Motivated by dreams of changing the world, I mindlessly jumped into working for a nonprofit orphanage in India in my early 20s. 200 orphans depended on me for their well-being. 200 innocent faces that no longer had innocent souls due to life’s harshness looked to me for love and support. Love was the easy part. How could you not love kids who adored you without question simply because you remembered their name? Unfortunately, love was also what blinded me from what was really happening on the business side of things.
There I was, wrapped up in 200 smiles and hugs while the seemingly-good staff was actually taking advantage of the children. A pastor that preached love was picking a “favorite” girl that he abused until he got tired of her and threw her back on the street. A rich American board member was visiting regularly bringing gifts and money in exchange for his pick of boys to entertain himself with. The founder and board members were smuggling illegal money through the orphanage to make a profit for themselves. And there I was, unaware that any of this was happening because I had rose-colored glasses on that made me see this “magical place” as a nonprofit utopia.
Mass governmental change in India at the time caused the state I was in to split into two, the entire currency of the nation to be changed, and over 100,000 faith-based organizations to be shut down. This chaos aired out all of the wrong that was happening in the organizational structure of my nonprofit as people panicked about hiding their illegal money and disgusting acts of child abuse as they fell under scrutiny from the government.
Unfortunately, I have found that this story of corruption and abuse is not an uncommon one in the nonprofit world. I have worked in causes from orphan care to hospice care and have found corruption in every single one. The thing is, when you work with those that are vulnerable and defenseless, there are always those people out there looking to take advantage of them because they can’t fight back.
While I am hoping that there are still people out there that work in nonprofits because they are genuinely good, my experience has taught me that it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies like I once dreamed it to be. Don’t just come to the nonprofit sector to help the vulnerable, be prepared to fight and protect them from wolves in sheep’s clothing as well.