I  think I know how Hilde Back feels as a survivor, even though the horrific Holocaust death she evaded makes my wound seem like a shaving nick by comparison. Hilde was a young girl in Nazi Germany who was helped to escape by a stranger. Hilde’s parents were consumed by the Holocaust but she  made her way  to Sweden where she taught school on a modest salary. In the 1970s, Hilde started sponsoring a bright, but poor Kenyan boy, Chris Mburu, in primary school. Education is free in Kenya but most families can’t afford it so many of Kenya’s best and brightest have to work right out of school, and don’t have a chance at the higher education tantalizingly free for the taking but so far out of reach. Their story was the subject of the award-winning documentary A Small Act. Chris went on to Harvard Law School and is now a human-rights lawyer for the UN. There is a touching scene in the documentary when Chris gives Hilde a ‘Harvard Law School Mom’ sweatshirt.

Hilde probably got by on a meagre salary but she gave what she could; just 15 dollars a month, probably in mute salute to the kind stranger who saved her life so many years before. I wonder if the act of giving became a comfortable monthly ritual; making sure she had stamps and envelopes, writing the cheque, sealing the envelope and posting it. My family makes the act of  giving a ritual; on the first day of the month, we log on to and read Grace the profiles of the entrepreneurs. Then we explain the concept of microfinancing and tell her about the advantage of empowerment over charity  to her and suggest she choose female entrepreneurs with kids. She asks questions,  look at the faces of the needy people she is about to help and chooses. Grace usually wants to give far above our budget and at bedtime she is still flush with the joy of giving.

The UN estimates that only two percent  of the 3 billion dollars that was poured into Haiti by Canada and other donors  actually made it to the Haitian government and Haitian-run NGOs. I think many people are leery of donating because they know corruption is endemic. I don’t know how to fight corruption of this astonishing magnitude save donating to aid organizations that have been proven to be honest.  rates the efficiency of charities all over the world.  Canada’s most efficient charities include and Food for the Hungry []. Global follows the Kiva model by channeling donations to small environmental activist groups around the world. And, of course, I would be remiss to not put a plug in for the Greene Family Education Initiative.

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  1. dougsetter says:

    I can’t help but be cynical when I donate money to charity as there seems to be a never ending vaccuum out of places like Nigeria, Haiti or even our own local charities. The money is going somewhere else than to the people who need it. As for the United Nations, I have seen how they stand by and let the innocent get killed. However, I met Trevor Greene in 2004 and was always amazed at his humanitarian view on the world and his own city. Even with his current (and temporary) disability, the guy works like machine. If he has his name on this charity, I believe it to be real.

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