Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Birthday for Barbie (Or How You Can Help the Philippines)

Barbie Gicale Albatera

Saturday is Jack's sixth birthday. Six years ago on November 16th, a beautiful Filipina girl named Barbie was celebrating her own sixth birthday.

We "met" Barbie through Compassion International, one of the world's largest child sponsorship organizations. Nick and I always knew we wanted our children to be others-centered and have a passion for social justice. One of the best ways to accomplish that end was to sponsor a child. We searched for available children using Jack's birthday, and when we saw Barbie's precious smile, we were hooked.

In the nearly-six years we've been writing, Barbie and the Kuppers have developed a strong, steady relationship. She makes us smile, beam with pride, cry and laugh. See her drawing below for proof of the latter. Sometimes, practicing English can get a little dicey.

Barbie, in other words, is a vital part of our international family. So whenever a natural disaster hits the Philippines, we anxiously whip out the map and check its location to Mindanao, Barbie's island.

Last week, of course, was
devastating for the Philippines. And though we know our girl is safe (Leyte, the most-affected island, isn't close to Mindanao), our hearts are broken for the thousands of children just like Barbie who lost their homes, families, schools, churches, belongings and lives. According to UNICEF, more than 1.7 Filipino children are thought to be directly in the storm's path.

One of the few positives after horrific events like Haiyan is the outpouring of support from all over the world. Countries, businesses and individuals are donating billions for Filipino relief efforts. Perhaps you've considered throwing in your five, 10 or 20 bucks as well. But where to start? After all, Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy taught us that just because we give money doesn't necessarily mean it will get to the right people. 

If I may make a bold statement and humble suggestion: Compassion International isn't some giant, government-sponsored organization mired down in red tape. They've been in the Philippines for decades, were there when the storm hit and will be there after everyone else goes home.

It's crazy-important to research a charity before donating (here's a fantastic Shaun Groves article on why). The most important factors to consider are these:

1. Was the non-profit there working before the disaster?
2. Will they stick around after the disaster?
3. How will my donation be used?

I highly encourage you, whether you're donating to Compassion, the Red Cross or any place else, to do your research first. But if you want an organization that has been personally vetted by me, my family and millions of others around the globes for decades, please consider donating to Compassion.

Our Barbie is safe and celebrated. But with her kind and tender heart, I know that more than anything else she would want her fellow Filipino citizens to be healthy, dry and cared for on her twelfth birthday.

Will you donate even one dollar to help some of the world's most beautiful children begin to recover? Will you say "Happy Birthday!" to our Barbie through your prayers and donations?