Mar 30, 2014

Free the Children: Another update

To start off with, parents should know that we're moving forward in discussions with the board in a very positive way. We are beginning to get answers to some questions and have a very reasonable hope of getting answers to the rest in the not too distant future. 

Previous "family planning/reproductive health" links given to the board referenced workshops and seminars conducted in FTC's health clinics (part of their "health pillar"). We're still waiting for answers related to what exactly is being taught in these workshops and seminars.

More recently, we have also asked questions about the "family planning" education in the schools FTC establishes (part of their "education pillar"). Specifically, we asked the board to provide transparency around the "family planning" related activities mentioned in the following two online articles, here and here.

The following is the board's reply to our questions surroundng these two articles,

Dear Mr. Pocrnic, 
Thank you for your email expressing concerns about Free the Children and their position regarding contraceptives. I have spoken with Marc Kielburger from Free the Children who has provided further clarification. 
Free the Children does not, itself, teach family planning. Free the Children is an organization which seeks to help resource poor children, by alleviating poverty. They focus their attention on five core pillars through their "Adopt A Village" Program. They invest in community infrastructure in the following areas: education, clean water and sanitation, health, alternative income and livelihood, and agriculture and food security. This is achieved through projects such as the physical building of classrooms and schools, the establishment of clean water kiosks, or helping women with small business grants. 
Within the education pillar, Free the Children builds schools in communities so that children have a place to learn. In some instances, they assist in the ongoing support of the school, such as providing malnourished students with lunch-time meals. But, they are not responsible for the actual formal education of the children and/or the formation of the curriculum. This is the responsibility of the government. The government hires and pays the teachers and sets the local or national curriculum. 
In Kenya, the government presents the issue of family planning as a part of the curriculum and this includes a conversation on contraceptives. 
Previously you had asked questions about what Free the Children teaches. Free the Children's model is not about the formal teaching of children themselves, that remains the responsibility of the government.  Free the Children seeks to provide the infrastructure whereby children can, in fact, have a school to go to. 
I hope that this provides clarification to your recent questions. 

The above message provides confirmation that the schools established by FTC do teach contraception, though FTC, as the note explains, is not responsible for this. According to them, the government controls the curriculum, and as such, they have no control over the family planning education that occurs in their schools. Our first thought is that parents should seek independent confirmation of FTC's claims regarding what is, and what is not, required teaching in Kenyan schools. Are Catholic schools in Kenya required to have the same "conversation" on contraceptives? We need to find out.

In their communication to the board, Free the Children is attempting to present themselves as being neutral with regards to the teaching of contraception. The natural question is does this charity have any credibility on this topic.  When you consider their past public defense of funding for International Planned Parenthood, which they have never retracted, and their linking of "reliable birth control" to "Girl Empowerment" in one of their worksheets for use in Canadian public schools, a reasonable person would conclude that they are in fact not neutral. If they didn't, as an organization, hold a pro-contraception mentality, why have they been unwilling to provide parents their definition of the words "reproductive health" and "reproductive rights". Parents have good reason to be suspect.

Moving on to other items, it should also be mentioned that there has been new information with serious implications made over the last few days regarding FTC's Barak Medical Clinic. The Catholic Health Commission of Kenya recently issued a letter asking Catholics in Canada and the United States to stop funding Free the Children's Baraka Medical Clinic because of its distribution of contraceptives. They also refuted Free the Children's claim that health clinics in Kenya are mandated by law to stock and provide contraceptives. We will be contacting the OCSB to learn how they plan to address the Kenyan bishops' request.

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