Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tax Refunds...Put 'Em to Work!

For the first time in a very long while, we received a fairly sizable refund from Uncle Sam this year. (I wish the same could be said for our state return, but oh well...)

We paid bills, socked some cash into savings (still hoping to make that new home purchase this summer), and treated the kids to some extra junk food while traveling to California last weekend.

Most significantly though, we were able to throw some financial support behind two of my favorite organizations: Kiva and Plan USA.

My daughters are excited about our family's sponsorship of a boy named Henry in Uganda, and also about being part of a group of individual donors helping to fund a microloan to a cattle farming co-op (also in Uganda).

You know what they say about teaching a man to fish...

Here's the canned blurb from the Kiva website:

I wanted to let you know about Kiva (, a non-profit that allows you to lend as little as $25 to a specific low-income entrepreneur across the globe.

You choose who to lend to - whether a baker in Afghanistan, a goat herder in Uganda, a farmer in Peru, a restaurateur in Cambodia, or a tailor in Iraq - and as they repay their loan, you get your money back. It’s a powerful and sustainable way to empower someone right now to lift themselves out of poverty.

...and the one from Plan USA:

Plan is a global partnership of caring people founded in 1937 to bring hope and help to the world’s poorest children.

Plan began as a child sponsorship organization. Today, we are one of the oldest and largest organizations of our kind—our grassroots, self-help programs assist more than 10 million children and their families in poor communities around the world.
We are proudly private, not for profit, and respectful of local religions and cultures—we have no agenda other than helping kids.

I love that both organizations emphasize self-sufficiency.

Perhaps more importantly, I love that both have a no-religious-strings-attached approach. I wholeheartedly applaud the wonderful works done across the globe by so many church-affiliated groups, but it's just not for me. I have a major problem with the concept of aid coming with religious conditions. Somehow it just doesn't sit right with me, any more than it would if I expected someone to become a Democrat or join my book club just because I helped them out of a sticky situation.

Simplistic? Perhaps.

I know a whole lot of evangelicals who would argue that feeding the soul is more important than feeding the body, that salvation in the next life is more critical than saving a starving child in this one.

Who am I to say they're incorrect?

It's just not my thing.

I say feed the kid, build the clinic, teach the mom to read, help the goat farmer get an extra couple acres of grazing something, strings or not.


Joannah said...

I think what you're doing is great. And it's a wonderful example for your kids about being charitable.

I've been sponsoring children around the globe for twenty years though an evangelical program. There are no strings. The children are fed, clothed, educated, and given an opportunity to learn about Jesus. What they decide to do with that is entirely up to them when they are mature enough to make a decision. Just wanted to point that out.

Michelle said...


I love that you have been doing this for so long. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time, but never was in the position to do before now.

I know there are quality programs out there, many of which provide religious opportunities in addition to the development and education work they do. I just had to be careful, in my own heart, after some things I witnessed firsthand in Haiti. A particular organization was very blatantly excluding families from receiving services when a cousin or other relative was rumored to have visited the local houngan (vodou priest). It troubled me that this was how the "business" of community development through a Christian charity was being run. I guess that's why it's been so important to me to find a program that was clearly non-religious.

I would love to hear about your experiences with sponsorship sometime!

Joannah said...

Yeah, there are bad apples in every bunch. Not knowing all the specifics, I can't make a judgement call on that situation. Perhaps those running the project were concerned about the integrity of their program, and did not want to be seen as condoning detrimental practices in the community. Just a thought.

I've been sponsoring kids in the Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, and India through Compassion International. They receive high marks from Charity Navigator. It has been a wonderful experience to watch these kids grow up, decide what they want to do with their lives, and, yes, become followers of Christ. I love receiving their letters.

I also support an infant in China through Half the Sky. Usually, after just a few months, they are adopted and then I am assigned to another baby. I'll never forget the second baby I sponsored. She looked like the Chinese Gerber baby. I was in love, and if I could have caught a plane and brought her home with me I would have in a heartbeat. The last little guy I was sponsoring before my current baby, was adopted by a sweet family in the Netherlands. They were the first family to contact me once they got home and to say thank you for my sponsorship. I never expected that! It was a great feeling to know he was so wanted by them.

Anyway, every little bit helps. I'm glad you are using your resources to help those less fortunate.

Joannah said...

P.S. Half the Sky has no religious affiliation that I'm aware of.