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I’m writing to ask you all a huge favor. But first, bear with me. I have to first tell you a story.
During my 6-month Africans for Africa project last year, I met Lindiwe (not a real name), a retired, 60-something year old African woman. Lindiwe had been running an orphanage out of her own home for the past 10 years. The government had agreed to offer her some money every month to care for up to two children, but the amount was no where near what she needed to care for the twenty-seven she’d taken in.
You see, most of their parents had passed away from HIV/AIDS, or abandoned them when they moved away to find more work. Lindiwe could barely afford to replace their tattered clothes, let alone their school uniforms. If not for the charity of a wholesale grocery store that donated canned goods each month, Lindiwe wouldn’t have been able to feed the orphans in her care at all.
But, one day, a young white American couple (that had been backpacking through the region) arrived at her doorstep, and offered to help Lindiwe raise money from abroad. The plan was to set up a non-profit in the U.S. to serve as a fiscal sponsor (i.e. serve as an umbrella organization) to the orphanage, which would enable them to collect tax-deductible donations from their network back in the states. Lindiwe couldn’t believe her luck. And, perhaps she shouldn’t have.
There are Very Wrong Ways to Do Good
Elated, Lindiwe gave the young white Americans copies of her non-profit’s official documents, which, as planned, the couple used to validate their US-based non-profit as an umbrella org for the project. Their website went up, along with photos of the orphans they’d met on their backpacking trip, and then the tax-deductible donations began to come in.
Initially, the couple sent Lindiwe money to pay for school uniforms–a mere two hundred dollars–and promised more would follow as they continued to spread the word. Thus, as they announced fundraisers — a few even hosted by celebrities — on their website, Lindiwe expected the relief she’d been promised would arrive soon. But it’s been three years since then, and not much has changed.
This past year alone, the U.S. organization has raised over $30,000. But, since their launch there years ago, only $3000 has made it to Lindiwe’s orphanage, and this is after Lindiwe has had to keep calling, emailing, and begging to receive the funds owed to the local orphanage to cover basic necessities: food, medicine, school uniforms.