We all heard it: give to charity, help the poor, support the orphan and the widow. It is in the DNA of most of us this sharing with the people less fortunate and it is the foundation of being human.
But what is charity exactly? Why is it important and why is it necessary?
I haven’t met anyone yet who hasn’t been helped at some point in their life by someone else. Even the richest people on the planet have at some point needed help and someone was there to do that.
Charity is an age-old concept. We owe the word ‘philanthropy’ to the ancient Greeks, who spent great hours perfecting the word. It apparently started with their myth of Prometheus, the god of fire, who dared to share the secret of fire with the mortals and was punished by Zeus for it.
Going back further, the story of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, of ancient Babylon, reveals a struggle in human nature between good and evil and the secret ingredient is being charitable to other human beings.
As the world developed, so did the meaning of charity. Today most of us are happy to donate a few dollars to organized charities, especially around the major holidays. It is easy, convenient and painless.
Unfortunately, the sharks of manipulation and opportunity saw this as a great way to enrich themselves. This sadly includes major churches and other religious establishments, who are gathering massive amounts of money in the name of charity and the actual money going to the real people in need is nothing but a trickle.
In US alone there are over 1.5 million charitable organizations, with some of them holding fat bank accounts of over 100 million dollars, invested in various mediums to create interest. Some charities show an administrative overhead of up to 80%!! 80 cents out of every dollar goes into the bank and the pockets of the CEO’s. When a charity’s CEO makes over half a million dollar a year in salary plus fat bonuses around Christmas, then you know this is not about the poor and the orphan.
It is estimated than more than 1 trillion dollars goes through global charities every year, yet less than 3% of that goes to the actual need on the ground.
Imagine that: 1 trillion dollars… enough to solve global poverty, the unnecessary death of millions of children and bringing balance in our world, where no one has to live on 1 dollar a day, barely finding bread to feed their family.
Choose carefully where your charity goes and follow the progress of the work you are donating to.
I made it a vital point in my humanitarian work that donors are aware of what is happening on the ground and many of our donors have come to visit our projects around the world so they see with their own eyes the result of their philanthropy. I refused any administration expense, we have no buildings, no secretaries, no fleet of vehicles. We install our own water systems, work on our agricultural projects and employ local people to support their families. This way we can see faster and more solid progress and our bank account for our charity is always empty 😊
In the words of my Canadian bank manager for my charity:
“Sebastian, as a bank client, Pilgrim is the worst client ever, because you never keep any money in your account. The moment funds come in they also go out to your projects.
But as a charity, you earned our respect and admiration for doing things any charity should do”