Send a child to school
November 17, 2008 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Can we send a girl to school overseas?

We'd like to pay school fees for an overseas girl in a secular way. The thread from 2005 was nonconclusive. Plan International does village development (the kid is a frontman), Holt international doesn't actually send kids to school, and Save the Children is too one-off and impersonal for us. We're already doing Kiva (and some of our people did send their kids to school because of it) because we believe in the whole teach-to-fish thing. We want to expand what we're doing.

Being secular is nonegotiable.

Lots of the previous charity discussions on ask.mefi have people chiming in that the sponsor a child things are scams. But we've seen hundreds of kids who could benefit from having a (comparatively) wealthy American send them to school. So the kids exist - how do we find them?
posted by arabelladragon to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Does "overseas" include central America? If so, I can't recommend Safe Passage highly enough.

They provide education and family services to children and families living in the Guatemala City Dump. more. For $200 you can be the "sole sponsor" of a child. They're mission statement is to "combat poverty through education" and they do great work with a really limited budget.
posted by anastasiav at 9:19 AM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

You might consider donating to need based university fellowships for students from poorer countries. Such things admittedly aid the middle class there more directly, but that can help create better leadership, etc. You'd easily avoid the religious issues & the university itself handles the money. If you feel American universities are too expensive, many middle class kids from less well off countries, even Mexico, are going to school in Europe.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2008

Are you familiar with Greg Mortenson's Central Asia Institute?
posted by cda at 9:54 AM on November 17, 2008

I've donated to the Rockhouse Foundation before. They're committed to helping poor children in Jamaica. When I donated at the beginning of this year, they were trying to renovate and expand a school. I think they're affiliated with a local hotel which donates some of its proceeds to projects as well. I don't know if your reasons for wanting a secular charity will spread to not wanting a corporate one either, but I think they do good work. My friend who suggested it to me got in contact with some of the people in the foundation who sent her pictures of the new school and letters from the teachers. This doesn't specifically target women, however.
posted by bluefly at 10:21 AM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: Okala Foundation is collecting sponsorships to help girls (and boys, though girls is often more difficult to get funding and agreement for) attend school in Cameroon. They also give them a hot meal and a mosquito net to ward off malaria. Disclaimer, I volunteer for them. Completely secular, registered Canadian non-profit, and very small and personal (though growing).
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:14 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: I think the best option for you would be to find a specific school, or an NGO affiliated with a particular school, that has a "sponsor a child" program, rather than a larger organization where child-sponsoring is more of a metaphor used as a fund-raising tool.

A friend of a friend was recently showing me photos of the (extraordinarily cute) child she is sponsoring at the School of St Jude in Tanzania, for example. (I don't know anything about this school other than what is on their website, and the person I talked to was really happy with where their money was going; despite the name it appears to be a secular project.)

And the suggestions people have made above for Jamaica, Guatemala, and elsewhere look good, too. So I think you should pick a country that has resonance or meaning in your life, and sponsor a child directly with a school, NGO, or orphanage in that country. The smaller the project, the more likely you are to be able to learn about who you are helping, how they are doing, and so on. (Not that the big organizations don't do good work, but it sounds like you are looking for a more direct sort of feedback as a donor.)
posted by Forktine at 3:25 PM on November 17, 2008

Best answer: The problem with finding specific schools and NGOs is that you have to take a lot more on trust: accountability is much better with large development organisations, though overheads are also higher. I could find you ten girls in rural Pakistan whose education you could sponsor and who could never go to school otherwise, I could even register an NGO, but why would you trust me?

Some schools that take donations in Pakistan and are well-reputed: Sanjan Nagar and the Citizen's Foundation.

That said, if you're not set on sponsoring single children: I recently visited a Plan sponsored village - not as part of a Plan trip, simply coincidentially. There had been such a dramatic change in their lives thanks to these sponsorships. I met a couple of the sponsored students as well. They were prospering, in contact (through Plan's byzantine regulations) with their sponsors. The village itself was clean and well made, the children were well fed and educated. There was even a kindergarten - almost unheard of in village schools. Much of this had come through sponsorships benefiting the whole village: training teachers, building drains, etc. It makes more of a difference than you know, and extends beyond the life of a single child. The overheads are, I suspect, astronomical. But if you want to teach people to fish, then I feel this is a better approach than paying for a child's education.
posted by tavegyl at 8:10 PM on November 17, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I donate to Riverkids from time to time. They work to stop child trafficking in Cambodia through providing families with non-exploitative income alternatives. They work directly with at-risk kids and families and provide schooling from grade level up to older kids who are given vocational training. They have a US partner who can provide tax deductibility for US donations, and all their financial records are online so you can see what goes where.

I like them because they're open, low-cost, on the ground, are trusted by the local community, use local products and employ local people where possible. They have a blog, too, so you can see their activities. And they are secular.

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated but I do know and admire one of the organisation's founders.)
posted by andraste at 9:48 PM on November 17, 2008

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