Do what you can personally to save a child Ian On Sunday
Stabroek News
March 3, 2002

Related Links: Articles on Youth and Education
Letters Menu Archival Menu

I urge all those who can afford it many thousands if you consult you heart first and only then your bank book to make a gift of a new life for a destitute or homeless Guyanese child. I will tell you later in this column how easy it is to do this and at no great cost. Decide to do it now as you read this.

Whose heart does not go out to any beaten and abused, neglected, homeless or handicapped child? Even children in ordinary circumstances experience fears which are unfathomable to adults but no less terrifying because of that. Can you imagine the terror an abused and brutalized, lonely and neglected, child must feel?

I once read a good book called The World According to Garp by John Irving. At one point the story is told of the hero's young son who every summer goes with his mother and father to the seaside. Near the holiday house there is a beach ravaged by a terrible tidal undertow and when the child is big enough to go near the water his father warns him of the dangers of this undertow. Every summer the father gives the warning about the terrible undertow, the wicked undertow, the dangerous undertow. A summer comes when one day the father finds his little son on the beach watching the sea, not daring to go beyond ankle depth, just watching the sea. His father asks him what he is doing.

"I'm trying to see the Under Toad," the little boy says.

"The what?" his father asks.

"The Under Toad. I'm trying to see it. How big is it?"

All those years of his father's warnings the little boy had thought that beneath the waters of the sea lurked a giant toad waiting to suck him down, the terrible Under Toad of the world wide sea. His imagination was filled with the fear of the great Under Toad which lay in wait.

That story made me think how carefully we must handle the lives and the imaginations of children. Their days are filled with magic, with terror, and with inspiration that we adults have forgotten long ago.

It is natural that the fate of a child should tear the heart more than that of an adult. The thought of punishing children too harshly or too long or for no good reason is repulsive. I think of John Berryman's lovely poem to his child:

"Cross am I sometimes with my little daughter:

fill her eyes with tears. Forgive me, Lord.

Unite my various soul

Sole watchman of the wide and single stars."

As I was thinking about these things thinking about the special vulnerability of children by a terrible coincidence I happened to hear a friend talk about the street children of Guyana rejected, abandoned, abused, living pillar to post, subsisting in deprivation, sometimes near to starving, hurt forever to the very marrow of their souls.

And I read at the very same time of "nobody's children," the desperate, haunted, abandoned children of Nairobi, capital of Kenya, of whom there were 60,000 four years ago and 200,000 now (so much for the glories of today's new world order). Many of them are AIDS orphans. They scavenge on dump sites. A growing number sniff glue, trying to find an hour or two in which they are not conscious of life's horror.

Thank God, Guyana is not Nairobi. But still there must be so much unpublicised desperation and hurt here. So many young lives must be going to waste utterly. There must be so much fear and loneliness and deprivation. Is there something each one of us might be able to do on an organized basis to help save the children? They are, after all, very like internal refugees in our midst.

There are organisations around the world which gather contributions and use them to organise the assistance and education of homeless, refugee, or destitute children. The idea in such schemes is that you can sponsor a refugee or destitute child by making monthly or quarterly contributions which are used to provide the absolutely basic needs of the child, ensuring that he or she is fed, clothed and taught. You can, if you wish, identity your contribution quite closely with an individual child and receive regular reports on how the child is progressing.

Here in Guyana I know of one organisation the Ruimveldt Children's Aid Centre which seeks sponsors to provide for needy children. It costs $1,000 per month to sponsor a child, $12,000 for a whole year. The address is: Ruimveldt Children's Aid Centre, 13 Ruimveldt Public Road, East Bank Demerara, telephone number: 227 3092. I am sure there must be other worthy and well run organisations which have, or could organise, similar schemes to enlist the help of private citizens.

All of us who can possibly afford it should determine to put aside money to help such organisations. As a gift which will make a real difference, adopt a child. It is unlikely that any other gift you decide to make will have as profound an impact for good.