate this. How to give? To whom? When to stop? (=PARALYSIS)

Seester said...

Giving money is good if you have it. Thats why I donate blood, cuz I don't have money (and the free HIV, hep, and herp test- KIDDING). If you don't feel good about any organization to give money to, donate your time somewhere locally. I signed up to volunteer for the Red Cross (free background check, while I was job hunting.. again-KIDDING) but never got around to actually volunteering after my slate came back clean. The Red Cross seems legit tho. Its always an option. Good luck! I know what you mean by not really knowing what each organization is really about and what they really stand for. I always think the same thing.

Lawyerish said...

I have had this very same mental debate, and I think Swistle's approach is exactly what I would suggest doing. I think so long as the organization is doing good work that actually helps children -- which I believe is the case for Compassion -- then that's what you need to know for now. Down the road, you can always choose another organization to support, but if this is where your heart is leading you now, then go for it.