Monday, July 7, 2008

A Soft Spot for Cambodia

A couple of years ago, I wrote a brochure for a charity whose main project at the time was assisting young Cambodian survivors of human trafficking (a slightly nicer term for forced prostitution) in their recovery by funding psychology services and vocational training. I learned that Cambodia is a really hard place to donate safely, because there are too many shady people - no doubt the same shady people that promise nice jobs to teenage girls and then sell them into sex slavery in Bangkok - who make a business out of tricking foreign NGOs. Seriously, they will put together a fake brothel full of fake child prostitutes for official visits and solicit funds to save them.

So when I see a decent loan on Kiva to a Cambodian, I snap it up. A couple of my micro-borrowers finished repaying their loans - Congratulations to Marta the Dominican vegetable fryer and Estela the Peruvian grain-seller!! So welcome to my portfolio for the next 8 months, Try Kan, and best of luck with the expansion of your vegetable farm :)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Uncharitable Feelings

This past week I've been feeling less than charitable to my fellow man, because they've been treating me pretty shabbily. I'm a self-employed massage therapist, so there's no way to NOT take it personally when clients do things like pull a no-show (an existing client, not a newbie playing nasty games) or create an opportunity to not pay me. Now have both of those things happen on the same day, when they rarely even happen in the same year. I felt stupid, used, and worthless. It's been a week and I'm still recovering...yeah, I know, I'm way too sensitive for a Manhattan 30-something, but I'd like to think that's part of what makes me good at what I do.

Here's the thing: all of the people who have refused to pay (mostly because I wouldn't provide prostitution services) were overtly religious. Most of them couldn't shut up about what a good fill-in-the-religion person they were, and always wore something that visibly shouted their faith to the world. Last week's jackass left behind his ugly resin bracelet where each little square had an image of Jesus or Mary. This is a man I lent dry clothes to, built up a sweat manipulating the heavy limbs on his 6'5" frame, loaned my phone to, and then sent off with a bottle of water and a thank-you. I won't go into how I didn't get my fee, but I will say that I think he had every intention of paying (my intuition on this is excellent), but saw a chance to stiff me and took it. It was very personal and very hurtful.

What does this have to do with charitable giving, you might ask. Well, I have historically not donated to any charitable work done by religious organizations. I do things in the name of humanity, not some concept of god, and I don't want the disadvantaged of the world to feel that they only deserve help if they sign up to someone else's belief system, or at least suffer through some pointless, self-serving sermon and nod as if they give a crap in order to get food, clothing, school tuition, whatever. But I have come across some specific work that is only or most efficiently done by a church, and felt tempted to give despite my feelings on the subject. Then things like this happen to remind me of the many reasons why I don't, and the purse snaps shut. Hypocrisy should not go unpunished.