The application for charitable org / 501(c)(3) status was ready to submit! Then our pro-bono lawyer spotted problematic language in the purpose statement filed with Washington state.

Now, my mom is filing an amendment along with a fee to fix it.  What does this mean?  Even more delays on the road to 501c3 charitable org status.  Argh.

I’m feeling impatient, but I know it will get done. In the end, fixing the state documents will increase our chances of getting 501c3 status, and that’s the important thing.

And 501c3 status is critical if we want to raise funds. It makes donations tax deductible for US donors. Without this designation, I don’t see much hope for raising funds. I’m already at a disadvantage; I’m not much of a fund raiser. I kind of hate fund raising, to be honest. I loathed fund raising events when the kids were in school, and hated being hit up for donations right and left. Having been on the getting-hit-up side, jumping over to the hitting-people-up side is kind of the last thing I want to do.

What would be my pitch? “Please give me money to educate Rohingya refugees, but sorry, you can’t take a tax deduction.”

I tried drumming up funds online without 501c3 status… and made about $100. Bless the hearts of people who gave. But more, orders of magnitude more, is needed.

So what’s the big deal about the tax deduction? For the answer, we needn’t look further than my brain. When we were in the 33% tax bracket, we paid $33 in federal tax on every additional $100 earned. In that scenario, giving $100 to a non-501c3 charity felt like writing a check for $133 but the charity only received $100. That was a 25% overhead. It didn’t feel right, and it usually nudged me toward not tipping.

Also, what kind of legit organization doesn’t have 501c3 status?  If the outfit couldn’t be bothered to do some basic paperwork, how could I trust them to use my money competently?

So we’re doing the paperwork.  Slowly but surely.

FYI – here are the Goals for RREF , if you are wondering why we need more than $100 in donations.

Goals for RREF

Why am I forming Rohingya Refugee Education Fund (RREF)?  Because I either had to do something, or cancel my subscription to the Economist.  I found myself reading about the awful treatment of Rohingyas in Burma, and the perpetual statelessness of the Rohingya diaspora.  I had to choose: do something, or put down the magazine.

I live in Penang, Malaysia. There’s a substantial refugee population here. A call to UNHCR led me to teaching English at this Rohingya school. It didn’t take long to realize they needed more teachers, supplies, resources.  I decided to start a charity to fund the school.

Here are the goals:

Fund-raising goals for 2016:  $30,000
– $24,000 to hire two fully trained teachers plus increase the salary of Zu, the current teacher who is being paid an obscenely tiny salary despite bringing remarkable teaching skills to the school.
– $3,000 to augment rent paid by REPUSM*
– $3,000 for supplies, utilities, provide wifi, augment rent*, pay for RREF operations

Endowment Goals: 
– Raise $750,000  to generate $30,000 per year for Rohingya Refugee education
– Invest the whole nut in Vanguard account – owning diversified index-tracking ETF funds

Stretch Goals:
$60k per year budget to hire more teachers, fund after school activities, fund scholarships
$1,500,000 in the endowment fund.

*(Research and Education for Peace Univ. Sains Malaysia)

What are we fighting for?

Ben Anderson’s This is What Winning Looks Like, is an utterly disturbing 90 minute documentary that came out over a year ago.  In it, Mr. Anderson highlights the “ineptitude, drug abuse, sexual misconduct, and corruption of the Afghan security forces.” After watching, I was horrified by the apparent policy of doing nothing even as Afghan commanders kept child sex slaves. Despite foot soldiers flagging problems, American commanders largely shrugged their shoulders. This week, we’re learning that it was American Military policy to look the other way, and that policy persists to this day.

US policy largely came down to:

“Not My Problem” and  “It’s their culture, don’t judge”

Not Our Problem

“When asked about American military policy, the spokesman for the American command in Afghanistan, Col. Brian Tribus, wrote in an email: “Generally, allegations of child sexual abuse by Afghan military or police personnel would be a matter of domestic Afghan criminal law.” He added that “there would be no express requirement that U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan report it.” An exception, he said, is when rape is being used as a weapon”of war. – from NY Time Article

No, Really, It’s Their Problem…

“If the abuse involves Afghans, a report shall be forwarded to Gen. Campbell through operations channels, [and] copied to the staff judge advocate so that the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan can be advised and requested to take action.” Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook – Daily Beast Article

It’s their Culture, Don’t Judge

From training materials: “As the Marine Corps, we can do our best to prevent our own Marines from sexually assaulting not only other Marines, but local nationals,” the script states. Marines are encouraged to “observe cultural and religious briefs(sic?)”  – Daily Beast Article

Okay, I can follow the logic, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. How is it possibly in our interest to allow child rape to happen?  What’s the long game here? Do our civilian and military leaders not comprehend that the people whose human rights are being violated daily will do nothing but HATE America their entire lives?  Do they not recognize crimes against humanity when they see them?  Problem is, that yes, the foot soldiers DO recognize these crimes, but they’re told to raise the issue with the Afghan government, a government that is incapable of doing anything about it.  They’re told the only recourse they have is ineffective.  The real message is, “look the other way.”

And that’s how we get to a point where the US government’s official policy is to tolerate child rape.  It’s not right, and it needs to change now.

Our commanders are akin to a principal at a underperforming school who has given up hope.  This principal believes (wrongly) that his students are doing poorly because they come from poor families who take little interest in their academics.  As a result, he offers little more than baby sitting service.

That’s apparently the attitude of our civilian and military leaders when it comes to Afghan children.  Shrugging shoulders

Just as effective teachers want to scream at inept power structures*, US Military foot soldiers must emotionally deal with the real face to face results of a policy that, for all intents and purposes, commands them not to act.  How do they live their lives after that?  How is that not going to cause PTSD?

This policy of go along to get along is not only morally wrong, but short sighted in that it will cause immeasurable harm to the Afghan people as well as our soldiers – for the rest of their lives.

It leads me to wonder, what exactly is it we’re fighting for?  If we don’t have policies in place to deal with allies committing crimes against humanity, who are we?  We can’t claim to be for freedom and justice.  Because by turning away from these crimes, we are denying both to everyone involved.

*power structures which include wrong-headed teacher’s unions which short-sightedly do not allow poor performing teachers to be fired nor high performing teachers to be rewarded… but that’s a whole other issue.