The Red Cross is more a burden than a relief

Have you ever wondered where or to whom your money goes when you donate to charity? Albeit that the whole idea of charity is to give without reserve – expecting nothing in return – it is understandable if you want to know that your charity is going to the “right place”. In a society where 1 out of 5 people are always looking to scam, you cannot help but wonder where your money is going.
When it comes to charity, I always think of the story in the Bible of the widow who donates two mites (the most invaluable coins at that time), while wealthy people donated much more. Jesus explained to his disciples that she gave everything she had and the lesson to be learned is that the sacrifices of the poor at times, mean more to God than those of the rich, who only give portions of their wealth. It’s all about the intention. Do you give from the heart or for credit and a tax write-off?

Five years ago, the island country of Haiti was struck by a deadly earthquake and an even deadlier aftershock. Haiti experiences hurricanes all the time and the residents have always prepared for them, but no one expected an earthquake. Let alone the many other issues that the country faces – political corruption, poverty, high unemployment – the earthquake caused complete devastation. Having a parent who is Haitian, I have always felt a pride and joy for the culture, people, and language.

Devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010
Devastating earthquake that rocked Haiti in 2010

For over two weeks, the extensive recovery and rescue efforts were covered in the media. Many charitable organizations stepped up in a big way, none greater than The Red Cross, who even held a televised star-studded benefit concert raising hundreds of millions of dollars.

Although, it was estimated that it would take about two billion dollars to completely restore the country, the almost one billion dollars raised would go a long way. Or so we thought!!!

It was reported last week that The Red Cross spent five hundred million donated dollars to build a whopping, wait for it, wait for it, 6 homes. Millions of people were affected, thousands of houses were destroyed, but the U.S. Red Cross built only 6 permanent homes. The organization has been accused of misallocating funds. Duh!!!

Haitians living in makeshift tents
Haitians living in makeshift tents

What’s interesting is that the United States and Haiti have always had a contentious relationship – politically, financially, and socially. For years, the U.S. has been trying to do “business” with the island, which typically means a quid pro quo kind of system.

Haiti has found that in order to please the great America, it would have to give up a lot of who she is – her rich culture, language, resources, and maybe an island or two.

Naturally, that is something that will never sit well with the Haitian people, who made history fighting for their independence in the most peculiar way.

Villagers who no longer wanted to be slaves or held under French dominion, took to the streets with their machetes, sticks, and other household items to fight French soldiers armed with bayonets and artillery. They were no match for the Haitians, who fought hard and won, giving a new meaning to bringing a knife to a gun fight.

I am not certain if the U.S. Red Cross’ misappropriation of funds stems from the Haitians’ refusal to succumb to American laws or tactics, but the island country has been screwed over for decades. Of course, the Red Cross denies this, saying that they have helped in every way to ensure quality of life for the people of Haiti, etcetera, etcetera.

As this reporting on Haiti unfolds, I cannot help but think about the catastrophe surrounding Hurricane Katrina. With all the media coverage on the disaster itself, the government’s lack of assistance, and the individuals who decided to help out on their own, one man stood out to me the most because of the remarks he made about charity giving.

He said that he does not donate money to charities because the people who they are intended to help will never see a dime. He said that people would be shocked to discover these organizations’ breakdown of funds. About 65% go to administrative costs, and 15% go to some form of “taxes”, so what you are left with does not even cover the bare necessities for those in need. That is if the money is even properly distributed!

Percentages of donations to the American Red Cross by text
Percentages of donations to the American Red Cross by text

He goes on to say that if you want to help African orphans, go buy a plane ticket, head to Africa, feed the kids, build a school, and get your hands dirty. That is true charity!

And that time, I thought this guy was a know-it-all who was attempting to dissuade people from donating to the cause. Who would have thought that he saw something back then that continues to play out on a massive scale today.

I believe that it is a blessing to give and one should never stop giving, but I do believe that giving should effect some kind of change. We obviously cannot rely on big charity organizations to make these changes.

If you are compelled by a children’s charity commercial to donate, perhaps, your wealth will be better served not only by giving money, but by also visiting a child in the hospital, reading to them, singing to them, and showing them the face behind the check.

Do you think that charity organizations do enough to help those in need? How do you think money is allocated?


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