Back in October 2013, when Catholic parents in Ottawa were asking tough questions about Free the Children (FTC), Marc Kielburger wrote a letter to the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) making the following definitive statement :
“Please allow us to share that Free The Children does not partner with development organization [sic] or other international agencies which are in direct conflict with Catholic teachings.” (Source)
Socon or Bust has compelling evidence that this statement is factually false.
FTC partners with an NGO called Partners in Health (PIH). We know this through FTC’s own website. In January 2010, in the aftermath of the terrible earthquake that devastated Haiti, FTC sent money to PIH:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Free The Children responds to crisis in Haiti
Toronto, ON (January 19, 2010) – After Haiti’s 7.0 earthquake hit last Tuesday, Free The Children responded immediately by setting up an emergency relief fund and teaming up with Partners in Health (http://www.pih.org/home.html) who have been providing on-the-ground healthcare in Haiti for over 20 years. Together both organizations are providing emergency relief and medical supplies to get immediate, effective support to the hardest-hit communities. (Source)
A year later, FTC was still talking about their partnership with PIH:
Today marks the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the city of Port au Prince and its surrounding regions. It is estimated that only 5% of the rubble has been cleared from Port au Prince, signifying that there is still a long road ahead in Haiti’s recovery. Since the earthquake, Free The Children has provided both emergency response by delivering basic supplies, carrying out rapid needs assessments, and working with Partners in Health to provide medical care immediately after the quake. (Source)
Not surprisingly, FTC’s annual reports for 2010 and 2011 both list PIH among “Supporters and Partners”. In FTC’s most recent annual report, for 2013, PIH is still on the list of “Partners and Supporters” (page 43).
So we’ve established quite clearly that FTC has partnered with PIH for multiple years and has sent them money. What does PIH do? Their website says that they’re dedicated to bringing health care to the people in poor countries. Sounds very laudable. But they’re very upfront about their work in distributing contraception. On their web page about women’s health, they have a section on “family planning”. It reads like this (emphasis ours):
Family planning is among the most effective tools for reducing maternal mortality. Women who receive education and contraceptive options are more likely to delay childbearing, have fewer children, and reduce their risk for obstetrical complications. Nevertheless, an estimated 41 percent of all pregnancies worldwide are unplanned or unwanted, accounting for nearly 230,000 new pregnancies every day, according to a 2010 article in the journal Studies in Family Planning.
Women in poor communities too often lack access to family planning tools. Clinics are too far away, fees for obtaining medical care are too high, and transportation costs are beyond their means. If family planning services were available to all women who want them, maternal mortality in poor countries could be reduced by an estimated 70 percent, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Haiti, each of PIH’s clinics has a full-time nurse trained in sex education and reproductive health counseling. Staff in Haiti have been offering free condoms and contraception for more than 15 years. In 2003, we began training and mobilizing community health workers who specifically promote family planning and women’s health. These ajan fanm—women’s health agents—travel throughout the countryside, teaching people about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, and contraceptive methods. They also distribute condoms and oral contraceptives and refer pregnant women to clinics. This successful model is being replicated at PIH sites in Rwanda, Malawi, and Lesotho. (Source)
(CNN) — Condoms do two things really well: They prevent unwanted pregnancies, and they stop the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases. Doing both can have a broad effect on a community’s overall health, especially in developing nations where people have limited access to medical care.
The problem is that access to condoms in these countries is limited, says Sheila Davis, chief nursing officer for Partners in Health. Rural shops or roadside stands don’t usually sell contraception, and supply shortages hinder health care workers’ attempts to hand out free condoms at hospitals or clinics.
In 2008, donors provided about 2.4 billion condoms worldwide, according to the United Nations Population Fund. That’s only a small percentage of the 18 billion experts estimate will be needed globally for HIV prevention and family planning by 2015. Some countries receive an average of one condom per man per year.
Davis has seen the effects of contraception shortages in Haiti. Unwanted pregnancies in the country spiked after the 2010 earthquake that killed more than 220,000 people, according to the United Nations Population Fund. And Haiti continues to struggle with high prevalence rates of HIV.
To conquer the Caribbean nation’s lack of contraception, Partners in Health has teamed up with Sir Richard’s, an American condom company. Sir Richard’s launched in 2009 with a similar business model as TOMS Shoes & Eyewear; for every condom bought, Sir Richard’s donates one condom to a developing nation. Haiti is a trial run for the company, which plans to eventually expand to Africa and South America. (Source)
It’s quite clear that PIH is aggressively pushing for condoms in Haiti and other countries in the Global South. FTC is partnering with an NGO that is very much “in direct conflict with Catholic teachings.” Mr. Kielburger wrote that inaccurate letter to the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) in October 2013, a year in which his own annual report shows that FTC was still in league with PIH.
The Kielburgers owe us an explanation….or perhaps it’s time to end the current façade. The facts are that Free the Children’s goals and their partners’ goals are not aligned with the Church, but are, in fact, in direct opposition to the Catholic Church’s teachings on the sanctity of human life and human sexuality.