FAIRFAX, VA—Fairfax resident and Save-A-Child sponsor Gene Anderson withheld his monthly $18 contribution from his Zimbabwean child, Mtumbe Chigumbura, in order to teach him a lesson in responsibility.
"The boy has to understand that life isn't always going to be peaches and cream," Anderson said. "Mtumbe may feel flush now, but a little guidance with fiscal responsibility seems to be in order."
Mtumbe, 12, lives in an orphanage in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city. He has been in the orphanage since he was nine after both of his parents succumbed to the AIDS virus.
Anderson's decision to withhold his monthly sponsorship was sparked by the adolescent's reckless, spendthrift actions, as evidenced in Mtumbe's recent letters.
"Dear Mother and Father Anderson," the most recent letter read, "Thank you once again for your generous gift. I was able to get my [immunization] shots and enough milk and flour to feed myself and to buy some new clothes for school. Because milk was cheaper this month, I had a little money left over and was able [to buy materials] to fix my football, or, as you call it in America, soccer ball."
"I don't expect him to know everything about money, what with out of control inflation forcing his country back towards a barter system" Anderson said. "But if Mtumbe wants to better his lot in life, he needs to start socking a little away for the future, not wasting it on every little fancy and childish whim."
Added Anderson: "I was under the impression that this was a hand-up, not a hand-out."
Mentions of impulse purchases in previous letters, amid overflowing gratitude, first triggered Anderson's concern with the child's spending habits. These purchases included HIV medication for an uncle and a new crutch for a fellow orphan, who is an amputee.
"I could see that Mtumbe was a little free with his money, and I let it slide, probably for too long in retrospect," said Anderson. "If I continue to let him get away with this kind of thing, the next thing I know he's got a glue problem."
Anderson also plans on suggesting that Mtumbe invest the money that he has left at the end of each month.
"Mtumbe should at least open a savings account. Things might not always be as good as they are now," said Anderson.
"I know there are banks in Africa. I get emails from them all the time," added Anderson.
Anderson, father of University of Vermont junior Kara Anderson, is no stranger to doling out this kind of lesson.
"Mtumbe's spree reminds me of when Kara went a little crazy at the campus store with her emergency credit card," said Anderson. "A few lonely weekends in her dorm room after I froze accounts really taught Kara the value of a dollar. I suspect that this little situation with Mtumbe will have similar results."
Anderson hopes that this example, in addition to teaching the orphan how to manage his money, will inspire some ambition in Mtumbe.
"I understand boys will be boys, but if he wants a little fun money, he should get a part-time job delivering papers or clearing land mines," said Anderson. "Believe me, you enjoy the little extras in life all the more if you feel like you've earned them."
Anderson said he will always be there for Mtumbe, but that it is his responsibility to teach him how to pull himself up by his bootstraps.
This, of course, is contingent on Mtumbe showing enough forethought to save for boots.