“Suffer the Children to Come Unto Me”

by Michael Healy
photos by Sr. Christian Molidor, R.S.M.

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Wherever economic conditions and social structures break down, children are the first and most innocent victims. Inadequate nutrition and insufficient care are only the most obvious results. The neglect of children promises a disastrous future, both for them and for their societies. Each individual then lives out a preventable tragedy.

In societies where open conflict further threatens their community and family structures, the young are stunted through their formative years in mind-numbing stress. Loved ones are killed; homes are destroyed; survivors are displaced. The voices of strangers with guns are the loudest. They threaten to become the teachers of these children.

Fortunately, other voices speak to the needy children of the Near East. In Lebanon, India, Ethiopia, Jordan, and throughout the region, Christian agencies care for needy children. Through the financial help of individual sponsors in the United States, they re-establish a sense of home. The Child Sponsorship Program of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association gives local community groups the economic means to offer youngsters essential care in nutrition and education. Most importantly, they create loving human relationships.

Though thousands of sponsors now help, the hope they bring does not meet the growing numbers of needy children. Thousands of boys and girls still need sponsors.

In Lebanon, where civil war has created misery for nearly a dozen years, children regularly lose their parents to the fighting. Religious communities, such as the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, care for the young who have lost their homes or parents. Bachir is ten years old and had only known chaos before he came under their care. His family lost its home and had to take refuge in government shelter. He came to their orphanage after his mother was kidnapped in 1985; there has been no news of her fate since then.

In Ethiopia, war as well as famine decimate families and leave the children helpless without ongoing assistance. Tamirous, age 10, is fortunate his parents are alive. His father, though, was disabled by the war, and his mother is unable to feed their four children by farming the poor earth. Tamirous is being helped by the Vincentian Fathers, who see he has enough to eat and basic schooling. Though his lack of proper nutrition early in life will continue to hurt him, he still helps by gathering wood and watching cattle.

In India, parents take pride in their offspring, though they might not afford to care for their needs. The Carmelite Sisters in Chengaly, Kalady, are only one of many communities caring for needy children. Sheeba came to them because of her parents’ worsening illnesses. A poor farmer, her father has tuberculosis. Shifi is another child who came to their boarding place. Her father’s drinking problem led to violence in her home. Now, instead of living in a one-room hut without sanitation, she lives in a clean place with other girls. Still, her gloomy spells lift only when she dances.

These children are individuals growing up in poverty. At least now they have a better chance to learn dignity. Thousands more like them share their need for sponsors. Each, though, remains a precious individal.

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Tags: CNEWA Children Poor/Poverty Sponsorship