Poor children overseas. Whose responsibility?

By Anne Lynam GoddardPresident and CEO, ChildFund International The results of a recent national survey sponsored by ChildFund International are … Continued

By Anne Lynam Goddard
President and CEO, ChildFund International

The results of a recent national survey sponsored by ChildFund International are heartening, yet also cause some reflection.

Americans have strong convictions about helping the world’s poor. Reflecting the tenets of charity that lie at the foundation of many religions, two out of three of those surveyed believe that the United States has an obligation to help children in other nations. When asked what our country’s highest charitable priority should be, aid to the world’s poor children topped the list, edging out assistance to underserved families here at home.

Most importantly, many Americans are standing behind those convictions. According to the survey, more than 60 percent say they have personally donated to an international relief organization that helps poor children. For individuals in underdeveloped nations whose per capita income averages under $2 a day, such donations are a blessing. Speaking as someone who has worked in the developing world, I know the difference that pennies a day can make — that this kind of assistance is often the lifeblood of a community.

But whose responsibility is it to provide and administer such aid? The ChildFund survey found no clear consensus as to the answer. Just under 30 percent believe that international relief organizations are in the best position to respond, while another 25 percent said it is the duty of the local governments within the countries receiving aid. Another 19 percent of those surveyed thought that developed countries like the United States should be responsible for such efforts.

Farther down the list – cited by 16 percent of Americans – are faith-based organizations. I was really surprised by this. After all, faith-based groups have a long and productive tradition of lifting populations out of the depths of poverty and providing hope to the dispossessed. I have seen firsthand the good work that many faith-based organizations do.

As the president of ChildFund International, formerly Christian Children’s Fund, I have sought to understand the often complex relationship between donors and recipients of aid. I wonder if donors worry that some organizations administer aid only to children of a certain faith, or that aid comes only with a measure of evangelizing. Our own experience tells us that the overriding motivation for giving is to see that all children living in poverty are receiving assistance based solely on need.

Although there is no consensus on who should deliver the aid, the survey findings certainly provide some food for thought. I look forward to sharing the results next year and seeing if the findings change over time.

Anne Lynam Goddard is President and CEO of ChildFund International

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