No good deed goes unpunished -- that was the theme of an ABC Christmas day segment about donating clothing to charity.
“World News Tonight with Charles Gibson,” took “A Closer Look” at charities and gave the appearance of dishonesty. Anchor Kate Snow introduced Mike Lee’s report saying, “You might think that clothing goes to the needy in your community or elsewhere in the country, but much of it goes to developing nations and that is a source of both gratitude and controversy.”
Controversial because “roughly a third of the clothing is not given away to poor people, it is sold to poor people,” said Lee, “Sold here in Africa, and other parts of the developing world.”
Just ahead of that statement, two unidentified charitable givers explained their giving by saying, “I want somebody else to get good use out of it,” and “I’m assuming this is helping people who need it.”
But is it really controversial to sell donated goods in order to fund charity work, and if you sell them to wholesalers who sell them again is there anything wrong with that?
And wouldn’t inexpensive clothing help African poor? Not by the sound of Lee’s report which made the sale of donated goods in Africa seem despicable.
As footage of street vendors selling clothing flashed on the screen, Lee said, “We found donated jeans being sold here at $6.60 a pair. That money does not go to a U.S. charity, but to local street vendors here who turn your jeans and shirts into their profit.”
The report lacked the economic context that vendors would be unable to make a profit if there were not a demand for such goods in Africa. Instead, Lee quoted “workers’ rights advocate” Bama Athreya of the left-wing International Labor Rights Fund . She said the trade “feeds on the poor” and “small producers have been put out of business.” The ILRF Web site contains complaints about several major American firms – Wal-Mart, Exxon-Mobil, Chevron and Firestone.
Lee did at least include a rebuttal from the wholesalers and charitable organizations. Bernard Brill of the Secondary Recycled Textiles Association said the sale of used clothing in Africa is good because it “provides low cost clothing to the poor” and “diverts waste materials.”
And U.S. charities, according to Lee, use money from store sales and to wholesalers to “pay for good works such as job training, education and drug rehabilitation.”