Donate responsibly

Check trustworthiness of agency before giving money

    WHENEVER any disaster strikes, a community of people, the resulting chaos of people who have lost limbs, loved ones, homes, and often everything they ever knew or owned, presents such a piteous picture that it never fails to stir hearts into giving whatever they can to alleviate the suffering of fellow man, whether it be in the next state or all the way across the world. It is part of the human condition (or assumed to be) that whether one is rich or poor, those who can should give and help those who are  in need. Give generously, and give with heart and humanity.

However, as revelations last weekend regarding British aid supplies to Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines show, not all people think it is their duty to help others in need. Based on preliminary evidence provided by a British witness, a Japanese aid worker, as well as Philippine television stations, not all the donations have reached the victims, and have instead allegedly been siphoned off by corrupt local officials. Foodstuff bought from donations given by the British public and sent by military planes have been diverted to the homes of local officials and been found on the shelves of shops in affluent districts of Manila (hundreds of kilometres away from the disaster area). Aid packages have been auctioned online, and shelter equipment and even more food supplies have been locked up in warehouses, even though there are many victims in desperate need.

Sadly though, such incidences are not uncommon. The generosity of humans ensures that a steady flow of money or in-kind goes towards whichever disaster or in-need area of the season. If these donations go to genuine aid relief efforts, victims benefit from them. But, there is also a chance that donations could end up in the coffers of unscrupulous swindlers, some of whom set up fake charities to fund their own lives. Donation-giving has always been fraught with fraudsters, and rogues, like those accused last week, only serve to affect the confidence of donors. The trick, obviously, is in sifting through all the donation boxes and finding the genuine and ethical ones — to look at whether “administrative costs” outweigh the aid given, and whether it commensurates the organisation’s performance. The sad truth is that giving to charity requires more than just opening one’s wallet and giving to whomever that asks. Don’t just give money without making it count, because the value of that money is not in the good intention of the giver, but in how much it helps the needy receiver. And for this to happen, donors have to ensure that the collecting and receiving agencies are accountable and worthy of the trust given. By all means, give generously; but give judiciously, too.