Since returning from South Africa, there’s been a big overhaul to my ideas about how to offer aid. Suddenly I want to know how to get help to the person who is suffering the most. We all know to watch for charities that take substantial administrative cuts from monies for foreign aid. However, my African experience demands that I no longer overlook the big “C” word – Corruption.
After spending a couple of days in and around the Townships on the outskirts of Cape Town, I came face to face with poverty.
As I viewed poverty safely from the circle of tour guides and comfortable buses, I admitted that I probably could not survive in this environment. For sure, my mind would engage in survival warfare that would put my life in danger. The expression of this father told me enough to know that I was an intruder. I was inappropriate.
I was told the townships grew when people came from the country or the bush where they could no longer feed themselves. They traded starvation for a city of dilapidation, filth, and corruption – a transition and adjustment that would challenge any human being. Then I was told about conditions even worse than the Townships – in other African countries.
I attended a small church service one weekday morning at St. Paul’s Anglican Church in downtown Cape Town. Retired Bishop Desmond Tutu had been the guest preacher a few Sundays before my attendance. After the service, a handful of faithfuls were tidying and waiting for me to finish admiring the incredible stained glass windows. These people were black Africans so I thought I would pop the question. I asked Uncle Ernie, “When we send money through the Church from Canada to various countries in Africa, do you think the money gets to the people who really need it?”
Uncle Ernie’s response was, “Oh, I’m afraid corruption arises out of desperation in any part of life.” My naivete was hit hard. The question mark began to feel burdensome.
Once back in Canada, I remembered hearing about a wealthy Indian Banker receiving a Nobel Peace Price for his attack on poverty. He had begun a program whereby entrepreneurial people could obtain a loan without having to face the wretchedness of loan sharking. And the results? People began to produce income for themselves. A very high percentage of these small loans were paid back!
Through further research, I discovered “Kiva – loans that change lives”. Shortly thereafter, one of my fellow ‘safarites’ told me that the large law firm where she is employed, has an employee-sponsored project through Kiva. They too have experienced loans being paid back.
Apparently Kiva, worldwide, averages a 98% payback of loans. Not only is the nasty loan shark cut out of the picture, this approach means that the money is in the hands of the keen person with a good idea who knows the corrupt people and methodologies. They know how to avoid corruption in their own culture.
Today, I had a couple of appointments in a location close to my Financial Adviser. Fraser finished telling me how well my account had survived the second biggest crash in history and I mentioned that I had been in Africa. That led to confessing my dilemma about getting money to the right people.
Fraser said, “Oh, I’ve discovered a great outfit called Kiva!”
Now do you remember in a past blog that I said I give the Universe/God/The Creator a chance to feed back an idea or possibility three times before I move on it? This was number three.
Turns out that Fraser and his wife met with a man, through Rotary, who works on one of the Mercy Ships. This man and all of the other volunteers sail these Mercy ships all over the world, taking medical people and supplies where they are needed most. These Ships of Mercy have begun to work with Kiva in getting loans into countries they service.
“This guy told us about the projects and we all threw some money in the pot! He sent it through to Kiva, people were given the loans quickly and we’ve already started receiving some payments from people! It’s such a great idea that I’m asking my staff to get involved. I’m giving one employee a chunk of time each month to recruit new members. We’re starting our own fund here!” Fraser’s grin was punctuated by the glistening of his teary eyes.
Synchronicity, the third time around, opened a heart and a soul jumped with joy. I became their first member.