Jessica Harrod-Pike: I feel a little sick about where my money went

Revelations about the scandal engulfing Oxfam have coloured one donor's perspective on the charity

Jessica Harrod-Pike
Jessica Harrod-Pike

Oxfam is our family’s chosen charity. We donate annually and we get the kids involved. It’s a great family experience. We do it to teach them about people in need because we live a very privileged life and to teach them that it feels good to help others less fortunate. We usually donate at Christmas, but this year I’ve been disorganised and left it late.

It’s on my to-do list. Getting an email from the chief executive expressing his horror at the recently exposed events in 2011 I immediately felt relieved that we hadn’t donated yet. I don’t want my kids involved in donating to a charity that lets this sort of thing go on and then covers it up. As I read more about it, the knowledge they let these people move on to work at other charities does not sit well. Realising that people might deliberately target charities in order to get access to vulnerable people has shocked me. But it makes sense in a way, so why did Oxfam not act on this many years ago to prevent this sort of thing from happening?

The chief executive’s email mentions the charity’s dedicated safeguarding team and the confidential whistleblowing line set up in 2011 to ensure that it does all it can to prevent sexual abuse and misconduct from happening. Too little too late, I thought.

What about vetting employees? Does it do this effectively? Why was it not taking action on this well before 2011? I’ve tried not to, but I do feel let down by Oxfam.

I feel like it has spoiled the donor experience. I, like many donors, expect to get something out of donating: a good feeling, the knowledge that we’re helping people less fortunate than us while we live a very lucky life in a world full of people who don’t.

My kids and I might have donated money that helped Oxfam send predators to the very vulnerable people we wanted to help. I feel a little sick at the thought. I feel like I’ve trusted an organisation to help people and it has not understood a complex but obvious risk. At the moment I don’t feel good about giving. And the worst thing is that I have started to wonder how many other charities are failing their beneficiaries in similar ways.

Jessica Harrod-Pike is marketing manager for Third Sector

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