Editorial: Really, is this our country?

Sponsor a child in Ethiopia, in Rwanda, in Lesotho, in New Zealand.

For just $1 a day you can make a difference to a child's life. Just ring 0800 . . . whoa, back up the bus. In New Zealand?

Yes indeed. Children's charity Variety has launched a scheme that allows people to sponsor an individual Kiwi kid living below the poverty line.

What to think? The kneejerk reaction is to blame the parents.

Why can't they pay? Surely it's their responsibility, not some kindhearted benefactor in suburbia.

Even if the parents are on a benefit, isn't that enough?

If they haven't got a job, why not? We seem to be flat out importing labour at present?

And if the $35 a month Variety wants is to cover doctors' bills and subscriptions (aren't these virtually free?), school trips and stationery (are schools wanting to do too much?), shouldn't someone first visit the home to see how many pets there are and how many people smoke, gamble and drink?

Or might that be an invasion of privacy? And just plain nasty?

The next thought is to come over all smug and think this won't be a South Canterbury issue anyway, but a Northland, South Auckland one.

Don't bet on it. There are children here living below the poverty line (the poverty line being defined as households with disposable incomes of less than 60 per cent of the median household income). And Saturday's paper highlighted the 2000 notifications of concern to Child, Youth and Family about the way South Canterbury children were being treated last year.

And then we take another breath, and think of the children.

The reality is many are disadvantaged, and it's not their fault. That's why schools up and down the country provide them breakfast.

An extra $35 a month might make all the difference, to break them from the cycle their parents are in.

Or it might not, and the parents just take advantage of the money.

What Variety has done though is highlight the issue in a more dramatic way than a dozen big fat reports ever could.

This dents our psyche, comparing us to a poor African nation.

Sponsor a kid in New Zealand, now that's a wake-up call.

The Timaru Herald