Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Before You Give $$$...



I adopted Brees after he was left @ Ace Club in Dec. 2009, abused and with mange
Animal welfare is not even an afterthought in Egypt, but one organization has many believing that it is bringing this issue to the forefront with its so-called charity.

Enter Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals (ESMA).

ESMA’s website touts that it is “a charitable organization registered in Egypt (No. 3059/2007).” It was formed in late-2007 in “response to a horrific shooting spree of street dogs by the Egyptian government.” Thus, a small group of Egyptians and expats came together to “fight this notion of population control and to protect and rescue animals in immediate danger.” Their exact protection and rescue methods are in question with a recent report released on mistreated horses questioning the organization and stable (please refer to link provided at bottom of page to note the finger-pointing and discrepancies listed as well as comments).

If adequate animal welfare is in question amid donations continuously pouring, you have to eventually ask yourself where the donated items and money is dispersed (many non-profits use most of the funds for “administrative” purposes, ie many times filling the pockets of a select few within the organization).

After my Facebook newsfeed was bombarded with ESMA’s desperate need for donations and rumors began circulating as to where exactly these donations were going, I decided to do some further research. I sent an email directly to Mona Khalil, ESMA founder and board chairman, posing as a potential donor with substantial funds deriving from US contacts.

Prior to contacting Mona, I posted on ESMA’s Facebook page: “Does ESMA keep detailed financial reports of the donations it receives and where the money is allocated in its entirety?”

To which an ESMA member responded: “Yes LeAnne, ESMA keeps receipts and full details of donations. If you would like to review them, you are more than welcome to come visit our accountant at the shelter in Shabramant.”

Immediately after this response, I received a phone call from the ESMA member whom informed me that he had been so busy rescuing animals and was getting tired of the “accusations” regarding ESMA. To which I replied that as a potential donor, I was well within my rights to inquire as to the allocation of funds in order to ensure transparency. I added that the US donors also need clarification in order to obtain the tax write-offs which required documents and since the organization is registered as a non-profit in Egypt backed by a US non-profit, then I knew documentation must be compiled. The ESMA member informed me again that I was welcome to come to the shelter and personally review the records which led me to inquire about electronic documentation. He then assured me that he would send an electronic version of the organization’s 2010 records.

However, I received a very different response after my email to Mona dated October 4 which read:

Hi Mona,

I am inquiring about further information regarding
ESMA for potential donations. I collect funds and items from various friends in the expat community in Cairo as well as friends abroad (mostly the US) for charitable contributions and I'm always looking for new causes to contribute.

In order to determine where the funds/items will be donated, I was wondering if you or someone at
ESMA could provide more information. Since ESMA is a charitable organization, can you please provide me with financial records to show the money received and its allocation? I'm sure you understand, but I must check these facts before giving such sizable donations to ensure transparency as many of my US contributors use this as a tax write-off.

Your earliest response is greatly appreciated.

Debbie Smith, ESMA Treasurer, replied on October 9:

Dear LeAnne,

Mona forwarded your email to me, so that I can respond to your questions. Are you here in Cairo or in the US? Regarding making a tax-deductible donation to ESMA from abroad, we are fiscally sponsored by Animal Diplomacy, which is a registered US 501C3 non-profit organization. There is a link to the
Animal Diplomacy webpage from our site (www.esmaegypt.org), and most donations from the US and other countries outside Egypt are processed in this way through Paypal. I am cc'ing Kristen Stilt on this, who can answer any questions you may have about Animal Diplomacy.

On the other hand, If you or your friends are here in Egypt and want to make a donation, it is easy enough, you can just contact me or Mona to arrange for it to be picked up, or go to the shelter where our bookkeeper is working and drop it off there. In either case, you can specify if there is a specific program (i.e. shelter, horse feeding, etc), animal, or purpose that you want any donations to be applied towards and it will be directed to that purpose. I hope this was helpful, and thank you for your interest in raising money for animal welfare in Egypt.

I immediately responded:

Dear Debbie,

Thank you for your response; however, my initial question remained unanswered. In order to properly contribute, my donors as well as myself need verification as to the money received and its allocation in order to ensure credibility as well as for tax documentation. As far as the funds we raise, we would like to further explore your programs to better attain where the most need is (including amount of animals separated by category).

We require this information from any organization that we’ve worked with, including Egyptian organizations like the Spirit of Giving.

I was instructed to visit the site in order to look over the paperwork, but electronic documentation should be readily available in order to also provide Animal Diplomacy an update, among others.

Please contact me at your earliest as we are getting ready to determine which organization should be the recipient of this year’s donation.

I understand being an animal lover. I happen to be one myself. I, in addition to many of my friends, have also taken in unwanted/abused pets. However, I also have a few pet peeves and one of my biggest has to be so-called charitable organizations that seemingly operate under the guise of “the greater good” yet take contributions without proper documentation of where the money is allocated. If ESMA’s claims of its “commitment to improving animal welfare in Egypt” were true, why are there such obvious discretions from financial statements to vaccination records? What’s even more worrisome is the Animal Diplomacy’s website that has no information available except how to donate and that it supports ESMA. In addition, try doing a search on further information from this US organization and its contact. All you will find is an address (1227 B Central Str, Evanston, Ill. 60201) to send checks, but no phone number, email, foundation information (inception or founders) or even specific tasks in which it operates. In fact, the only other charity it supposedly supports as listed on its site is ESMA.

Is it just me or does this not add up?

Debbie responded to me again:


Thanks for your email and I appreciate your concerns.

I am curious who you are representing when you say my donors, are you asking as an individual, or on behalf of an organization, or a group of people?

Regarding the initial question being unanswered, are you asking for verification of how much money is received and where it is allocated? if you are asking to see our financial records and reports, under Egyptian law and on the advice of our lawyer, we do not provide our financial records to individuals.

However, we are in full compliance with the reporting and auditing requirements of the Ministry of Social Affairs, our fiscal sponsor Animal Diplomacy, and any foundations we have received grants from, and according to our organizational bylaws and governance, and handle all donations of any size and from any source in good faith.

In any case, if you are an American donating here in Egypt to an Egyptian NGO, you will not be eligible for a tax write off with the IRS anyway. I directed you to the site as a way of making a donation through our fiscal sponsor, in the event that you or another US citizen wants to make a tax deductible donation.

If by further exploring our programs, you would like to know about what areas we are active in, and how many animals we are currently responsible for, or discuss what the areas of greatest need are, you could meet with me and/or with Mona Khalil in person if you want. You can also visit the shelter in Sakkara or attend the next scheduled horse feeding at Nezlet Al Samman, or volunteering is also a good way to experience some of what we are doing and meet others who are involved with ESMA one way or another. I think this will give a better idea of the scope of what we are doing and what the needs are.

If ESMA is in compliance with governmental laws, I wonder if the organization was informed about new legislation passed in June that had the Egyptian Minister of Social Solidarity, Dr. Gouda Abdel Khaliq, warning “civil society associations and NGOs against applying for foreign grants” and called direct US funding to Egyptian NGOs a violation of Egyptian sovereignty. Under Egypt’s Law on Associations and Foundations (Law 84 of 2002), civil society organizations are prohibited from receiving funds from abroad without the approval of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. Violation of this provision of the law is punishable by up to six months imprisonment. Furthermore, how is the organization reporting its figures, particularly the funding received via PayPal?

When posting a comment on ESMA’s page that is anything other than praising their work, instant attacks begin in retaliation. For instance, when someone whom was helping in relocating ESMA-rescued horses inquired about the donated horse gear and its absence, an ESMA member replied: “i suggest you start opening your eyes and looking at what efforts are being made, rather than always bringing us down. Where do your loyalties lie? To the animals like us? If they did I would expect a very different method of communication from your side. Sadly, it seems your communication methods are too political for an organization that does not play this game.” The ESMA person also called via mobile and used such intelligent language as, “You’re a douchebag.” Bravo. This is exactly the type of mentality that makes me a) interested in volunteer opportunities and/or b) donating believing in its cause.

My advice: if you were thinking of donating to an animal rescue organization in Egypt, look elsewhere like the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF) as ESMA raises (or should at least) too many red flags. And to any ESMA member reading this, if you would like to justify these claims then provide the financial documents – it’s not hard unless you’re hiding something. However, based upon your previous actions, I would assume that you question my affinity for animals. Just because I question your transparency does not mean that I love animals less than any of your volunteers.

For those ESMA volunteers that do genuinely care about animals, I sincerely applaud your efforts; however, the organization in its entirety should be more transparent so as to ensure its donors that their contributions are being placed in good hands and for a good cause.

I adopted Layla in 2004 from Tucson Animal Control


Further reading:

Remember, there are three sides to every story: hers, his and the truth. Look at these two reports and make your own judgment. The issue more than likely falls on both ESMA and the stable, but finger-pointing is not a solution. Instead, I would like to encourage both parties, in order to avoid another similar incident in the future, to work on a compromise behind closed doors that places the animals at the top of their agendas – not a he said/she said public sparring.

By ESMA ‘Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals’ on Monday, October 17, 2011 at 12:50 am (Cairo time)

After this report was published PFK posted a response on its FB page which I will not repost here because it’s lengthy, but suggest you visit its page and look for the report dated October 17 (Monday) at 11:21 pm.

Further response to allegations posed by ESMA member:
By Prince Fluffy Kareem on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 12:38pm

And with all the finger pointing, does no one question where the money is going? Just like with any potential donation, please make sure to research the charity and ask pertinent questions. Any evasive responses should immediately trigger a red flag. For those of us living in Egypt, many times we want to give because we feel much more fortunate. Give give give, but give wisely (and I strongly urge you to donate other items including time before so readily giving money).

7 comments:

  1. What a thoroughly nasty piece of work you are, clearly associated with other groups raising funds who have spent some time maligning ESMA, tell me you wicked girl, where will all these animals go if you close ESMA down..... who will help to feed the pyramid horses, PFK no longer wants anything to do with these horses, ESAF feeds them but not as much as ESMA did. You should be utterly ashamed of yourself and I do hope this all comes back on you, pure evil.....

    Rest assured that a small group of us will now do a much as we possibly can for ESMA to try and help with all the damage you and PFK have tried to do to them. You are a disgrace and certainly no friend of any animal in Egypt.

    You clearly only thing about money and I pray that will eventually be your downfall.

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  2. Hi Wendy,

    Thanks for your response. It seems that you proved my point. Please re-read:

    "And to any ESMA member reading this, if you would like to justify these claims then provide the financial documents – it’s not hard unless you’re hiding something. However, based upon your previous actions, I would assume that you question my affinity for animals. Just because I question your transparency does not mean that I love animals less than any of your volunteers.

    For those ESMA volunteers that do genuinely care about animals, I sincerely applaud your efforts; however, the organization in its entirety should be more transparent so as to ensure its donors that their contributions are being placed in good hands and for a good cause."

    As you posted on someone's FB, "we all have to fund raise like crazy for ESMA now. So sad that people cant put the animals first :("

    You're still fundraising yet still unable to answer any of the questions posed in the above blog. Perhaps you should spend more time coming up with the records of the donation distribution instead of raising more money to which you have no idea as to exactly where it's going. I've asked a simple question that should have a simple report, but instead I only incur abuse. Bravo.

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  3. I also live in Cairo and cannot believe what you have written. ESMA does fantastic work in Cairo and you detract from it? Unbelievable. People like you should stay in their own country and fight for animal rights there (kill shelters). Disgraceful American overseas!!

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  4. So much for the "New Egypt". Corruption is rampant in all aspects of Egyptian society. Ask for a little transparency and you are instantly attacked. You are welcome to inspect my financial records. Why do I make the offer? Because I have nothing to hide. Same old Egypt........

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  5. I find an article with very interesting information, since it comes from your own experience.

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  6. Every Charity should provide where the money is being allocated no matter what. That is something we request before give anything especially here. There are a lot of people who do help but they are also pocketing money so anyone donating money should ask where it all is going. When a group does not want to give it to you it makes me wonder......

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  7. Dear Leanne. This is the norm from this place and their crony supporters. I recently moved to Egypt 2years ago, but had contacts with them before I came to Egypt. They are nothing but a bunch of hoarders and liars. Plus ofcourse their vile attacks, especially by their equally deranged supporters. They have no records... Hence you were attacked and accused of conspiracy! Not to mention the crap that is continuously happening from them and a few shelters associated with them. It's all a money making scheme for these people. Only one or two organizations in Egypt that are sincere and trustworthy and because of that they are constantly attacked. The Animal welfare community in Egypt is doomed because the vast majority of those involved are sadly very mentally disturbed.

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