Guerrilla Philanthropy

Sneaky, sneaky Children International. Guerrilla philanthropists. They are young and attractive and they stand there at 5th and Broadway acting like they know you. They have no clipboards, no flyers, nothing to warn you.

So now I'm sponsoring a kid in the Philippines.

Some girl, who looked confusingly like my girlfriend in a knit cap and scarf and wool coat, motioned me toward her. By the time I realized that I did not know this person I had given her my credit card so that they can send twenty two of my dollars (22! I thought she said ten!) to a poor kid.

There are worse ways to be suckered, I guess. I would have liked to do some research. Is sponsoring an individual child really the best way to change the world? What about community based activism? But who am I kidding, I never would have gotten around to it.

I received some stats on him with a picture. He has this terrified smile on his face, like someone has forced him to smile for the American. He's 11 and lives with his mother in a concrete house with one bed and a wood burning stove. They've got electicity and running water but their "sanitary facility" is an "open field." (This Slate article I read about a year ago convinced me that sanitation is a big deal).

So maybe my money can help this kid a little. But now I'm getting these cloying letters from Children International about being "part of the family" and they sent a paper photo stand that says "My sponsored child is someone special." They're encouraging me to visit him someday, implying that I'm in it for the long haul. And How could I stop giving him money? Seems like he'd notice. I'm afraid they'd take back the mattress or toilet or whatever they get him with the money I'm sending.

I'm nervous about the letters they're going to force this poor kid to send to me. Do I have to write him back? I want impersonal giving. Not guilt fueled philanthropy in which I have to practically adopt a kid. He doesn't need me, he just needs my money and someone who knows what to do with it. I'm ok with that.

When some girl in a green jacket motioned to me on the street I blurted "I"ve already sponsored a child!" It turned out she was with Greenpeace. "No, I do not have thirty seconds," I told her, imagining receiving a picture of my special sponsored squirrel in the mail, and took off running.


Anonymous said...

OH MY GOD That is freaking hilarious and the very reason I talk myself out of sponsoring one of those kids when I find myself staring the World Vision website. I was just having this discussion with Lyndsey yesterday as I tried not to give in to a little girl from Chile.

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