To Save a Child

by Janet Butta

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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.

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Tags: Lebanon CNEWA Children Poor/Poverty Sponsorship