Perhaps you remember Hemley Gonzalez. He is the one who did some amazing work raising awareness about some of the more controversial stuff behind the Missionaries of Charity – namely Mother Theresa’s Sisterhood’s opposition to hygiene, their refusal to administer pain-killers or use modern medical equipment, their rather mysterious attitude bookkeeping, and the horrible state of their sanitary facilities, all despite the millions of dollars this organisation receives in donations each year. He quickly became one of Mother Teresa’s most outspoken critics, even being interviewed by the indian Forbes magazine.
The short version of his story goes as follows: He went to india as a backpacker, felt inspired after reading a book about Mother Teresa’s work, and decided to visit Kolkatta to help. Upon arrival he was shocked by the crass difference between reality and the idealised image presented by the media and the Biography he’d read. Yet he stayed for two month, helping the best he could, faithfully documenting everything. Back home, he started a Facebook group called STOP the Missionaries of Charity, successfully kicking up some dust.
He could have left it at that. Like most of the Western world he could have sat at home whining and complaining, enjoying the attention, and never offering actually constructive criticism.
Of course I wouldn’t be writing about him now if he’d opted for that course of action. Being the inspiring person he is, Hemley went back to the US, spent two years networking, gathering support, and getting all the necessary applications and paperwork on the way. Currently, since December 2nd 2010, he’s back in India, enrolling kids in school, providing food, clothing and medical care, helping families make a living so the kids will be able to stay in school… only this time, it’s in the name of his own charity organisation, Responsible Charity.
Here’s a message he published a week ago:
Two years have passed since my first visit to Kolkata and I couldn’t forget the family I had met in one of the slums. I had spent only a week with them back in December 2008 but it was enough to know that it was my responsibility to somehow aid in their development out of poverty and into health and happiness. Why? Because after so many years of donating and helping from the sidelines I finally got a chance to do it on my own and see exactly how my help was transforming the lives of others who just happened to have less fortunate circumstances than mine. Simple as that.
During the two years I spent home, I worked hard to build a network of like-minded friends who would support my effort, and after working odd jobs, saving money and receiving donations from family, friends and wonderful strangers alike I was ready to return to Kolkata. My friend and fellow volunteer Arturo Cortes who had established a relationship with the family over the years prior, was set to be in the city for a couple of months before returning to his home in Spain in the middle of December, the timing was perfect for me to take over for a while. More info about him and his organization: www.meimportas.org
I arrived the evening of December 2nd 2010 and on the morning of the 3rd I was in the slums. Seeing the family for the first time in two years was a profoundly joyous experience, it turns out all the kids remembered me, the photos they kept from my last visit and the donations I had sent during my absence were the fuel of their grateful little hearts, their parents too are elated to have me here.
Word has gotten out in the slums about us, so inevitably we have began to look into the issues of other families. Milk for babies, blankets for the ongoing winter, medicine for those with serious health concerns. We can’t cover them all, but we are trying to at least get to the urgent cases.
Addressing the health issues of all family members, enrolling the kids in good schools and trying to create a nutritious and consistent diet for all will be a big challenge, but not impossible. Any help I am able to provide, particularly with keeping the kids in school through these crucial years will prevent them from ending up in the streets begging or entering a work force that will rob them of their innocence, happiness and the opportunity to grow up out of poverty.
I hope you will join me and my friends here in Kolkata in creating a new life for a beautiful family who deserves nothing less than a chance to a healthy and happy life. A donation of any amount will make a HUGE difference, and more importantly, you’ll be able to see on our website exactly how your contribution is being used.
To make a donation now using our secure service, please visit:
From Kolkata and from the bottom of our hearts,
Hemley Gonzalez, Founder
Responsible Charity, Corp
Other than the Missionaries of Charity, Responsible Charity’s focus is actually on doing good rather than on converting people to ancient desert superstitions. It’s a secular charity, with transparent finances and acknowledged non-profit status. Their finances are on the front page for everyone to see, donators get informed about how their money was used, and all progress is documented – the site features updates with new photos every few days.
It’s an organisation that I support wholeheartedly and without reservations.
Please visit their Homepage, “like” their facebook page, follow Hemley on twitter, share the link, spread the word and consider donating. It doesn’t need to be much, even modest amounts can go a long way in an indian slum.