Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Foreign aid or local ignorance?

There’s an item on Manxnet’s news page today that further undermines my faith in the intelligence or integrity of Manx businesses.
Not only did the Steam Packet help one of the worst charity scams running on the island. They boasted about it at
The item, about a building firm getting free ferry tickets to (in theory) take aid to Romanians, ends with Isle of Man Steam Packet Company Chief Executive Mark Woodward saying: “We are delighted to be able to show our support for such a worthwhile charity. This expedition will make a difference to the poor, needy and homeless in Romania.”
Congratulations, muppet, you just helped a US evangelical outfit , not the imaginary victims they invented, and you may even be party to a major fraud or attempts to destabilise another country’s economy and democratic sytem.
You see,contrary to what they’d have you believe, Hands of Hope isn’t a Manx charity. It’s run by some very dodgy US evangelists operating from London who my wife and I once had contact with. That contact, amongst a lot of other very iffy business, caused us to advise anyone against ever helping these chancers.
It began when my wife offered some simple minded local biblebashers help getting documents translated for an apparently innocent trip to Romania. The more we spoke to folk, the more things didn’t add up, and the more worried we got that something far nastier was going on.
For example, their strange insistence on buying stuff locally, instead of over there at twice the quality and a tenth of the price at building merchants Romanian friends (including a Lutheran priest) offered to introduce them to. Or their refusal to use local labour to build some very shabby huts the average Romanian farmer wouldn’t keep a pig in (passed off as ‘houses for the needy’). Or the shady US evangelicals continually avoiding revealing who they really were or worked for, and an apparent interest in getting Romanians into the UK on tourist visas.
We worked out the overpriced goods scam when they admitted they’d cut a deal with a fellow Manx evangelical (a salesman for a building supplies firm) to split his commission with him. We guessed how big that deal was when he ‘retired’ to a country with no expedition treaty.
Some of the other curious stuff? Well, we just gave up trying to track down the truth. The sudden reluctance to answer questions told us all we needed to know to walk away fast, i.e. that the project wasn’t just another bunch of unemployable Manx semi-literates blundering around a foreign country getting sniggered at until they wised up.
How do they still get away with it, and why isn’t anybody in the Manx business community or government asking better questions before dispensing overseas aid and charitable donations?
Better ask them that, and, if you do, hope the answers only reveal us as a nation governed by village idiots.

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