Selling False Hope

There are a lot of leeches in our world, and I am not referring to the aquatic animals that suck blood, but I am talking about people who extort profits from others. These people don’t necessarily have to be intelligent or educated; they just need to be tricksters. I didn’t think that people that work for NGOs could be leeches, yet I was wrong.

Let me begin with a bitter realization I faced while working with Peruanos Sin Agua, a Peruvian NGO. I have been advertising this organization for months now, and I did not know that the Abel Cruz, the CEO of the organization, was a leech. He is a man that sells false hope to impoverished people with a speech. This man is good at this job, he is extroverted, acts friendly, and radiates kindness. Like I said before, you don’t need to be intelligent or educated to gain power and make a living out of tricking others. Abel doesn’t have a fancy vocabulary nor a college education, but he was able to trick me for a while — just like a pastor and his good sermon.

Abel Cruz is a modern Jesus. He is using impoverished people as a tool to rise to power. Peruanos Sin Agua works to mitigate the water problems in dry desserts like Peru, with the use of fog catchers. At first I believed that what Abel was doing with fog-catcher was amazing and a revolutionary solution that would help impoverished people to obtain free water. However, when I had my first conversation with Abel about the price of each fog-catcher things started to get ominous. Abel swore that each fog-catcher cost 1200 Peruvian soles (roughly $400). To me, the price seemed way too high. A fog-catcher consists of 4 materials; three 6m bamboo sticks, mesh, PVC pipes, and wire. I decided to investigate the real price of a fog-catcher and it turned out to be 200 soles, which is less than $100. I realized that for each fog-catcher Abel built he was putting $300 in his pocket. How was he able to trick so many people? How did a company like Coca-Cola never realize what Abel is doing?

By now, your thinking that apart from the materials there are labor costs to build each fog-catcher. However, the fog-catchers are being built by the people from the shantytowns for free. Abel had promised each person that if they helped him build the fog-catchers they would receive a hectare of dessert land for them to grow their crops with the water from the fog-catchers. The worst part is that there is no science behind his promise. Without the help of an agricultural engineer, there is no way people can grow crops in a dry land and scant amount of water. Although Abel has no college education and no degree in agriculture or engineering, people from the shanty town call him an engineer.

I am no scientist, but just by looking at the fog catchers I knew that they were not functional. The mesh was dry and filled with dust. The PVC pipes had collected a thick layer of dust and seemed dry for months. The worst part was that the PVC pipe that connects the fog-catcher with the water storage was curved. Therefore, there is no way that the water would have gone inside the container.

By then I was furious with Abel, so I started to question him. I asked him why a fog-catcher cost $400. He replied that he doesn’t like to work with people that question him how the money is being used nor with companies that ask for receipts and a budget list. Then I asked him if placing ten fog-catchers was all he has done in six years from receiving money from companies. He said that he had made fifty more fog -catchers nearby and that people had grown crops. But, when we went the location to verify what he said, there wasn’t a single fog-catcher and all of the crops were dead. Abel’s reply to our discovery was that the landowner died, and people fought for the land and let the crops die.

Scammers like Abel are worse than robbers. Apart from stealing money from big companies, he also steals valuable time and effort from impoverished people. Worst of all, he makes a living out of selling false hope. After the incident, I have not talked or contributed any more help to Abel. But there is one last question I would like to ask Abel, how does he sleep at night without his conscience eating him from the inside?