An Open Letter to World Vision
Posted by E on January 28, 2015
Dear World Vision,
today, sometime around 2 PM, I received yet another phone call from your marketing department.
One would think that a simple weekend sales seminar would have taught you that spamming people with unwanted phone calls (even after multiple requests to be removed from your call list) is not my idea of how you could generate extra cash.
But since you phoned again, despite all my efforts to stop your annoying – and rather aggressive – solicitations, I decided to put my frustration with your spammy calls into a useful rant that hopefully will explain to my friends and readers why I haven’t sponsored with WV in nearly a decade, and never will again.
Let’s start with the obvious: frankly, I’m not interested in funding a homophobic charity corporation whose CEO makes over $200,000 per year (along with vehicle allowance, because God forbid someone paid that much can’t afford a car). Nor am I a supporter of the proselytizing of Christian missionary values to the poor and desperate children of the world – we have only to look to history to witness the impact of Christian missionaries on indigenous children the world over, and the damage caused by residential schools in our own country.
There are other billion-dollar, global non-profits that still operate with more transparency than World Vision and with much less pulpit-preaching. Case in point, instead of spending $40/month with WV, I used to sponsor with Children International (whose CEO’s salary tops $300,000), but at least it was only $22 monthly AND I was allowed to make a REAL impact in the lives of the families by sending extra cash directly to the family.
For many years I’ve worked with smaller orgs that allow me to send money directly to the family, who is taken shopping for their basic needs by community reps – I actually received photos of my sponsored kids with their food and supplies. For an extra $100 per kid, I was able to buy:
– kids bunk beds (or thick, roll-out mats for the Filipina girls)
– household furniture / appliances (desk for homework, beds, stoves, rice cookers, irons), bicycles
– grocery food trips for the Filipina girls (Manila and Quezon City)
– dance classes for Jennifer, a sweet kid in Guayaquil, Ecuador who wanted to be a dancer but never had the opportunity (and her mom couldn’t afford the dance clothes, shoes and tuition).
– New clothes for teenage girls in Quito and Guayaquil, Ecuador and Barranquilla, Colombia who hadn’t owned more than a change of clothing and they were growing fast – I remember what it was like to be going through a growth spurt and have no clothes or shoes to properly clothe me – resulting in embarrassment and bullying from other kids.
– a new stove, pots and pans for a little girl in India whose widowed mother was supporting 2 girls on $20 a month – they were cooking in a field over an open fire because they couldn’t afford a stove.
But after some time, I realized that there were plenty of other grassroots organizations that do valuable work and aren’t spending hundreds of thousands (hell, it’s probably millions) annually on advertising and CEO salaries. Charities that can’t afford to print tens of thousands of glossy brochures and spend on stamps and prime-time television commercials and hour-long infomercials to solicit donors, and guess why? Because most of their surplus cash goes right back into the charity itself.
Through even smaller organizations, I was able to pay the annual high school fees of slum kids attending Lorna Waddington High School and Galilee Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, as well as cover their exam fees. I also bought them a daily lunch program and all school supplies for the year. All their supplies and lunch program for the year cost me only the equivalent of two months’ sponsorship with World Vision, but it was infinitely more rewarding.
Through another small charity based in Vietnam, $50 per year bought a poor girl and her single mom a huge bag of rice that should last them at least half a year. It also created an incentive for the child not to be sold into prostitution (a fellow sponsor I was corresponding with at that time told me that her sponsored girl, at only 12 years old, had already been trafficked).
Through another small charity, I sponsored a little girl in an orphanage in Sri Lanka for two years. I loved Suvimali like she was my own and for over two years I sent her monthly packages and letters, as well as paid for her to have a birthday party at the orphanage (something she’d never experienced before). I dreamed of meeting her someday, but the day came when her single mother was able to get back on her feet and took her back home. Suvimali was happy, and I was happy for her – I still think about her to this day, and hope she’s doing well.
Over the years I also tried my hand at sponsoring with several small charities based out of the Himalayas and India. There are so many families my partner and I sponsored, but I didn’t have the time to scan in all their photos.
Next to my sponsorship of Suvimali, my other favourite correspondence, organized through Tibetan Sponsorship Scheme, was with a young Tibetan nun in Nepal to whom I sent $10 a month to cover her monastery stay – the organization that facilitated the money transfer gave her 100% of my donation. Read her moving thank-you letter here.
But how does World Vision happen to have my telephone number, you ask? About ten years ago I started sponsoring with them, back when I didn’t know the impact that my dollar would have with smaller organizations. I sponsored several kids for a year and at best, I might have received one impersonal letter that didn’t tell me anything about them or their families. I also sponsored a Romanian girl to whom I wrote in Romanian – our correspondence was better (not filtered or edited by translators) but whenever I asked about how the organization was helping her, she didn’t answer anything other than mention the community center where they were having their religious service.
These days I can’t afford to sponsor anymore due to my own financial difficulties, but even if I came into a magical large windfall, a gigantic charity like WorldVision – who has a policy on what is “sinful”, i.e. employees’ gay / lesbian marriage, and basically requires a commitment of abstinence from all employees but married heterosexual couples – would never be on my donation radar.
So dear WorldVision – if you don’t like me telling your phone reps to bugger off (over and over and over again) then guess what – maybe this time you could get me off your phone list? Pretty please?
Addendum: it was more difficult than I expected to get a breakdown of the current salaries for top World Vision employees – obviously they’re not listed on the Sunshine List since they’re not a government agency. However, I have been able to locate a source that has compiled all the info I needed to know: apparently there are 2 (read it, TWO) employees who make between $200,000-$250,000 (I’m guessing Toycen is one of them). And just as disturbing, SEVEN employees make between $160,000-$200,000. Yes, a total of NINE people at World Vision earn as much as or more than the Prime Minister of Canada.
But don’t think the other huge charities are any better – Plan Canada’s CEO is getting over $300,000 annually. I’m sure there’s a car bonus on top of that. Obviously.
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