The Dark World of Charity- 30th Aug, 2011

by tkos on August 16, 2012

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If you had just over £12,000 to give to various charities, how would you choose?

You’ve had to work hard for the money. And that money represents your integrity, so you don’t really want to just dump it all on something that sounds good, like World Vision or Save The Children. Then you would never find out what actually happened to the money, or your integrity for that matter.

There is a particular pleasure in stumbling across a worthy cause, a humble vision or a noble purpose by accident. When a strange series of almost impossible but coincidental events over time have led you to find the otherwise unfindable, it can sometimes feels that it was just meant to be. For those that believe in a predetermined and planned universe, it is called fate. For everybody else, it is just called coincidence.

However it happened, we find ourselves outside an NGO in Tirane, Albania, and about to meet Father Jack. He led an NGO that worked with deaf children, specifically trying to integrate them into standard schools. There was very little help from the government and what appeared to be a great need for this problem. He had amazing statistics as to how many students he had helped and the direction as to where the NGO was headed. This was the first time that we had been invited to speak to a real live NGO on the trip. It was the first time that we had the chance to speak to real people about real problems, to find out the successes and failures of their organisation, the hurdles that they have faced and how they have overcome those obstacles. We really felt that this was the first of many amazing opportunities that we would have to help our organisation, The Kindness of Strangers, grow. To benefit from those around us and to absorb everything on offer.

Looking for a credible NGO in Albania

But for better or for worse, Father Jack was on his way out. He had had enough of Albania and was going to live in Africa. His time in Albania had given him frustrations, joy, success and failures. His time with us was all about his reflections and an insight into the dark world of charity.

“Most NGO’s in Albania are set up simply as tax laundering operations from Italy”.

Um… Excuse me?

“Yes, the are literally hundreds of registered NGO’s here, but only about fifty are actually active. And even from those, it is debatable as to how many actually do any good. Most of them are set up by political parties from Italy to raise money for their campaigns, or from organised Italian crime for money laundering. Either way, very little good comes to those people who need it, in Albania”.

What?

Kimmi and I both sat in silence, eyes wide open and jaws dropped. We were astounded with what we were hearing. The beautiful, peaceful world of hope, generosity and philanthropy had been crushed by political corruption, crime and greed.

Our little hopeless naive faces turned to sadness.

We were quickly learning that the world of charity is big business with big players. And like with all big business, it can be ruthless. But our rose coloured world with a couple of bicycles cannot be defeated and crushed by the learnings from one man. With respect to his experience and brutal honesty, there must be NGO’s who simply aim to help intelligently, with no aim for profit or business. There must be people in the world who have no vested interest or selfish needs, people who are true philanthropists.

What we learnt here is that in Albania, and many other countries, our research is going to take more than a meeting with a cup of coffee.

And we are no closer to deciding how to use the £12,000

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