Saturday, February 06, 2010

Oh my hypocrisy

by Holly

If you came here within the last 24 hours, you might realize there is a blog missing, “Rescue a Child Soldier: All we need is your money.” I deleted it—indeed I shouldn’t have written it. I often fail to meet my own standards. This time was particularly obvious. Didn’t I just blog a few weeks ago concluding that criticism should be humble, loving and ultimately with the good of the object of critique in mind? My blog responding to this was none of those things. So rather than publicize my unconstructive fury—I decided to be a little circumspect—think it over, and instead of a blog, set a meeting. write a letter.


The Stouts said...

"which will be spent how? " Good question. I looked at the site. Not a lot of specifics as to what exactly they are doing. I would guess that these folks are using a highly emotional issue to dupe people into giving them money. Very sad, degrades the trust in relief work in general. Good reason to know who you are giving money to before you do it.

Kristina said...

this is the response to an email i sent three months ago with lots of questions about this program and how exactly they intend to use that money on the ground in uganda. you'll notice it's vague and non-specific. and the annual report, which shows the highest percentage of their funds going to "advocacy and awareness" work, is not even from the most recent fiscal year. sigh.

"Great questions! Invisible Children’s approach to development is holistic; through education and economic programs on the ground in Uganda, Invisible Children is changing the lives of thousands of children – you can find out more about these programs at As to the rescue of Joseph Kony’s child soldiers, Invisible Children is in support of the arrest of Joseph Kony. Right now, there is a bill in congress called the LRA Disarmament & Northern Uganda Recover Act of 2009, which will require the United States Government to become involved in seeing the rescue and recovery on northern Uganda. Our biggest goal at this moment is to get President Obama to publicly announce his support for the bill, and our mission is to deliver 250,000 signatures to President Obama on December 15th stating the people's support for the arrest of Joseph Kony, so that he can see how important it is to the American people.
Your TRI donation is directly correlated to not only the advocacy that is making a rescue possible for theses children – you are also directly financing our other life-changing programs happening both on the ground here in the States and Uganda. $12.00 may seem like a small number, but in reality it is a HUGE amount that Invisible Children needs in order to tell the stories of the Invisible Children, finance our programs, and see an end to this war once and for all.
Financial transparency is important to us, and we are proud of money that we’ve been able to use to change lives. We’d love if you took a look at our Annual Report. Here’s a direct link, or you can find any of this information on our website.
If I have not completely answered your questions I would love to tell you more about Invisible Children over the phone and answer any more questions that you may have. Thank you so much for your questions, and I truly do hope you have a better understanding of what we do here at Invisible Children."

Jim Peterson said...

Hi Holly, I'll be very interested in what you learn from your conversation with The Invisible Children folks. I am impressed by what you've already learned in the last 24hrs! However, I think your initial response was legitimate, raw and unedited, perhaps not as loving and humble as you'd prefer, but given what you've experienced and what you know I don't think it was outrageous or grossly out of line at all. A little off center from who you usually are, but still a fair reaction. That said, this newest post certainly bears witnessed that you quickly recentered and are genuine in wanting to live what you believe and say. I pray your dialogue goes well and that we all can learn from it. Much love to you my friend! - jim

Jessie said...

I didn't read your earlier post before you took it down, but do you read the blogs AidWatch or Good Intentions Are Not Enough?

Sapere Aude! said...

Holly, I don't know enough about Invisible Children to understand what the issue is here, and I missed the original post. Can you post something at least that speaks the truth in love?


Holly and Ben Porter said...

Mark-- my original post was reacting to a particular fundraising campaign that is linked still in this post that suggests a $12 a month donation "to help rescue of the child soldiers." IC is far from being alone in using such fundraising strategies. Most of us have seen other campaigns that similarly suggest that all that's needed to solve incredibly complex issues is more money. The website is very vague on t how the money will be spent, although Kristina's posted email from IC above gives a bit more detail--primarily advocacy.

I was particularly sensitive to the idea that, “To bring the 3,000 child soldiers home, it will take an army of individuals to pledge $3 a week,” because it implicitly even if unintentionally ignores that if it took $12 a month (around 24 Ugandan Shillings) to “rescue” a child from the LRA, every parent whose child has been abducted would have struggled by all means to raise the money. If that's what it took an army of parents, brothers, sisters and friends would have already been mobilized. I need to look more into it, but from what I have heard from folks working on it the LRA Disarmament & Northern Uganda Recover Act of 2009 (which the email to Kristina says much of this money will go towards supporting) has some wording to allow for support of other "solutions" but that it is likely to end up supporting a military end to the conflict. This is controversial. Some parents would support this. But many that I worked with would not call a military solution a "rescue." Instead, they would and do call it a "death warrant" for their children.

I have serious concerns about the way IC does things--but can also understand where they are coming from. And at least initially, they did the amazing thing of moving thousands of young people from not knowing anything about northern Uganda to caring enough to do something about it. What gets people to move from not knowing to caring is usually simplified, sensationalized situations. Advocacy and fundraising that taps into that results in money and political support for programmes and policies that are meant to address the sensationalized situation--not the real situation. (for example, all the money for "child soldiers" when most of the returning formerly abducted are over the age of 18) And when a group is as effective at this as IC is, they get more attention = more support and money = policies and programmes that are more focused on an external audience and less responsive/accountable to the people they are supposed to be helping.

Groups that don't (sensationalize, simplify, etc.) get less. And the misperceptions of realities on the ground is perpetuated.