Brothers Craig, foreground, and Marc Kielburger operate the various agencies surrounding WE Charity. Photo from Wikipedia

Speaking Out: Charities must be transparent

By  Vincent Pham, Youth Speak News
  • August 12, 2020

WE Charity is a Canadian non-profit organization that I contributed time and effort to throughout my years in elementary and secondary school.

I remember when I was in Grade 2, some Grade 7 students went classroom to classroom encouraging students to put spare change in a can to support WE Charity causes. When I was in Grade 7, I actively engaged in several Me to WE initiatives, kicking off with the 2014 WE Day in the fall and then a series of fundraisers throughout the year. I remember distributing small cardboard houses that year to all the classes in the school. The change collected supported WE Charity’s mission of building schools in impoverished countries.

In short, WE was the “go-to” charity in my years in elementary and secondary school as it seemed to be the favoured charity by the schools I attended, though it is not affiliated with the Church.

However, as the WE scandal emerged in recent weeks I started to have second thoughts about WE. The revelations have simply been baffling. While I have always supported the work of WE, the complexity of its organization, lack of concrete answers from the founders and apparent lack of transparency in funding is concerning. 

I also did a little bit of research on financial reports available on its website and what I found was an audited financial report and colourful magazine-like annual report. Yet, there was no report granularly detailing how funds were allocated to build schools, establish wells or gift families with goats. Meanwhile, I took a look at the Archdiocese of Toronto’s annual charitable appeal, the ShareLife program, and not only did I find a detailed audited report but also a clear two-page chart of agencies and allocation. Through these two resources, I was able to clearly see how much money went to the agencies sponsored by ShareLife and a detailed breakdown of the administrative costs. 

Transparency is important when it comes to charitable finances. Donors want to know where their hard-earned dollars are going. I fear that after this scandal, Canadians could start to second guess and lose trust in the charities.

This is also a time for Catholic schools to reconsider their fundraising endeavours. Catholic schools in particular should be looking at supporting initiatives through Catholic charities within their local diocese which provide transparency in their funding and promote Catholic values. 

The time has come for people to re-evaluate where their donations are going. All charities, Catholic or secular, should be providing transparency in their finances to the smallest detail. That will provide donors and organizations with peace of mind that their hard-earned dollars are going to the right causes. That is true Christian charity.  

(Pham, 19, is a second-year humanities student studying at the University of Toronto)

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