Gopinath lives in India.
When we started sponsoring him through CFCA, he was about 12 years old. He is now 17 and a senior in high school.
In a recent letter (our family and Gopinath correspond regularly), he said he was preparing for government examinations. If he does well, he wrote that he is planning to enter medical college.
Something his poverty racked country needs considerably more of, doctors.
Gopinath also wrote that he continues to play soccer with his friends as much as he can. And he regularly does extra-curricular things with the CFCA staff.
During a recent holiday, for instance, the CFCA coordinator took Gopinath, and several other youth, on an excursion to visit a Catholic Shrine.
Gopinath often talks about his Catholic faith in his letters. It is apparent that it has become quite important to him.
CFCA has become important, if not a life line, to him as well.
He wrote that CFCA provided money to buy clothes at Christmas and pay his school fees. He also wrote that he receives CFCA money for family expenses and some of this money also paid for medical bills when he was recently sick.
Our family reads these letters with interest. And our kids refer to Gopinath as their older brother.
We, in turn, write Gopinath letters back. With these correspondences, we also send pictures and drawings.
Gopinath has, indeed, become family. We pray for him often.
As the Catholic faith is important to Gopinath, the Catholic faith is important to us. And part of that faith calls us into a deeper relationship with those less fortunate.
The Third World is teeming with those who are less fortunate, I recently told Channel 10 News in Albany, Georgia. (Just prior, we had toured Habitat for Humanitys Third World mock Slum Village in Americus, Georgia.)
The poverty depicted here is staggering.
And we believe the response to this shouldn't in any way be about how blessed we are in America by comparison.
The response should be: to help.
Note: For the past five years, our family has sponsored Gopinath through the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). The purpose of CFCA, according to organization literature, is to create a worldwide community of compassion through personal outreach. The highest priority is a one-on-one sponsorship of children, youth and aging persons to help them achieve their desired potential, live with dignity and partake fully in their communities.
In our campaign travels, we continually urge Americans to consider cutting back on their lifestyles and helping more in the Third World. We have found CFCA, and organizations like them, to be excellent conduits to do that. What's more, common sense says that the more we help -- the closer we will all be as a world.
This collage is a scene from the front of our refrigerator.
Since sponsoring Gopinath, we have subsequently begun sponsoring three other youth in Third World countries. Through a humanitarian aid agency called Unbound, we financially sponsor a youth in Latin America. And we also sponsor a youth in Brazil and a young girl in Ethiopia through Compassion International.
During a campaign stop in New Hampshire a number of years ago, a youth minister at a Christian Church told me about a talk a Compassion International representative gave to his youth group there. At one point, he told them about a wildly desperate woman in a poor African country who drowned her two young children in the sea – because she didn’t want to watch them go through the agonizing throes of starving to death. (Some 24,000 people starve to death every day in the world, according to the UN.)
After hearing this story, the minister said some his youth sold their cars, others got part-time jobs after school and they did all sorts of fundraising… to help kids in the Third World.
We should all, every one of us, have that kind of urgent concern. There is so much potentially relievable suffering in the world that could be relieved – if only those of us in the First World helped in a much more prolific way – which many of us are capable of.
At a stop in Piqua, Ohio, we interviewed Ellen Johns. She and her husband lived in a modest ranch house smack dab in the middle of middle class America. They had the pictures of 11 (and counting) Third world youth they were financially sponsoring on their refrigerator.
Ellen simply said she felt it was her spiritually responsibility to help.
In our Foreign Affairs policy paper, I consistently talk about billions of people who are hungry,
don’t have access to clean drinking water, are afflicted with preventable disease, are living in deplorable slum conditions… Some of this abject poverty, for instance, is in India. In Stamford, Connecticut, I interviewed a lawyer who used to teach at a university in India. He saw the poverty in the slums, first hand, including marrying a woman who was living in those slums. When he got back to the U.S., he googled the “average international yearly salary.” It came up approximately $9,000. He, his wife and two children now live on $9,000 a year (they live in a small trailer park in Stamford) – and give all their “excess” money to outreach agencies that help in the Third World… Our family sacrifices to (although not on that level, yet) to fund such Third World aid organizations as: Heifer International; Living Water International; World Hunger Relief, Inc… As we donate to organizations to help the environment, to help Native American Reservations, to stop abortion and aid with crisis pregnancy… We in America (including our own family) can often help, well, way more than we do. --Joe