THE CATHOLIC Fund for Overseas Development has been accused of making "sweeping generalisations" in an article on child sponsorship which they published in their development silucation newsletter, Link.
The criticism has come from Action Aid, one of the largest charities involved in child sponsorship. Describing child sponsorship as a "very productive form of partnership between the developed and the developing world", Action Aid's executive director, Robin Hill. rejected Cafod criticisms that sponsoring one child can divide that child from the community.
He stressed that Action Aid "is fully aware that a child calmot be helped in isolation from his or her community". He added that wherever possible all the children in a community were included, and that where choices had to be made, the community itself was left to take the decisions.
Action Aid "views the relationship between the sponsor, the charity and the recipients as a working partnership to assist young people to develop skills which will equip them to contribute more productively to the economic life of their families, communities and nation", Mr Hill said.
Foster Parents Plan is another charity running a child sponsorship scheme. It has many Catholic sponsors. Its National Director, Elizabeth Liddell, visited the Catholic Herald offices last week and emphasised "the unique way" in which her organisation
operated. She felt that "the best help that we can give children is to improve the environment in which they are brought up".
To achieve this goal Foster Parents Plan "always work with the whole family, never singling out one child for assistance. All children are helped to attend school, their parents to attend adult literacy classes and receive vocational training". The whole village benefits from improved health care projects, Ms Liddell said. Foster Parents Plan "work in partnership with the people we are helping" she said.
Cafod this week defended their criticisms and pointed out that their original article was not meant as an attack on any particular agency, but rather as an explanation of why Cafod does not operate a child sponsorship scheme.
The specific criticisms that
they levelled against child sponsorship were the result of their experience in the field they said, and referred to the letter from the head of the community education department at Christian Aid, which appears on the Catholic Herald letters page this week, as an example of practical experience of the shortcomings of child sponsorship in the Third World.