#159: To Compassion International

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #159, on the subject of To Compassion International.

Compassion International is shutting down all of its operations in India because the Indian government has been objecting to aid coming from outside India for relief efforts.  There is evidence that it is because Hindu nationalists are trying to shut down Christian ministries; India is now 15th on the Open Doors’ list of places where it is hardest to be Christian.

Someone has said that when God closes a door, He often opens a window.  I’m sure that the organization has long honed its methods, and has a clear idea of how to do what they do to make it work–but now it is not working in India, and they may have to rethink their approach there.  The words “creative financing” and “creative accounting” sometimes have an “iffy” sense to them, but I think in the present situation the organization needs to be creative in how they deliver their aid to those children.

I would like to make a suggestion that might get them thinking in a workable direction.

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India certainly has a tourist industry.  We know that people travel to see the Taj Mahal and other sites within the country.  At present they are turning away aid connected to a Christian ministry–but it is doubtful whether they would ever be turning away tourist dollars.  I am thinking that if Compassion International set up facilities in India modeled on hotels or restaurants or other tourist services, then said they were part of the tourism industry but listed the rooms at exhorbitant prices, such a model might work.  Couriers could bring money into the country and “pay” the hotel, which could then use the money to “purchase” supplies at low rates from an international supplier (Compassion International).  Native workers for the organization would become employees of these facilities, and the children they wish to help could be listed in any of several ways so that they would receive the benefits–employees, dependents, stockholders, whatever method works under Indian law.

Let us suppose that we list the children as employees of the hotel.  A courier arrives, checks in as a guest and stays overnight, paying the thousands of dollars that would otherwise have been spent on child care to the hotel perhaps by electronic transfer from the organization’s account to the hotel’s account, which might be in an international bank (depending on Indian law).  The hotel then spends most of that to buy food and supplies from its suppliers, and pays the children an official wage.  The children would be required to do the work of attending school (one of the benefits currently provided by Compassion International to its children), and school attendance would include free meals for the school day, and the employee benefits package would include fully-paid medical care.  “Uniforms”, that is, free clothing, would also be provided for school and work.  Some of the older children could be given tasks related to running the operation, such as working in the kitchen or cleaning the facilities, so that there is actual labor being performed by the employees.  Sponsors who currently are seen as donating money to provide benefits for individual children would be recouched, in legal terms, as providing for the salary and benefits of individual child employees.  In the United States they would continue donating to a non-profit charitable organization; that organization in turn would be, on the books, investing capital in a for profit corporation in a foreign country that is operating at a constant loss.  In doing this, the organization manages to deliver its care, much the same care as it is currently delivering, and the Indian government cannot prevent that care from being delivered without creating a lot of laws that are going to severely negatively impact its tourism trade.

Certainly the system would incur taxes and tariffs, but how serious can we be about wanting to help these poor people if we are unwilling to deal with such government regulations and costs?  There might be official industry standards to meet, but we deal with those problems in our own country–soup kitchens and homeless shelters are required to meet commercial facilities standards in order to deliver services to the homeless, and while it is an impediment to meeting those needs it is one that we overcome regularly.

I am not on the ground in India; I don’t know how severe or complex the problems actually are.  I think, though, that we are looking at some of the poorest people in the world, and I understand it is one of Compassion International’s largest national efforts, so I am hoping that if they give it some consideration they can find a way to continue delivering aid to these starving children within the strictures being imposed by the government and whatever other opponents they face.

I pray that they will find a way.

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