A community coming together to aid one stricken by personal financial crisis is admirable. However, that assistance must come with safeguards for those who contribute their cash. There are caveats when assisting persons in need.
In recent weeks, the Virgin Islands has been rocked by a very personal matter involving the repossession of a home by a bank. What transformed the matter into a scandal was the way many thousands of dollars of assistance to the financially burdened individual were allegedly handled. The individual is a well-known talk show host on a popular VI radio show.
Now, personally handing donated cash to the individual to clear his debt and save his home was indeed very unwise. There was no check in place. In essence, it was throwing money into thin air and hoping it fulfilled the intended purpose.
Meanwhile, there appears to have been no discussion with the bank on whether it would accept the public effort to save the home from repossession.
But whether the money goes for the intended purpose — and the home is thereby saved — is beside the point. The project was charity even though it was apparently managed informally by media personalities. There were no safeguards and checks on the scheme.
This writer doubts that the donated cash will go to pay the bank as intended — or ever be refunded to those who gave generously. After all, the bank is apparently continuing with the repossession process.
Charities adopt a culture of transparency and accountability that helps prevent fraud or deception. In this case, the money could have been transferred to a third-party charity to manage on the man’s behalf, thus protecting the cash of community-minded people acting compassionately.
The lesson for the community? Don’t fall for any scheme to aid individuals outside the orbit of an established charity that possesses the required culture of honesty, transparency and accountability — or at the very least a trusted and established organisation known for its charitable activities.
It may well be a miracle if the cash in this matter ever returns to the good men and women who donated. The money would have been better spent on the truly poor and needy, who always need a helping hand.