Cameron has sponsored a girl named Karen in Oruro, Bolivia through a charitable organization called Save the Children (STC) for about three years now (he also sponsors a girl in Nepal). STC develops programs which are implemented through the local education system that provide for children’s nutritional needs, teacher training, educational resources, health services, youth support programs, and others as appropriate to the area. Charity Watch gives STC an “A” rating; other organizations that assess the effectiveness of charitable organizations also give it the top possible marks. You can see a detailed analysis of how the organization compares to similar organizations here. Save the Children provides three different ways to donate – as a child sponsor, a program sponsor, or through their lifeline program. The sponsor program is by far the most popular. It allows an individual to sponsor an individual child and, through STC, communicate with the child through letters, email, and even phone – so donors get a more direct link to the people they are helping (the sponsor’s funds are directed towards programs in the child’s school and area). The system really works, and as you’ll see, makes a real difference in children’s lives and is very much appreciated by them.

Since we were going to South America, it made sense to see if STC would let us visit Karen. They not only allowed us to see her, but encouraged us to. We budgeted just a day and a half, including the 5-hour round trip travel time between La Paz and Oruro, because we couldn’t imagine how we’d spend more time than this. Turned out we were pretty clueless. STC arranged travel to and from Oruro and put together an agenda for us that included personal time with Karen and her family, time at her school to see how programs are implemented, and time with Save the Children staff to learn about how programs are developed and implemented and so forth.

We spent the first day meeting with STC administrative staff in La Paz and traveling to Oruro. The La Paz staff coordinates sponsor relations, STC headquarters communications, and communications with the local offices (primarily Oruro in Bolivia). For several hours it looked like we might not get to go to Oruro because a town on the way to Oruro had blocked the highway to make demands of the government (see photos). In the end, we made it to Oruro without major problems. Good thing too.

We spent the second day with Oruro STC staff, at Karen’s school, and with Karen and her family. It turned out to be an amazing, memorable day that Cameron (and I) will not likely forget. I’ll provide a short overview of the day here, but read Cameron’s account here, because he was really the star of the day. You can see the photos from our visit here. After spending a little time in the morning learning about how STC allocates funds and implements programs, we had lunch with them and headed over to Karen’s school. We met Karen and briefly met with the principal of the school who gave us an overview of the school and its history. STC gave us a tour of some of the facilities that they’ve been able to provide for the school including a school resource room/study room/library and a modern computer laboratory. We also learned of STC’s programs to make school more affordable (many families can’t afford fees for public schools such as uniforms and school supplies) and meet basic nutritional needs for small children. Overall, we were a little stunned at how broad and deep the impact of STC has been in the school system. As far as we were able to tell, every teacher, parent, and child knows and appreciates the contributions STC programs have made, and are making, in the children’s lives and they know that the money to support these programs comes from STC donors/patrons.

Without telling STC, the school had arranged a school assembly to honor Cameron as a STC patron of one its students. Cameron was ushered into the assembly room which was packed to capacity, and seated front and center with Karen. Several of the children, including Karen, performed musical numbers, dramatic poem renditions, and dances. Karen gave Cameron a bouquet of roses on the stage and Cameron thanked the school for their performances. Afterwards the children clamored around Cameron (and myself to a lesser extent) asking for autographs and just wanting to be near him. We also got to meet with Karen’s classroom where many of the children stood and welcomed Cameron and thanked him for his support. Many expressed amazement at Cameron’s height. I’m sure that some of the novelty for the children was due to the fact that we were Americans from a far-away place, but it was clear throughout that Cameron’s local celebrity was due to his status as a STC donor, not the novelty of a visit from a tall foreigner.

After the school assembly we got to meet with personnel from a STC-supported program that provides health, education, counseling, and support services for youth. They were really an amazing group of people. It was really an amazing day that we’ll not forget.

I got pinned down several times by STC, the teachers, and most humbling – by the children – on what my status and plans were for being a STC donor. For the record, I’ll be a donor when I return from our trip. I couldn’t refuse to be after my experience. If you would really like to make a difference to someone and can afford the $28/month or to sponsor a child in one of the countries in which STC operates, I encourage you to do so. You will make a difference on both an individual level to the child and on a larger scale in the region in which the child lives. We know because we’ve seen it. You can learn more about Save the Children here and you can sign up here. Or if you would specifically like to contribute in Oruro, contact Cameron or I and we can put you in touch with the right people.

3 Responses to “Save the Children”
  1. justin says:

    Wow, Cameron the rockstar – I never would have believed it if I didn’t see the photos ;) Sounds like an amazing experience, looking forward to hearing about the next adventure.

  2. Kathy says:

    I got a little misty reading your account and Cameron’s account of your Oruro trip. It’s amazing to me in an era when Americans are so universally loathed by much of the world, that you would be welcomed with what was GENUINE appreciation and esteem. I guess the hearts and minds of people wherever they live really are won over by the small things we do, as your visit clearly showed. No matter where else you travel or what else you do on this wonderful trip, I doubt any experience will come close to lingering in your memory and heart as much as this soul-nurturing event. Many years ago, I once sponsored a child for STC when it was about $10-$12 a month. I stopped. Shame on me. Time to rethink that. Thanks for a wonderful vicarious experience that reaffirms the good in people.

    I also thought the photos were very professional. I’m impressed at the quality and composition. No doubt Africa will provide the most fertile photographic playground you can possibly imagine. Can’t want to read the next installment of your global mini series.

  3. Anne says:

    Ditto, Kathy. We had sponsored a little girl the same age as my daughter (4 at the time), to help her appreciate just how blessed we were/are. She was a bit young to truly understand. Now, I’m thinking we ought to find matches for both my daughter and my son ..and, jump-start our participation in angel tree, so we can drop off practical gifts to a family here in our neighborhood.
    Well, done -> a bit of inspiration to us all that will impact lives in many places. Thanks for sharing.
    ..oh, and I was one of those folks who needed help with the posting. No hard power-off to reset for the marketer!

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