by Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund President and CEO
As dollars flow from developed nations to developing nations, the question often comes up: Does international aid really work?
I can give you an example of where it really has made a world of difference.
Recently I visited Taiwan to participate in the 60th anniversary celebration of Taiwan Fund for Children and Families (TFCF). ChildFund (then Christian Children’s Fund) began assisting orphans, children and families in Taiwan in 1950, bringing nutritional, health and educational services to an impoverished population.
With this life-sustaining support, Taiwan’s children began to thrive. In 1985, TFCF became an independent child sponsorship organization. ChildFund had helped for 35 years; yet, more important, we left behind this wonderful capacity. By 1987, TFCF was ready to give back to the world, and Taiwanese citizens began sponsoring children internationally. This compassion has spread to 34 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas, helping more than 67,000 children along the way. Today TFCF is a member of the ChildFund Alliance, working in full partnership with ChildFund International and 10 other countries to assist vulnerable children globally.
Within its own country, TFCF continues to do terrific work — from introducing the foster care concept to developing state-of-the-art programs for special needs children, including a light therapy program.
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou, who met with TFCF and ChildFund Alliance members to help celebrate TFCF’s anniversary, noted that TFCF is the oldest and likely the most effective social welfare organization caring for children in Taiwan. In fact, the president is a child sponsor and has sponsored 10 children through the years. He’s especially proud that close to 1 percent of Taiwan’s population is now sponsoring children.
President Ma pointed out that TFCF’s success story mirrors Taiwan’s rise as a nation. In the 1950s, the country was on the receiving end of aid provided by foreign governments and other public- and private-sector entities. At that time, President Ma said, the average annual income per person was $100. By 1965, Taiwan no longer needed international aid as it grew its own economy and expanded its exports. Today the average Taiwanese citizen earns $15,000.
International development has paid off — it’s worked. Taiwan’s foreign policy focus on humanitarian assistance is one means of giving back while extending the nation’s standing in the world community.
At one of the anniversary events, we heard from a former sponsored child. His father had died; his mother had no education, and she had four children to feed. A sponsor’s support “changed fate for our family,” he said. Today, this man is a bank manager and a child sponsor. For a banker, return on investment (ROI) is always top of mind, yet he personally believes that the highest ROI that you can get is by focusing on a child and the education of that child.
Child sponsorship played an important role in helping Taiwan get back on its feet.
Sponsorship is an investment in the capacity of people. That’s our focus at ChildFund — providing the greatest ROI.