Mike Kuhlenbeck has an interview with Hemley Gonzalez in The Humanist that is worth reading despite its flaws. Gonzalez is a guy who went to work in one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the poor in Kolkata, India and was so appalled by what he saw that he decided to start his own organization to do that work more effectively. Unfortunately, the interview focuses almost solely on saying bad things about Mother Teresa and not on the positive things Gonzalez is doing. The introduction is about the only place that’s even mentioned:
Hemley Gonzalez is revolutionizing humanitarian efforts with Responsible Charity, a nonprofit humanist organization he founded in 2009 that is making strides in “education, planned parenthood, and self-employment” in India. In June 2013, after years of planning and fundraising, Responsible Charity finally leased a property to establish the first secular school in Kolkata, West Bengal, for impoverished children and their families. “Our work goes beyond education,” says Gonzalez, “as we deal directly with the families of children we help, and we learn more and more about the harsh realities they face each day while living in poverty.”
Responsible Charity calls itself a humanist charity, assisting the poor in India with a variety of needs (as shown in the photos on the opposite page), including education, English classes, medical and nutritional assistance, family planning, microloans, assistance in rebuilding living spaces and repairing vehicles and appliances, and implementing sustainable lighting.
Here’s some of what inspired him to start Responsible Charity:
THE HUMANIST: What inspired you to start “STOP the Missionaries of Charity?” HEMLEY GONZALEZ: For a period of two months in 2008, I worked as a volunteer in one of Mother Teresa’s homes for the poor in Calcutta, India. I was shocked to discover the horrifically negligent manner in which this charity operates, in direct contradiction of the public’s general understanding of their work.
Workers washed needles under tap water and then reused them. Medicine and other vital items were stored for months on end, expiring and still applied sporadically to patients. Volunteers with little or no training carried out dangerous work on patients with highly contagious cases of tuberculosis and other life-threatening illnesses. The individuals who operated the charity refused to accept and implement medical equipment and machinery that would have safely automated processes and saved lives.
After further investigation and research, I realized that all of the events I’d witnessed amounted to nothing more than a systematic human rights violation and a financial scam of monumental, criminal proportions.
Not once in its sixty-year history has this organization, the Missionaries of Charity, reported the total amount of funds it’s collected in donations, what percentage is used for administration, or where the rest has been applied and how. Defectors and independent journalists have placed the figure since the charity’s inception upwards of $1 billion (and counting). The mission currently operates over 700 homes in over 100 countries and maintains an average of 4,000 workers while consistently failing to provide statistics on the efficacy of their work.
It’s sad, and a bit absurd, that the whole rest of the interview focused on criticizing Mother Teresa, as warranted as that is, and not on the work Gonzelez is currently doing. Hemley is going to be one of the speakers at the Foundation Beyond Belief’s Humanist at Work conference, which will take place July 18-20, 2014. And I know from my conversations with him in preparation for that event that he is excited about sharing his experiences in building an effective humanist organization with other group leaders.
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