This article might help you decide where your money can go...I recommend NOT going to World Vision or any other western charity that focuses on "sponsoring a child".
The bottom half of the article is relevant to actual donations. For the non-clickers:
Imagine that you are a poor parent, struggling to take care of your children as best you can. You are trying desperately to make sure that they are fed, clothed and educated. You may have no toilet and only two sets of clothing, but you are toiling to create a secure, loving home, with dignity and respect and a sense of the values that are sacred to you and your extended family. You love doing little things that make your children happy like providing the small treats and gifts that tell them they are special. But you simply can’t make ends meet.
An option is available to you. A foreign sugar daddy who earns more in a week than you can earn in a year is willing to help out one of your children—but only if the dollars go directly to your child, and only if the sugar daddy gets to share his or her culture and values with your child without ever even meeting you. The sugar daddy will become the one who gives those little gifts. If you are lucky, your child may get to go to a school funded by a whole group of similar sugar daddies, a school with real paper and pencils and books that your public school can’t afford. (If you are unlucky, the sugar-daddy school may also teach your child that your ancestral gods are demons and that you’re going to be tortured forever in hell.)
Sponsorship reeks of colonialism, pure and simple—privileged, mostly white people using their position to manipulate poor brown people, with callous disregard to how muchfamilial or cultural disruption it may cause. Sponsorship programs ensure that children get their material needs met and sponsors get to feel good while parents and extended families are undermined and humiliated. How would sponsors feel if the roles were reversed?
We have better options, options that promote family dignity and parent-child bonds. For example, organizations like World Vision and Save the Children that now promote child sponsorship could switch instead to family sponsorship. Any communication would then be parent to parent or family to family, as would the flow of funds. Para-church organizations that seek to be aid providers (rather than just missionaries) might limit religiously themed gifts and “spiritual nurturance” conversations to families who already share their same religion. (Even still, one might question whether adding tax dollars to this equation is appropriate. To their credit, World Vision has been evolving a more multifaceted service model.) One requirement for sponsorship should be that the sponsor receive some minimal education about wealth and power differentials and how unequal relationships create risk for manipulation or exploitation.
But even family-to-family sponsorships can be disruptive at the community level because dependencies are fostered and inequalities exaggerated. (Stories here, here.) Well-intentioned governmental and nongovernmental aid programs have made this kind of mistake and many have worked to develop more effective models for pulling families out of poverty. Thoughtful microfinance programs likeProMujer offer loans and information directly to mothers, empowering financial security through work and mutual support. (Many options can be found atKiva.org, where the loan can be as little as $25.) Social venture organizations like Upaya,–the name in Sanskrit means “skillful means”—take the sophistication one step further. They provide seed money known as pioneer capital to help innovators to create jobs for the ultra-poor in their own villages.
Mechanisms like these create dignity, allowing men and women at the bottom of the economic pyramid to pull themselves and their families up. They provide a hand up to an adult or even a community, not a hand out to a child. They may not offer donors the same heartstring tug I once received from the small sweet brown child on a sponsorship letter. But should they? Before clicking the “give now” button, those of us who have been blessed with bounty enough to share need to ask ourselves a tough question:
Is the point of generosity to feel good or to do good?