For quite some time now, I’ve felt I should be doing more for the world than just shuttling back and forth to and from work, so I made improving in this area one of my resolutions for this year. After all, part of having a healthy financial situation is not only to have the right balance between saving and spending, but also giving back, right?
Some months ago, when I was looking through various microfinance sites (for opportunities to work as well as volunteer), I ran across one called Women for Women International that intrigued me because of their sponsorship program. One of the toughest things for me (and probably many others) has always been trying to find enough time between working long hours at a full-time job and spending time with family to squeeze in and give back to the world in an effective way.
When I read about WFWI’s sponsorship program, I decided that it was probably just what I was realistically looking for. Here’s how it works: for about $27 a month, you basically get to sponsor a woman participating in the WFWI program who lives in a war-torn area. Currently, the choices listed on the WFWI site are Afghanistan, Boznia and Herzegovina, the Dem. Rep. of the Congo, Kosova, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Sudan. I opted to just be matched to wherever the greatest need was, and a few weeks ago I found out I was matched to someone in Kosova.
The most unique part of the sponsorship is that you get to write letters to your “sister”. WFWI has translators on staff who take your letter or email, translate it into the local language, and then physically deliver the letter to the woman you’re sponsoring, along with any photos you send. Apparently, it’s the letters and potential dialogue between the sponsor and the program participant that are actually the most powerful aspects of the sponsorship rather than the money itself. Trite as that might sound, a quick perusal of the correspondence listed on the WFWI website really seems to support that argument — the human connection and thought that someone across the globe cares enough to write seems to do wonders for participants.
Of course, not all program participants choose to write back due to their circumstances (some of the women have been through terrible trauma), but I suspect that the sponsors also benefit enormously from just establishing a connection of this sort. For example, I (sadly, like most Americans) knew very little about Kosova before I signed up for the program, other than the bits and pieces I heard in the news. Having a connection to the place though, however remote, makes me take additional interest in things going on in the area. That sounds awful, but I think it’s also human nature.
If I hear back from the person I sponsored, I’m sure I’ll post regular updates here. In the meantime, I encourage anyone else who’s curious to take a look at the program, which has gotten a lot of press recently for good reason. You might find it’s just the solution you’re looking for.