Within hours, hundreds of thousands of children in the United States will be reveling amid mounds of toys. But for many other youngsters--both in this country and abroad--Christmas is only another day of want, hunger and perhaps despair.
The lot of needy children has changed little since Charles Dickens wrote in "A Christmas Carol" in 1843: "From the foldings of its (the spirit's) robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. . . . 'Spirits! are they yours?' Scrooge could say no more. 'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. . . . 'This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both. . . .' "
Here is a sampler of 10 channels through which you can aid needy children. The list contains but a handful of the thousands of worthy charities across the world that aid children. Included are religious and non-sectarian groups.
Some of the groups here are Los Angeles-oriented, others serve all of Southern California. Some operate nationally, some internationally, and there are groups that are active only in foreign countries.
In addition to receiving contributions from the public, most such groups get funds through governmental, church, foundation or other conduits.
Most of the organizations listed have an established reputation. However, inclusion implies no endorsement by The Times.
Contributions may be made by mail. For additional information, call the telephone number listed for each organization.
Southland-Based Groups Para Los Ninos, 845 East 6th St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90021, (213) 623-8446.
In 1979, Tanya Tull read a newspaper article about families living in decaying Skid Row hotels. A former social worker in Skid Row, Tull investigated and found conditions were as bad as described; she also found that many of the children were neglected or abused.
Tull started Para Los Ninos as a child day care center in a downtown warehouse. Now it is a social service agency aiding homeless and transient children and their families in Los Angeles' central city, including Skid Row.
Major programs include a crisis center, child care and parent education.
Tull, now president of the board of trustees, says Para Los Ninos has a need for good used clothing (socks and underwear must be new), along with toys, books and other items.
Las Familias, 307 East 7th St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90014, (213) 614-1745.
Six years ago, Episcopal priest Alice Callaghan founded Las Familias, a community center in Skid Row. She wanted to provide a safe place for women and children, mainly immigrants living in near-by hotels, to spend the day.
In the first stages of operation, Callaghan and two co-workers relocated about 400 families from Skid Row hotels to more desirable areas of the city.
Last September, Las Familias moved to its current address. Its community center, open 11 hours a day Monday through Friday, continues to be a gathering place for women and children. Classes in English, parenting, nutrition and sewing are provided by outside agencies.
Callaghan is now focusing her attention on the problems of immigrant women working in what she calls "the sweatshops of the garment district."
Children of the Night, 1800 N. Highland Ave., Suite 128, Los Angeles, Calif. 90028, (213) 461-3160.
Lois Lee founded Children of the Night in 1979 for male and female prostitutes 18 years and younger.
The organization, which has a staff of six, helps find lodging in shelters, such as Centrum of Hollywood, for young prostitutes who do not qualify for help elsewhere.
The organization says it is now looking for a building in a commercial area of the San Fernando Valley.
Project Concern International, 3550 Afton Road, San Diego, Calif. 92123, (619) 279-9690.
Founded 26 years ago by physician Jim Turpin, this San Diego-based organization operates in the United States, Mexico and other countries.
Project Concern International develops health-care programs, with the goal of making the programs self-sufficient.
Executive Director Henry Sjaardema says the group teaches health skills at the community level.
A field hospital set up for Vietnamese hill people in the 1960s by Dr. Turpin is still in operation, Sjaardema says.
Child survival is currently being emphasized by the organization.
Project Concern has aided about 8 million people since its beginning.
These organizations take money donated monthly for a child and pool it with money donated for other children in the same area. By doing this, they are able to help in school construction, vocational training and providing clean drinking water in impoverished communities in the Third World and the United States.
Save the Children, 54 Wilton Road, P.O. Box 950, Westport, Conn. 06881, (800) 243-5075.
Save the Children is the oldest of the sponsorship organizations, started in 1932 to help the victims of the Depression
in Appalachia. Today it also works in 43 other nations. Save the Children emphasizes community work. It has won praise for care of orphans in Ethiopia.