The End of Humanitarian Sharing: Thanks, Money-Transfer Services

Photo by Ben White — on Unsplash.

The policies of international-money-transfer services have put a chill — or should I say an Ice Age — on humanitarian giving over the last several months. Their avowed compliance with apparent regulations to prevent fraudulent transfers of money internationally has been taken to the ultimate extreme. Most, if not all services now require that the benefactor and the recipient must have met in person, face-to-face. At least that is one of the many questions asked of the prospective sending customer.*

The absurdity of this requirement is beyond comprehension. Let me provide some background to the first victim of the policies. He is a teacher friend in Ghana. I supplied funding for his undergraduate technical-university education, starting in 2014. I paid tuition, fees, sent two laptops, paid living expenses and all the rest for the next two and one-half years. After his graduation, he returned to his home village and taught ITC and maths for two years without pay. I continued to supply resources to renew his (and the school’s) wi-fi each month, along with some food and medical money. We also started a student-desk fundraising campaign — joined by my primary-school students — to construct and install desks in the seven classrooms (of eight) in the Ghanaian school which had none for its students. That all ended in December 2019 when Western Union (WU) suddenly refused to permit a small monthly transfer, never more than $200.00 USD. I had previously used WU for nearly six years, including forwarding money for the desk project.

Photo by S. Osman. Used by Permission

I could not prove to WU that I knew the recipient, despite having Skyped, texted or video called on WhatsApp nearly every day with my teacher friend. Because he had not been to the U.S. and I had not traveled to northern Ghana, West Africa, WU ended transfers with no further explanation. There was no opportunity for any meaningful appeal, so I did not bother supplying reams of additional paperwork which would ‘prove’ my ability to give and heaven knows what else.

Since the start of 2020, I have had the following transfer ‘services’ (and I use the term loosely) to either refuse to open an account, or cancel all transactions: Xoom, WorldRemit, Remitly, Ria and Sendwave.

I cannot even use an international postal money order as the United States Postal Service (U.S.P.S.) does not have an agreement with the likely-corrupt postal service and government in Ghana.

I am now ‘dead in the water’ on helping my Ghanaian friend.

For the transfer services to require unreasonable demands on senders and receivers — just as a pandemic was unfolding — has now heightened the disparity between the haves and have nots of this world. It is a striking blow to direct humanitarian aid for the poorest of the poor.

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* When the transaction is declined, cancelled or the service refuses to even establish an account with the sender — no reason is provided. Their decisions are final and despite a provided ‘review’ email or phone number, I have never in the last eight months changed the outcome.

Reader, blogger, musician and music promoter/event producer. Community activist and educational advocate.

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