When I see or hear the word charity, other words come to mind such as kindness, compassion, inclusion, and assistance. I expect any charitable organization to be professional, unbiased and ethical.
However, quite often, charity staff behave in a manner contrary to their ethos.
Recently, Oxfam was in the UK news. The public was alerted to sexual exploitation and abuse by Oxfam staff. But Oxfam isn’t the only charity whose staff has exhibited behavior against any code of conduct.
I have sought assistance from charities, and though I’ve been helped with financial assistance, advice and skill building, I’ve also had several negative experiences.
In November of 2017, I was involved with The Aurora Project, a charity that helps people with substance abuse issues, as a potential volunteer. During a training session about safeguarding, the facilitator brought up a relevant issue, about a service user claiming to be sexually abused by a volunteer. He then said he did not believe the woman because “it was so out of character” for the volunteer. He suggested that she was seeking attention. Upon hearing this, warning bells sounded. I wondered if his statements were indicative of the charity’s level of support, to both the staff and service users.
In 2016, I tried to access free counseling from a charity offering talking therapy to women. One of the counselors told me that my barrier, as an American in the UK, is that I am Afro Caribbean. I immediately felt hurt, even more, ostracized, and confused by her statement. Why would a counselor, a person who should be unbiased, professional and helpful, make such a statement?
Other negative experiences, including being lied to about volunteer duties, being denied fare reimbursement and experiencing strange behavior by one male staff person that may have been sexual in nature and having my attendance, along with many other people, stopped without prior notice.
According to an article on the BBC news website “the UK’s Charity Commission is to launch a full inquiry into Oxfam.” But should the commission stop there? I think, from my and others’ experiences, a detailed look into the actions and main aspects of all UK charities is needed to ensure that charities are as charitable as possible.
By Veronica Moody