After my first blog I was astounded that I received some great comments and requests to go back to the well. I could make this serious or comical and am capable of traveling down either road. However, there’s a subject on the serious side that I would like to share as it was near and dear to me and I never got to fulfill such desire. It was while I ran a public company and upon my exit strategy, my family, friends, or for that matter anyone who knew me personally, were fully cognizant of the fact that I intended to set up half of my monetary exit windfall (that never happened) into a non-profit foundation to help the starving children in Africa. Maybe one day it will happen, as I’m still striving for such goal. So, assuming one had a small foundation, how does one spend the recourses of a non-profit foundation to help other less fortunate, particularly the downtrodden children in every part of the world including here at home in the United States? However, one only has to read a newspaper or check any TV news program to comprehend that Africa has got the worst scenario possible. Somewhat knowing how things in Africa work, I’d be surprised if the end recipient innocents would be lucky enough to get forty cents out of every dollar. After all a Mercedes Benz to some fat cat could take priority over the absolute needy. Fortunately, on one occasion I did get the answer as how to accomplish such end. My wife and I, one son, two daughters, two sons-in-law and six grandchildren live in Doylestown, Bucks County, PA. Our home is within three miles of the National Polish Shrine of “Our Lady of Czestochowa”, and thus, being close to our home, we used to go there for Sunday Mass.
Anyone of our religious persuasion or for that matter any other faith knows it takes contributions from the congregation to grease the wheels for whatever purpose. Notwithstanding the massive major calamities here and abroad, we contribute to just about everything we can afford to, from wounded warriors, adopt a platoon, Children’s hospitals etc, etc, right down to Jewish “Seder” meals for the poor in Siberia, so we’re not new to the giving game.
Being born in Ireland and living in London for a great many years prior to my stint in Africa, if I get a little British here in some of my inflections, please excuse me as even my grandchildren have become aware of the crazy terminology. At the end of the Mass, a visiting Priest took the pulpit. I turned to my wife Wendy and said, “This Geezer is on the blag for reddies”. Directly translated that means as it sounds; “this fellow is pitching for money.” Prior to hearing what he had to say, I found twenty bucks and willing to part with the cash when we realized that he was talking about the impossible situation he faced daily at his small mission in Zimbabwe’s Matabeleland. That really got our interest and immediate attention. Having lived in what was Salisbury Rhodesia, now Harare City, Zimbabwe and remembering the incredible city is was and what it is today, we were all ears. During our time there we had two homes in that city, a chunk of land and lost it all due mostly to the liberation war. In those days, not withstanding that there was a liberation war going on, the little country of Rhodesia was considered the breadbasket of south-central Africa, growing enough maize and cattle to assist the neighboring countries of Zambia, Botswana, Malawi and Mozambique, who all considered them the enemy. Today the country of Zimbabwe is in ruin. It’s a shame there’s no crude oil under their fertile soil, because if so, none of the ongoing inhumanity, not only perpetrated on the limited remaining white Rhodesians but also particularly on the African population, would have happened. The smell of oil would have brought in the US and the EU, not forgetting our illustrious Chinese brethren and Robert Mugabe would have be tried for crimes against humanity, the country could have once again thrived and we’d and all have buckets of inexpensive crude oil.
Anyway, this could go on forever, read my novel The Rebel Son (Amazon)if you are looking for a more in-depth insight to that part of this great planet, albeit it’s fiction, history still rises out of the pages. So, let’s get back to the main theme here. After listening for a good fifteen-minute dissertation about the appalling conditions this particular Priest was facing, my wife Wendy, being born in Zambia, reached into her purse and pulled out our checkbook. How much, she asked? I said how about $5,000. She wrote the check and, on our way, out of the Shrine, I wanted to say hello to the Priest, but he was busy with some Polish lady babbling away in their native tongue. So, I simply handed him the check and we left. My laughingly cynical comment to Wendy was at least it wouldn’t buy a Mercedes Benz. Never thinking about it again, and assuming he got our address from the Pauline Fathers at the Shrine, we received a letter from the missionary Priest thanking us profusely. In his letter he told us that he would be accountable for every dollar we had given him. Mr. Cynical raised his ugly head once more and suggested to Wendy “when pigs can fly”.
I take it all back. About nine months later we received a handwritten letter from the missionary Priest mailed from Bulawayo (that name was never changed) Zimbabwe. The number of stamps almost covered the envelope as US$1.00 equals Zim$373.30, get the picture. As I sit here writing this, I’m smiling as I look at a Reserve bank of Zimbabwe 100 Billion Zim dollar note (yes billion) and it’s rumored that the Germans are going to stop printing the currency, as the paper is more valuable. Along with a bevy of photographs of little children wearing shoes and looking well fed, within the body of the Priest’s communication, he had outlined in a handwritten spreadsheet as to where every dollar we had given him had gone. Appreciate that having lived in the country we were fully aware of every penny of expenditure, from the local staple diet, to clothing, educational needs and medicines.
So the moral of the story is that if I were ever to get a foundation together, this is the only way I would so it by sourcing out the end user and ensuring the cash is delivered into the hands of a responsible and accountable party where it is used for the purpose of the original monetary pitch.
Promise next time, I’ll get a little lighter. Maybe a story or should I say a practical joke pulled on me back in the sixties at the New York World’s Fair. My old buddy Don (last name withheld) who now lives in LA was the main instigator of this almost heart stopping experience. When you hear this one, you’ll definitely say “Stupid Paddy!”