Thursday, May 25, 2006


One of my e-mails this morning made me sad. A spammer was trying to take advantage of a horrendous complication of malnutrition in order to make money.

The e-mail contained sufficient factual material to look authentic, including a photograph of a very small child with its cheek eaten away as the result of one of the results of prolonged lack of the correct foods. The child looks dreadful, but at least the wound is clean, which means it is more fortunate than some of the other children I saw with the same condition whilst I was living and working with desperately poor people in some of the most remote areas of Zambia.

The contents of the e-mail are factual, but the address seems suspicious. The website included in the letter ‘feels’ wrong: no solid information, one or two photos (mostly of healthy children), no authoritative references, references to the WHO without supporting evidence of WHO backing…the list of discrepancies continues. Because I’ve no concrete evidence that this is a hoax, there’s nothing much I can do. I feel sorry for those who will be swayed into signing cheques for the requested $1,000 for the surgery needed by each child apparently amongst the many being cared for by the same organisation.

It’s a sad fact that there are unscrupulous characters around who will prey on the goodwill and generosity of others in order to line their own pockets. All sorts of schemes come to mind: the person who is dying and wants to make a gift to the Church, the exile who wants to dispose of his/her wife’s/husband’s fortune but needs a safe bank account where the money can be temporarily lodged, and so on. Every appeal for help is accompanied by an assurance that any assistance will be repaid with huge sums of money…all provided that the recipient of the request sends his or her bank details so that the transfer of funds might go forward more efficiently. Sound familiar?

Such hoaxers make a complete mess of all the genuine efforts of those who are trying desperately hard to raise awareness and funds for authentic and urgent needs. I spent six years hoarding cardboard boxes for use as coffins by families who couldn’t afford a wooden one, but who wanted to give someone as good a burial as they could manage. There was the head teacher who spent a weekend on the phone trying to find anti-rabies vaccine for his daughter. He failed. There are houses in shanty compounds that are totally devoid of furniture because everything has been sold to buy medicines for someone dying of AIDS. There are thousands of similar examples.

Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.

God bless,
Sr. Janet