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"Save the Children has touched the lives of millions of children and their families around the world with the help of caring people like you! You can help stop the suffering and give deserving children in need a better life today and hope for the future." Sponsor a child like this girl, Korotoumou Kone, a nine-year-old Malian, for $20 a month, just 67 cents a day, to provide for some of her basic needs.
But what if I were to tell you that only three months after your sponsorship began, the girl died. In fact, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, March 26, 1998, reported that the Chicago Tribune journalist who sponsored this child through Save the Children, went to Mali to check up on the girl, and found she had died nearly two years earlier. Save the Children never bothered to inform the reporter that the intended recipient of her generosity was dead. Oops.
The Chronicle of Philanthropy goes on to state that as of January 14, 1999, 400,000 Americans were child supporters, donating $400 million each year through these programs. Was the money they sent to those charities received by the hunger stricken children we see on TV? All too often, the answer is a resounding NO. The truth is that in the last year alone, the Chicago Tribune found 24 other children sponsored by Save the Children who died a year before their sponsor ever learned the devastating truth. In most cases, the money becomes a part of the bureaucracy or is given to the oppressive government. In order to fight the fraud, but still help the needy, the American public needs to realize the extent of international charity fraud and be made aware of the few trustworthy international relief charities that do exist.
To do this, we must first understand how the media skews our perspective of the situation through news reports and advertisements. Second, we will focus on international relief charities, and who is really benefiting from your money. And finally, we will see how the situation can really be ameliorated with your help. First, let's do a little investigative journalism of our own.
Journalists and human rights investigators realize that human rights reporting is made more effective by graphic visual images, according to Frederic A. Moritz in U.S. Human Rights Report, September, 1998. "The concentration of refugees in camps supervised by international bodies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees provides relatively easy access for journalists who need to interview and photograph victims of war and repression . . ." People send money because that's what the media feeds them.
George Alagiah of BBC Television was quoted in Alex de Waal's 1997 book, Famine Crimes. "Relief agencies depend upon us for publicity and we need them to tell us where the stories are. We try not to ask the questions too bluntly: "ÔWhere will we find the most starving babies?' And they never answer explicitly. We get the pictures just the same." Even James Gibson, the Director of the Childreach program in Haiti quite frankly stated in 1998, "The American public is more inclined to respond to emotional rather than intellectual appeals." But Michael Maren in his 1997 book, The Road to Hell, states, "There is perhaps nothing more wretched than the exploitation of children for fund raising, yet nothing more common." Exploitation like this picture. And this picture. And even this picture.
These children and communities need our assistance, but the exploitative journalism that captures our attention and calls us to action is causing us to throw money at a flawed system. Unfortunately, the good hearted Americans who sent their money to this chid would be grieved to know that their money actually went into this man's pocket. Mobutu Sese Seko, the recently fallen dictator of Zaire, here pictured in his villa on the French Riviera, where the architecture and menu look nothing like the relief camps of his people.
The media squeezes out our every last teardrop, while the charity organizations get to cash in. This money is harming those we intend to help the most. The harm is delivered in the form of international relief charities like Save the Children, AmeriCares, the UN, and various religious agencies.
A November 10, 1998 Fortune magazine report found that this $50 billion a year industry was providing for six-figure salaries and first class plane tickets. Kerby Anderson, in a 1998 Probe Ministries International report, also found that most of the money benefits political leaders and businessmen. And if it's not being pocketed, organizations like AmeriCares are using it to ship 10,000 cases of Gatorade to Zaire, for AmeriCares believed that the supposed energy nourishment one receives from Gatorade would be sufficient to protect an individual from the life threatening disease, cholera. However, Dr. Michael Toole from the Centers for Disease Control states, "While Gatorade might be good for athletes, it is not good for cholera victims." But, let's not forget the biggest charity organization of them all, the UN.
The New Republic, December, 1994, reveals that many third world countries see the United Nations, the world renowned foreign aid organization, as inherently corrupt, "and UN bureaucrats are in Somalia only to enrich themselves." In fact, that same year, $4 million in cash disappeared from a UN compound. It could have been stolen, given to high ranking government officials, pocketed by some locals, or carried off by fire antsÑthey just don't know. Even Sergio de Mello, the UN's Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief states in London Mail Guardian, April 8, 1998, that the UN has made mistakes and needs to be "more aware of the consequences." More aware of a $4 million loss? Here's a tip, when you put $4 million in a room, write down the room number. But unfortunately, the UN didn't take my advice as was indicated in their recent charitable mission to Kosovo. The Chronicle of Philanthropy, April 22, 1998, reported that the disorganization of the UN High Commission for Refugees actually hindered relief efforts resulting in the loss of medical supplies worth $500,000.
Or what about the March 15, 1998 Chicago Tribune report of how Children International raised $25,000 in sponsorships to provide a Filipino village with a number of doctors and 20 to 30 toilets. From the $25,000, the children only received one sporadic doctor and one toilet. Now, unless they contracted NASA to build one of those high tech toilets, I don't think it could have cost $25,000. What happened to all the money? Your guess is as good as mine. And all those letters you receive from your child? Well, they're fabricated. At least that's what the Director of Christian Children's Fund said in the Chicago Tribune, March 22, 1998.
All of this paints a very bad picture for those people who need help. When donors don't know where their money is going, and then find out it is being squandered, they're not likely to give additional money to charities. Legitimate charities are hurt by exploitative non-legitimate charities, unless you know who the legitimate international relief charities are.
There are two international relief charities, Oxfam and the French group, Doctors Without Borders, who have topped the list of charities that are morally and financially smart and effective in their originally intended purpose. The same cholera victims AmeriCares tried to help with Gatorade, Doctors Without Borders treated effectively and efficiently. In fact, in 1997, the National Charities Information Bureau found that 80 percent of the revenues generated for Doctors Without Borders was used for emergency and medical purposes. The Chronicle of Philanthropy also compiles an annual Philanthropy 400 list of the top charities based upon financial statements, annual reports, and a questionnaire response. The top five international relief charities issued November 25, 1998, are the American Red Cross, Gifts in Kind International, World Vision, Goodwill Industries International, and Campus Crusade International.
There are other international relief organizations worthy of your money, but it would be wise to follow the Chronicle's tips for safe giving so as not to fall prey to con artists. Beware of high emotion, no substance ads, phone solicitations, and never pay by cash or credit cardÑalways pay by check, payable to the full name of the charity, so only the specified charity may cash in on your money, thus ensuring yourself as well as the charity.
Next time you see those ads on TV of starving children waiting for you to send them money, remember that they are suffering at the hands of those very charities. Today, we have seen how exploitative the media has become, how non-legitimate charities have misused our money, and identified the truly legitimate charities, those worthy of your donations. The sponsorship agent in charge of Korotoumou Kone told the sponsoring journalist that Korotoumou was healthy and continuing in her studies, but it had been exactly two years after her death. We cannot allow our ignorance to act as a partner in the exploitation of these people. As the journalist then responded, "She's dead. She did not live beyond her 12th birthday."
Gunasekera, U. (1999). The perils of philanthropy. In L. G. Schnoor (Ed.), Winning Orations of the Interstate Oratorical Association (pp. 98-100). Mankato, MN: Interstate Oratorical Association.
What do you think of the opening "attention getter"? Did it gain your attention? Did it make you want to hear or read more?
How effective is the speaker's orientation? Does the orientation make it clear what the major parts of the speech will be?
Do you agree that the American public is more persuaded by emotional rather than intellectual appeals? Are you?
The visual aids the speaker used were not included in the published speech text so we can't evaluate them. But, if you were giving the speech, what types of visuals would you have shown at this point?
Another unseen visual of Seko's villa would seem to provide an extremely vivid contrast to the pictures of starving children. Why do you think this technique of vivid contrast is generally so effective?
Here the speaker moves from the first major issue (the way the media appeals to our emotions) and the second issue (the relief charities). Is this transition clear? What other ways might the speaker have moved from the first to the second issue?
How effective are these examples in making you realize that much of the money given to help the children is wasted?
Does the speaker convince you that relief organizations have misused the money given to them? If so, what specifically convinced you? If not, what additional proof would you want?
Here is the second transition, moving from the second major issue (the relief charities and how they waste the money given to them) to the third issue (what we can do to help the children and yet not contribute to those organizations that waste the money). Is this transition effective? In what other ways might you move from the second issue to the third?
Are you convinced that the charities named by the speaker are the best ones to contribute to? If not, what additional information would you want?
What do you think of the suggestions for insuring that your money goes where you want it to go? What, if any, additional information might the speaker have included?
How effective is the summary statement of the three major issues covered in the speech?
What do you think of the speaker's technique of tying the conclusion back to the introduction (with the story of Korotoumou)?