Incognito Press

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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:

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– kids bunk beds (or thick, roll-out mats for the Filipina girls)

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– household furniture / appliances (desk for homework, beds, stoves, rice cookers, irons), bicycles

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– grocery food trips for the Filipina girls (Manila and Quezon City)

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– 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).

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– 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.

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– 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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7 Responses to “An Open Letter to World Vision”

  1. gweneth said

    good day,
    i just wonder why the sponsor child cannot know the address of their sponsor?before the child can receive a school supply every year…now nothing will receive on a letter from their sponsor…if that the case what is the purpose of having an sponsor if the child cannot receive even school supply?

    • E said

      I think the biggest reason why charities don’t give the sponsor’s address is: 1) because you could donate directly to the child’s family, and the charity organization doesn’t get to spend 80% of your money on their expenses, CEO’s salaries and operations, etc. And 2) because if the family contacts the sponsor directly, they might ask for more money, maybe talk about an illness or something, and the sponsor will feel scammed and stop sponsoring altogether.

      Personally, I’ve been found on Facebook by several of my formerly sponsored children (the Philippines kids all speak fairly good English), and almost all talked about financial difficulties and asked for money…. it’s really sad but I don’t have the money to help them or improve their situation in a significant way. Also disappointing was realizing that ALL the girls I sponsored in the Philippines (and at least one in Ecuador) got pregnant by 15-16 and left school. It’s disheartening that the cycle of poverty continues.

  2. mom said

    But what is wrong with World Vision? We have 4 through there. I don’t care to give my monthly fee which doesn’t even go to the child, but I like being able to give DIRECTLY to the family and write actual letters. They do all that…so what is wrong with them? I don’t really care how much the employees make. I care about being able to send letters and money to MY sponsored child’s family. That changes their lives. The only thing I don’t like is they have no policy to stay in touch with your child, so I will be ending my time with World Vision before too long. If I invest in a child for years…I don’t want to be told by the organization goodbye, thanks. Stay out of contact. The other ones ALL have a thing where you sign a waiver and CAN continue to communicate if you translate yourself.

    • E said

      The reason they don’t allow contact after the child ages out of the program is due to the fact that they want you to sponsor another child with the organization and keep your money flowing into WV. A lot of people might send money directly to the child and their family, especially if there’s an emergency or for college education, etc, and this cuts into WV’s profit margin.
      I understand that you may not care about employees’ salaries, but this has a HUGE impact on how much of your donation goes to benefit the poor families. Basically, they get only what gets left over after salaries, missionaries, office costs, etc get paid – so it’s a serious issue to consider.

      • mom said

        After writing maybe 7 personal letters with photos to my WV kid, I got one back that said “Dear Friends” and was very, very impersonal. Why is that a problem? Heck, it’s not BUT now I am worried that my child did not even read my letters. And in that case, what is the point? I was trying to encourage her and change her life for the better through words. I go though smaller charities and I feel like I KNOW the kids. I can say, hey, I hope you do well in your favorite class, etc. Those little things mean a lot. So World Vision…how come I got the most generic letter back? I doubt a 14 YO girl would be so impersonal. My others of the same at different organizations don’t write letters like that. I just am not sure WV is getting the letters to the kids. Does she even KNOW she has a sponsor?

      • mom said

        And now I want to cancel out 3 of my kids there but keep 1. My worry was the child would be heart broken because I write 2 times a month (have sponsored for 3 months). Suddenly no mail would be hard on the child, right? How can I do that? But due to my comments above…I am just not sure. I cannot AFFORD $40 a month for 4 kids if it’s used so poorly because with my smaller organizations, I can do SO much more good. I want to use it for them. I just feel bad about the child. What do I do? Dropping 3 kids is not easy. Granted, I have only written for 3 months. But I feel bad. NOT because of the money (that they don’t even see really) but because I thought I had established a friendship. But then…when I got that letter back that was totally generic without even my name…I do not know what to do. I feel my $$ can do more with the smaller places I go through.

      • mom said

        OK, well it was an intro letter. They are just kind of slow. I get it. International mail and translations, etc. Some other programs are faster but whatever. I do not want to drop them at this time. Our letters crossed in the mail. All good. I will see if I can get them through the program, and not add any more at this time, and in the future I do prefer smaller organizations because there is better and faster contact with the kids, believe it or not, even though they have a small budget. Many I write directly to the orphanage. Easy and I do all the postage.

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