ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church

To Save a Child

CNEWA’s Needy Child Sponsorship Program continues to deliver hope to orphans and children of poverty.

Michel Abdou is a lively little Lebanese boy with five older brothers and sisters. His family is poor, but Michel’s parents managed to keep a happy home and to provide the necessities of life for themselves and their children. Then came the civil war. The family’s home was destroyed. Michel’s father was killed and his mother fell ill. She could no longer support her children. Kindly neighbors took in the Abdou family, but in their own poverty there was little they could do to care for the material needs of their friends. Michel’s future looked bleak indeed.

Today, four-year-old Michel is wellfed and cared for, and he receives excellent medical attention. Unlike many children of the Near East, he will be able to attend school when he is old enough. He is living in an orphanage in Beirut that is run by Sisters, and members of his family visit him often. It is hoped that Michel will return to them permanently as soon as family finances permit it, but in the meantime Michel has a home that is happy and secure.

The change in Michel’s life was brought about through the generosity of a loving sponsor in the United States, who cares for Michel through the Needy Child Sponsorship Program of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. This program gives hope and opportunity to the many children of the Near East whose lives have been blighted by war, disease and poverty. Through monthly contributions, sponsors are able to provide the essentials for a happy and healthy childhood for these youngsters. For many of them, sponsorship can mean the difference between a secure childhood and a life of extreme poverty.

The special feature of the Needy Child Sponsorship Program is the personal bond it creates between the sponsor and the child. A one-to-one relationship is established as the sponsor and the child become friends, each holding a special place in the other’s life. With the first monthly donation, the “adoptive” parents receive a photograph of their “new” child, as well as the child’s personal history. If the child is old enough to write, he or she will send letters and cards to the adoptive parents, but if the child is too young, a staff member will write instead. These letters tell the sponsor about the child’s health, schooling and general progress, and share news about the entire family. Sponsors write back, exchanging news about themselves and their own families and often promising prayers. It is this direct connection that makes the program so gratifying both to the child and to the sponsor. What begins as a desire to help save a child becomes a long-lasting bond of love and kinship. Barriers of race, religion and culture are crossed when people reach out, remembering that although we are thousands of miles apart, we are all one family.

Not all of the impoverished children of the Near East are orphans. Many live at home with their families. Some have one parent living and some have both, as well as brothers and sisters. Because the Catholic Near East Welfare Association is strongly committed to the preservation and strengthening of family life, these children remain at home whenever possible. The aid they receive from their sponsors enables them to continue in school. Without this aid, they would have to work – perhaps at the age of seven or eight – to help support their families.

When one such child receives help, the entire family often benefits. Financial assistance means that the little they have will go a bit farther, but equally important is the feeling that someone they have never met cares deeply about them.

Having a sponsor would make a big difference in the life of Colette. She is two years old and lives with her parents and her older sister in Jordan. Colette’s father is a parish priest of the Eastern rite whose meager salary is barely enough to meet the family’s needs. Although the parish provides them with a house, they cannot afford furniture or heat, and their small neat home is often cold and damp. The chilly weather does not seem to affect Colette’s spirits, however; she is warm, outgoing and talkative, frequently imitating her older sister in an effort to be “grown-up.” The love of a sponsor would provide some material comfort for this little girl, whose buoyant spirit is a source of joy to those around her.

Mary, who lives in Lebanon, is not so fortunate as Colette. Her home was destroyed by war. Her family found temporary shelter in another house, but they were evicted. With no place to go, they were forced to settle by the side of the open road, with the branches of a fig tree as their only protection from the elements. They are trying to find a house to live in before the rainy season turns the ground beneath their feet to rivers of mud.

Ten-year-old Mary still attends school, where there is a roof over her head for a few hours a day at least, but she lacks adequate food and health care. A sponsor could provide these basic necessities for Mary while her family struggles to reestablish itself and prepare for the future.

With the encouragement and financial support of a sponsor, many children grow up to become selfless individuals who use their training to help their neighbors. Some become teachers or doctors, helping their own people to fight ignorance and disease. Others become priests, sisters and brothers, caring for the poor in body and soul. The love and care which these needy children receive when they need it most continues to bear fruit for as long as they live.

One couple in the United States wrote to their newly adopted child and said, “We don’t yet know much about you, nor do you know much about us, but we do know that everyone needs to be loved and cared for.” The Near East is full of Michels, Colettes and Marys who need the concern of a generous sponsor to turn their lives around, to give them hope, health, security, and the chance to develop the skills and talents God gave them. The sponsor who reaches out to a child gives the gift of life: physically and mentally; day by day, year by year. There is no gift more precious or more permanent; there is no other gift that endures forever.

Janet Butta is a freelance writer living in Larchmont, New York.

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