Friday, May 8, 2009

Opposite Sides – A Time to Reflect

By Jason Schwartzman,
Director of Program Development

Note: This is the final entry from Jason’s recent trip to the Philippines.

I've been in a time warp for almost two weeks, delving into CCF's past, trying to understand the challenges past generations came up against. We stopped organizing orphanages when we realized that mothers were giving up their young children to them. When we were perceived as patronizing "great white fathers," we put families more directly in control of resources and decisions.

I'm reflecting on what I've learned. One morning I called home. My 4-year-old son was about to go to bed. Before I left home, I had shown him on the globe that hangs down from the ceiling, over his bed, where I was traveling to. Somehow he understood that when I'm on the other side of the world, my morning is his night. Opposite sides.

On day five of my travels, at breakfast, over fried eggs, bread and rice, Sergio and his wife shared with me that their daughter's education was most important, and that CCF is a good organization. I had stayed overnight in their house, as a way of further understanding how CCF programs are affecting the people and community that we work with. In a little while he was going to ask for my address so we could write, which I desperately want so I can watch from a distance as his daughters grow up and so my son can feel connected to a family different than him – something to learn from.

But that gorgeous human moment needed to incorporate a blunt fact – the father told me he wanted to write in case they were met with financial hardship. He needs a safety net for his family, and I was an opportunity. What's become clear is that I focus on aspirational programming and I try my best to work with colleagues so that concepts and ideas are clear, so program staff throughout CCF can use them as a guide in developing and implementing programs.

What I've fallen short of doing is sufficiently understanding what families expect of CCF and why they seek to engage with us. Their perspective seems to be on the other side of the globe. At least in the community I visited, what they prioritize is the comfort of knowing that from time to time, they can rely on CCF to provide a form of financial assistance to their family, and they appreciate generous sponsors who will be like minded.

The people I met did not seem greedy or unaware of others in the community who might also have similar needs. Their focus was just on themselves. I, on the other side, focus on programs that over time – over 12 to 15 years – will address the root causes of poverty, that require families to come together to exercise the influence they can have.

While our programs have evolved, and our ambition has certainly evolved, our evolution is also a continual confrontation with consequences, carrying two contradictory facts in your head at the same time, searching for a resolution.

If this is the relationship with families that CCF has created, how do we move it along? How do we maintain a strong connection with families, engage them in dialogue, maintain their interest and commitment, but evolve toward an appreciation that programs are the ties that bind. That programs are the basis for our relationship? And the success or failure of those programs is what we should be talking about? We have created the relationship and perception of CCF that stared me in the eye, on a porch, Coke in hand, in Taliba, a rural community filled with proud, animated, laughing, soft, concerned faces, exemplified by Sergio, his wife and his four daughters.

I'm on my way home. Tokyo airport. Changing planes. Health workers trot down corridors in full surgical gear with goggles over their eyes. Everyone's wearing a mask. Swine flu. Very futuristic.

I'm thinking about our future. I appreciate our legacy, and I hope our values and our strategy, our heart and our mind, will guide us to an answer that our history has courageously sought. I have a few ideas of my own.

1 comment:

caverebel said...

The name change away from christian childrens fund to child fund will more than most likely cause me to direct my money to another charitable organization.You used the name christian and it worked .I am afraid many people will leave your organization as soon as there present child obligation expires.Good luck in the future.