Friday, November 26, 2010

Partners in Education and Mr. Grimes: A Melodrama For Today

Melodramas have been out of fashion for quite a while: Although tales of Dudley Do-Right and Snidely Whiplash were a sort of revival-as-spoof.

These days, folks aren't supposed to take villains in opera capes and dashing heroes seriously. Although "Uncle Tom's Cabin" seems to remain on the 'approved' list. Which is another topic.

Or, not so much.

I ran into a tale of deceit, poor-but-honest folks, and slavery in today's news.

Grimes and Shepherd are some of the names involved. The events read like something in a none-too-plausible melodrama. It's all real, though. There's even a sort of "and justice prevailed" ending.

I'm not sure whether "slavery" will be among the charges Mr. Grimes faces: but what he did was pretty close to keeping slaves.

"Faith-Based:" What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

I'm a practicing Catholic, and a convert. I tend to pay closer attention when a Catholic charity asks for money. My household has given to charities run by Protestants, too. And sometimes we've give to outfits that weren't particularly 'faith-based.' But, when we have money to give - we check out the organization before cutting a check. "Due dilligence" isn't just for businesses.

Actually, I'd probably a bit more careful about an outfit that claimed to have support from the Pope. And that's yet another topic.

Quite a few folks apparently assumed that ITT: Partners in Education really was a "faith-based" project that gave kids from Zambia a chance to get an education while raising money for their families back home.

Part of that was true. Keith Grimes' operation raised money. Quite a lot of it.

After Mr. Grimes collected a dozen boys in Zambia, he had them sing in churches, schools and shopping malls. Sometimes several times a day. He pulled in upwards of $1,000,000 USD that way.

The folks back in Zambia never saw the money. Neither did the boys whose singing was making Mr. Grimes rich.

Blaming the Parents? Not Gonna Happen

I'd better make something clear: I think the families who gave their sons a chance at an American education and a paying job had the right idea. Mr. Grimes lied to them, as he lied to folks living in this country. Folks in Zambia aren't necessarily smarter or wiser than Americans - and everybody assumed that Mr. Grimes was telling the truth.

But - I can imagine the argument going - how could anyone even conisder giving their children a chance at a better life in a foreign land?

I'm a descendant of immigrants: my ancestors pulled up roots and moved to a foreign country for pretty much the same reason. With a few exceptions, they were able to bring entire families along - but I'm not going to criticize a family who had to make a hard decision.

Zambia is better off than, say, southern Sudan or Somalia: and the country as a whole is doing a bit better than back in 1993, when 86% of the folks living there were below the poverty line, or 2000, when unemployment was around 50%. ("Zambia," CIA World Factbook (last update November 9, 2010)) My guess is that Zambia isn't an African Beverly Hills or Vail, Colorado. Not yet, anyway.

Enter the Hero

So far, I've introduced the poor-but-honest folks who were deceived by the despicable villain - Mr. Grimes. I mean to say, "Grimes?" What story written in the last few generations would have a villain named "Mr. Grimes?" Which is yet again another topic.

Now, it's time for the hero of this melodrama.

Or, more accurately, heroine. Sandy Shepherd.

She's connected with a Baptist church - and had also been doing volunteer work for Mr. Grimes' ITT outfit. Looks to me like Mr. Grimes didn't like to pay people.

Anyway, Shepherd smelled a rat, as we say in this country, and shared her suspicions with Federal authorities.

I don't assume that being with the United States government means that folks know what they're doing - putting it mildly. This time, though, the Feds got it right.

Here's part of what CNN's article had to say about what happened after the alert Sandy Shepherd called for help:
"...Orrantia removed the members of the choir from Grimes' custody, but was concerned they would have to spend a night in juvenile detention, so he began looking for other options.

"He called Colleyville Baptist Church and asked to meet with Sandy Shepherd, a former TTT volunteer, who had previously complained to federal authorities about the treatment the boys were receiving.

"Shepherd said: 'I got a phone call from one of the members of the church who said Immigration has just called the pastor and said that he has seven boys that he's just picked up from Whitesboro, and he doesn't have any place to put them and he wants to know if he can house them here.'

"Shepherd agreed and went on to help many of the boys find foster families. Some returned to Zambia. When she couldn't find Kachepa a permanent home, she took him into hers, where he's been ever since.

" 'To me, he's just like my other children. He's the son that God never gave me before and he's the son God brought into my life after the three daughters.'..."
One of the boys featured in the CNN article has a double masters degree in international banking and international finance. He plans to work with organizations like the World Bank or International Monetary Fund.

The lad Shepherd took into her family just graduated from high school and got some college degree. Sort of like me. We can't all be high-power international financial experts, you know.

The school that Mr. Grimes promised, but never delivered?

Back to the CNN article:
"...And the school once promised by Grimes has been built thanks to Shepherd and church fundraising -- and is expanding. Earlier this year a new science block was opened.

" 'The school was started for the boys who went back to Zambia. As they graduated their siblings began to go to the school. My dream is to buy the property next door for two new classrooms and a library-computer lab,' Shepherd said...."
'And so, justice and charity triumphed once again?' In this case: It looks like things eventually turned out okay.

Obviously, we don't always see 'happy endings.' And I'm sure that the people involved in Mr. Grimes' deception are none too pleased about what they went through.

On the other hand - this is a case in point for the idea there are jerks in this world. Also good folks, who care enough to do something about the mess made by the occasional villain.

Adoption and being Catholic

Children are a gift - but are not property. I don't 'own' my children. My wife and I were blessed with six - of whom four survive. For this I am thankful - and somewhere between humbled and astonished at the trust implied with this sort of gift.

The Catholic Church is pretty clear about children not being property. And that nobody has the "right" to have a child. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2378, 2379, for starters)

As for why my wife and I didn't go out and adopt lots and lots and lots of kids? I've never let my family go hungry, and we've always been able to sleep in a weathertight building. But I'm not particularly wealthy, by American standards. Raising the children we'd been entrusted with - and leaving it at that - seemed to make sense.

Folks who get a 'call' to adopt? That sounds like a good idea. Sometimes the call is a literal telphone call - as in the case of the Shepherd family. Sometimes it's more of a metaphor.

And that's still one more topic.

Slightly-related posts:More:

1 comment:

Brigid said...

Extra letter: "and shared her suspicioins with"

Missing word: "this is a case in point for the idea there are jerks"

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