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Archive for the ‘charity’ Category

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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Posted in charity, children | Tagged: , , , , | 8 Comments »

My Correspondence with a Tibetan Nun

Posted by E on August 8, 2007

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In light of the recent arrests by the Chinese authorities of a couple of Canadians who dared unfurl a Free Tibet banner at the Great Wall, I thought I would share the first letter in my ongoing correspondence with a 20-year old Tibetan nun.

I could write several articles on my thoughts about the Chinese government and their treatment of those who dare possess dissenting opinions. But many other bloggers are doing just that. So instead, I will let Dolma’s words describe the peaceful nature of the oppressed Tibetan people.

Dolma (not her real first or last name)  is a Tibetan refugee now living in a Buddhist nunnery in India. I began to sponsor her through a private arrangement where I send a small amount of money over to her twice a year. The yearly $120 covers her basic meals and necessities since she is all alone, her family living back in Tibet.

We write to each other whenever possible. This was her first letter, received at the beginning of this year.

My dear sponsor Elisa,

First of all, I am so thankful to you for accepting me. I am fortunate to get a new sponsor. I received your lovely letter and am so glad to hear about [.I am removing this part since it contains private details about myself.].

Regarding myself, I am Dolma ****, 20 years old. I have 12 family members. My father Lobsang is 45 years old. My mother Narwang is also 45. They are Nomads. I have one elder brother and eight youngers. Five of them are boys, and three girls. My all family are in Tibet. In summer, they live in a tent and in the rest of the years they live in a house. They have animals like – yaks, sheep, and goats.

In Tibet, our town is so beautiful. There are high mountains with beautiful flowers and rivers. The climate is so cold in winter, all the rivers become ice, etc.

How I decided to become a nun is…when I was a child, I listen and learn much on Dharma from our high guru (teachers) and my parents. When I became 15 years old, I thought it’s the best thing to learn and practice religion (Dharma) for whole life, to purify one’s mind and to help others through spirituality. So, I decided to become a nun.

But back in Tibet, we Tibetans have no rights to practice religion because the Chinese have banned everything. So I heard that in India, people can get opportunity to study and practice religion so I thought to escape to India.

I came to India by walk. It took 23 days to cross the high Himalayas mountains and to reach India border. On my way to India I faced much difficulties. Of course, I was afraid because, if once we were caught by the Chinese then they will imprison us for life. We walk whole night and when the sun rise we hide under a small cave waiting for night to fall. We crossed high snow mountain by walk. And most difficult was that after many days, our food which we carried from our home was finished and we have to go without food for many days. And on high rocky mountains sometime we didn’t even get a drop of water.

I came to India in Jan.2006 and first I went to Dharamsala to get blessings of his Holiness the Dalai Lama, and then I came to South India. I am now studying at First Standard, which is called 1st year of Dialectic, and we debate and study on that. Our annual exam is approaching, it is in June. After the Exam I will send you my result sheet. And tell you how it was.

My daily life in India is like: in my nunnery, we nuns study Buddhist philosophy, Tibetan grammar and poetry, Prayer memorization, English. Every day we get up at 5:00 am to attend Morning Prayer Ceremony. Then we go to Philosophy class; after that we play Debate in Debate yard for 2 hours. We eat lunch at 11:00 am. We take nap for 1 hour and after that we go for Tibetan Grammar class, then English class, and we do self-studies.

We take dinner at 5:00 pm, and at 6:30 pm we assemble for Prayers. At 8:30, we again play Debate for 3 hours altogether. Then we go to room, and revise our studies and we go to bed at 12:00. This is my routine.  My hobbies are: feeding animals, reading Tibetan stories.

Lastly, I will cease here with all my love, prayers and best wishes. I pray for your good health, success and happiness. May your heart be filled with all joys, and mind with peace. I’ve enclosed one picture of mine.

Take care and I am thankful for your kind help. Do write me if you get time. And send me your sweet letter. I am so happy to hear from you. Thanking you,

yours sincerely,

Dolma

If Dolma or any of the others would have been caught trying to cross into India on the mountains, they would likely have been shot to death.

On October 20, 2006, news reports out of Khatmandu described a horror scene witnessed by many Western mountain-climbers. Reuters Press wrote: “Foreign climbers described on Tuesday the horror of watching Chinese guards shoot at a group of Tibetans high in the Himalayas, killing at least one of them.

Three climbers from Britain and Australia told Reuters they watched the incident on September 30 in Chinese territory, close to Nangpa La, a mountain pass in the Mount Everest region. At least 10 Tibetan children were also taken into custody by Chinese authorities, one climber said.

‘We felt a bit shocked and upset because we came to climb the mountain and here we are watching people being shot,’ said British climber Steve Lawes, who was at the advance base camp on Cho-Oyu — at 8,201 metres (26,906 feet), the world’s sixth highest mountain. The area is about 20 km (12 miles) west of Mount Everest. There has been no official Chinese comment about the incident.”

The total disregard that the Chinese government has toward human rights within China itself and in Tibet requires condemnation – not an Olympic event and international whitewashing.

Since China began its occupation of Tibet in 1951, over one million Tibetans have been murdered in a genocide that continues to this day. Poisoning of crops and animals in order to drive away farmers, people taken away in the night and made to “disappear”, forced abortions and sterilizations of Tibetan women and gang raping of Tibetan nuns while in police custody, are just some examples of the ongoing crimes against humanity taking place in Tibet to this day.

A small number of Tibetans have been able to escape to India, Nepal and Bhutan, where they are free to observe their culture and practice their religion.

China has begun an aggressive plan to eradicate the remaining vestiges of Tibetan culture by relocating millions of ethnic Chinese into Tibet. The cultural genocide will ensure that within a few generations, the “Tibetan problem” will once and for all be a fleeting memory for the Chinese leadership.

Sadly, the West is helping to finance this genocide. China enjoys a significant trade imbalance in its favour that helps maintain and advance its military infrastructure. Multinational corporations have lobbied hard to prevent the issue of human rights abuses in China and Tibet from being a topic at trade talks. The politicians have obliged by turning a blind eye to the oppression and persecution of the innocent.

The only way that China will be forced to deal with Tibet is if human rights is made an issue at trade talks. It will then be in China’s own interest to deal with Tibet in a humane manner. However, as long as the international community puts profit above human dignity and freedom, the destruction of a vibrant people and their ancient culture will continue.

Posted in activism, buddhism, canada, censorship, charity, china, commentary, culture, freedom, globalization, india, letter, news, politics, press, religion, revolution, tibet | 6 Comments »

Helping out at the orphanage

Posted by E on July 12, 2007

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This week I received news that the little girl I sponsor through a private arrangement in an orphanage in Sri Lanka has received my second care package.

Over the last year I have been involved with various small charities around the world. This one is closest to my heart. This little girl, who I will name Sarita (not her real name) to protect her privacy, has been abandoned on and off by her mother since she was an infant. Growing up in an orphanage has been difficult for her, but at least she does receive the odd visit from her mother, and she does get to go home on school vacations.

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This is Sarita’s home, the Orphanage for Orphaned, Abandoned and Destitute girls. Below is one of the children’s bedrooms, which has been recently renovated through sponsor donations. 

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My monthly contribution is a private one, to help in providing the extra little things that she would not receive otherwise: new clothing, vitamins, English lessons, school materials, extra tutoring, and the occasional field trip. Sarita is one of 50 destitute girls living in this wonderful orphanage close to Colombo, Sri Lanka. Their matron is supposedly a very loving woman and tries to give them each individual attention, but that can only go so far.

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Each girl has a special friend from overseas who writes to her, sends her little things and care mail, and tells her how special she is. We also cover things such as birthday parties.

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Sarita has thrived over the past year. I’m so proud of the way she’s growing up. I hope to meet her someday. We try to email each other as often as we can through the only dial-up computer inside the home. I send her photo albums that are emailed to me from school trips, etc. 

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At the very least, I hope to be a constant reminder in her life of how special she is, and how she can accomplish anything if she puts her mind to it.

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Sarita’s beautiful village, a Sri Lankan tropical oasis. Her orphanage is 1km from the ocean.

Posted in charity, children, cute, family, girls, love, orphanage, sri lanka | 7 Comments »