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Your Questions About Foreign Requests Answered

Q: An overseas orphanage is asking for help. They sent me pictures of children I could support, assuring me I would receive updates. They even sent an image of their registration. What should I do?

A: There are many people doing good in the world seeking assistance. But, unfortunately, there's also a lot of corruption. So to be good stewards of the resources we have, we must evaluate the need and who is doing the asking.

This isn't always easy, as emotional requests are often compelling. We end up making a contribution and hope for the best. Support often continues because the effort to evaluate more than the immediate situation is beyond our scope. Further, it would be a big blow to us if we came to find we'd been duped.

Recognized charities with offices within our home country seem to be a safe way to start charitable giving and within our grasp to investigate. An organization like ours constantly seeks legitimate opportunities in other countries. We vet trusted indigenous partners to work alongside, and our accountability level produces a threshold of dignity that native aid workers desire. Other organizations that operate on foreign soil may employ aid workers or recruit volunteers to meet the practical needs of people throughout the world. Those organizations we know closely or associate with are likely responsible support venues since they provide updates on projects and financial accountability. In addition, looking at their compliance with government regulators can help you determine how they manage funds, as low compliance is an indicator of abuse or misdirected funds.

Q: But what about a request from those that exhibit a need and may not have the resources to represent themselves well? Don't they pose a huge opportunity to help those genuinely hurting?

A: Well… yes and no. While you might connect with a need through email, mailings, or social media, if the one requesting funds neglects common, law-abiding practices, then it is very likely that goodwill will end with a bad result.

Even a bad government may set these regulations; however, they will protect the donor and ultimately the vulnerable that the donation is meant to support. Why? No government wants to deal with a backlash of human rights watch groups exposing abuse, neglect, and corruption. (Especially true when world banks fund and western aid prop the operating expenses of their government).

Q: What about that certificate shown to me, or the pictures of the children… Are they real?

A: They are real, indeed. Real children, and actual paper. But they don't paint the whole picture. Local authorities routinely issue meaningless certificates for the right price. Children will pose for a camera under a banner when assembled for a piece of bread or during an outreach of a local house of worship.

As of this writing, over 50,000 unregistered orphanages are operating illegally in Uganda, taking in one-quarter of a billion dollars. Yet, local authorities have issued certificates for as little as $250, which provide the holder local protection to operate without question until regional and national child protection agencies and officials begin to question.

The cycle is outside government compliance and perpetuated by folks who mean well. Sadly, grass-root efforts may have proof of operation, yet they are outside their country's laws.

Developing countries are becoming more aware of such "charities" and are keeping a keen eye on the movement of currency from US and European accounts. OFAC, the Office of Foreign Asset Control, also monitor all US transactions that leave for foreign soil.

It's becoming more apparent to watchdog organizations that child traffickers seek to have a relationship with ill documented organizations run by one or few individuals as they are easily infiltrated, being able to purchase one's way in.

Travel visits of well-meaning donors provide little validation of an orphanage's legitimacy since locals who benefit from the "charity" tend to make sure their narratives corroborate for the visits. Moreover, such organized corruption poses a risk to the children.

Q: Why isn’t anyone doing anything about the issue?

A: We are trying! Sadly, as unchecked support continues to flow to those who treat orphans as a business tool, it becomes even more difficult to dismantle. Analysts calculate that it costs $2,690 a year to have a child in an orphanage, whereas it costs $276 per child to support a child of a community home. Through working with local families to adopt true orphans, seeking family members, or reintroducing children to a living mother or living father, a child's survival and ability to thrive is significantly enhanced.

Under President Museveni, the government of Uganda has clamped down on orphanages since 2016, and MERCY PARTNERS, along with other NGO's are instructed to assist children in identifying family members–to care for displaced children.

Q: How can I help?

A: Partner directly with us. Understand that this broken world is full of needs and those that genuinely want to help are part of the solution, not part of the problem. MERCYPARTNERS has succeeded for 12 years in authoring an accountability system that extends dignity to native caseworkers in an equal exchange of accountability. When we come across people serving their community, breaking daily bread to help others, we see them as a huge opportunity to come alongside, so they can be free to provide care rather than seeking funding from outside their country and outside the law.

The partners of MERCYPARTNERS are of two kinds: 1) those supporting the work of mercy, 2) and those administering mercy. Together, we are caring for each soul until God's grace is evident to all.

VICE has done a wonderful job of documenting the current situation. Watch below.


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Mercy Partners, food aid, famine relief, Africa, blog, Tom Kilian of Mercy Partners writes about the impact of small humanitarian aid efforts and projects
Tom Kilian, Founder


Tom Kilian (Executive Director) and his wife Sandie founded Darfur Christian Mission in 2010 which would be later called MERCY PARTNERS. They authored the book Bridging Cultures for Christ in which they detail their accountability method based on 2 Corinthians 8 which they call “The Macedonian Litmus Test.” The test makes up one chapter of their fourteen-chapter book.

Tom was born in South Amboy, New Jersey, and grew up in North Carolina. At age eighteen he was selected for the scientific expedition, "Operation Raleigh" Australia Expedition 9a 1986 (a project spearheaded by Prince Charles of Wales). He pursued theological studies in Elizabeth City, NC where he had met his wife, Sandie. Being an Ordained Minister, Kilian preached in churches within three states. He studied art at the College of the Albemarle and held craftsmen jobs. Kilian initially used his creativity to raise awareness about the Darfur Genocide by creating an art exhibit in 2008. His initial ambition was to raise support for a project on the border of Darfur. He created the "Darfur Monument" with the vision that proceeds could be used for funding an orphanage or hospital. Humanitarian groups took an interest, inviting Kilian to partner with them so that the plan could be realized. Kilian took an invitation and traveled to Darfur. While working with Darfur's displaced children, Kilian concluded that education itself is not the solution. A "wholistic" approach that provides spiritual, mental, and physical healing coupled with tools for self-sufficiency would be a fit pattern to "change the world one life at a time." In 2010, Kilian redirected his efforts to form the charitable, humanitarian organization, that is now "MERCY PARTNERS."



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