7 episodes

Over 25 years, WE built a golden brand by inspiring children to rally around their charismatic leader. But behind the scenes, employees experienced a cult-like culture and a troubling blur of charitable and commercial activities. In the aftermath of a national scandal, thousands of donors and volunteers (and dozens of 'celebrity ambassadors') are left wondering where the money went, and whether the savior industry creates a constant need for victims.


From CANADALAND, the news company that exposed it all, this is the exclusive story of a charity that did well when it was supposed to be doing good.


Narrated by Olusola Adeogun.

The White Saviors Canadaland

    • True Crime
    • 4.2 • 172 Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

Over 25 years, WE built a golden brand by inspiring children to rally around their charismatic leader. But behind the scenes, employees experienced a cult-like culture and a troubling blur of charitable and commercial activities. In the aftermath of a national scandal, thousands of donors and volunteers (and dozens of 'celebrity ambassadors') are left wondering where the money went, and whether the savior industry creates a constant need for victims.


From CANADALAND, the news company that exposed it all, this is the exclusive story of a charity that did well when it was supposed to be doing good.


Narrated by Olusola Adeogun.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    UPDATE (September, 2021)

    UPDATE (September, 2021)

    What's up with the WE Organization now? An update on recent developments.


    Further reading:


    WE Charity planned to move to the United States. (link)


    WE Kenya country director Carolyn Moraa's blog (link)


    The Twitter campaign against The White Saviors (link)
     
    See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

    • 20 min
    Chapter Five - The Bottom line

    Chapter Five - The Bottom line

    Where did the money go? Where are all the schools that WE says it built?

    A political scandal breaks the dam on decades of silence. Revelations pile up of donor fraud, racism, child abuse, "dirty trick" campaigns against WE's enemies and other financial misconduct. Then, the Kielburgers silence the scandal with a shocking announcement...

    ****

    Music by Audio Network

    ****

    Official responses from The WE Organization:

    Allegations by Amanda Maitland and that of racism:

    The entire WE organization is deeply committed to inclusion, diversity, equity and to combating anti-Black racism. For past instances involving unconscious bias which have taken place within the WE organization, we have apologized to Amanda and others.

    The WE Charity Board of Directors undertook an independent review from management on this matter.

    The Special Committee retained McCarthy Tétrault LLP to perform the Review. The McCarthy team was comprised exclusively of BIPOC professionals with strong credentials in labour and employment, the education sector and in anti-racism work and workplace reviews to conduct the review. McCarthy retained Amorell Saunders N’Daw, a respected educator, as an expert in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) matters. The Review team was directed by and reported to the Special Committee only, not other Board members and senior management. The Review did not identify any evidence of overt acts of racism at WE Charity. The review also concluded that Ms. Maitland was not shut down or silenced at the WE town hall in June 2019. A recording and transcript of the town hall confirm that Ms. Maitland aired her perspective in several exchanges, was not cutoff by Mr. M. Kielburger or anyone else, and she was invited by Mr. M. Kielburger to continue the conversation after the town hall. Ms. Maitland elected not to do so.

    Allegations of “white saviorism”

    A couple of critics have suggested that WE Charity is guilty of “White Saviourism”. While we respect people’s opinions, this is deeply disappointing to me and to the team. Critics are ignoring the reality that WE Charity isn’t a group of white people in Canada, but is instead a Kenyan-registered non-governmental organization operated by a team comprised of 98 per cent Kenyans — from local leadership, to community mobilization, to delivering programs. We are a well-established, thoughtful operation executing on world-class development work. The Kenyan communities we work with have experienced dramatic changes to the way that they live through education, clean water and community empowerment. The WE Charity development programs happening in Kenya are not unilaterally created out of Canada - they are created with our team in Kenya and more importantly, in partnership with the communities with work with. These communities see themselves as the drivers of change and know that through the work that have done with us they will be able to continue to educate their children and improve their daily lives. It seems that people don’t understand this. Frankly, incorrect assumptions are being made without understanding.”

    WE Charity’s prior responses to Canadaland’s questions:

    2018 investigation:
    https://www.canadaland.com/all-of-wes-answers-to-canadaland-and-letters-from-their-lawyers/

    2019 investigation:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21044335-we-responses-to-canadaland-2019?responsive=1&title=1

    WE.org Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/we-charity

    WE.org Financials page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/governance/

    ME to WE Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/me-to-we

    Further reading:

    Canadaland’s reporting on WE Charity:
    https://www.canadaland.com/?s=we+charity

    This episode contains source materials used under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act. For a full list of sources, visit:
    https://www.canadaland.com/podcast/chapter-five-the-bottom-line/

    • 46 min
    Chapter Four - Crimes In Kenya

    Chapter Four - Crimes In Kenya

    Kenya was the jewel in the crown of the WE Organization's global empire. It's where they took celebrities and CEOs for life-changing "experiences" with needy children, followed by stays in their 5-star luxury beach resort. It's also where WE co-founder Marc Kielburger hired a private security firm staffed by an ex-Israeli military operative and a Sri Lankan fugitive to deal with Kenyan employees who he thought were robbing or blackmailing him. They in turn accused Marc of kidnapping them and financial misconduct. This is an explosive tale of death threats, bribery and corruption in a country where WE was supposed to be helping.

    Music by Audio Network

    ****

    Official responses from The WE Organization:

    Claims by Peter Ruhiu
    Peter Ruhiu has a history of making false statements. In fact, Mr. Ruhiu’s employment with Free The Children Kenya was terminated in 2018 after financial irregularities were discovered by the charity during a spot audit. WE dismissed Mr. Ruhiu, who made a full confession and returned the misappropriated funds. He was criminally charged by Kenyan authorities and has also plead guilty to falsifying a police report.

    Phone recording of Peter Ruhiu
    Mr. Kielburger was acting in cooperation with the authorities in the conduct of this investigation, as has been documented by various third parties. Moreover, it is evident when listening to the recording that Marc Kielburger initiated the call, noting the date and time, prior to calling Mr. Peter Ruhiu.  We have submitted documentation to Canadaland that clearly confirms these facts, including a statement by Michelle Hambly, a Canadian national, who is Mr. Ruhiu’s ex-wife. We also shared with Canadaland extensive supporting documentation including an independent report from the external international agency that was involved in the investigation as well as an independent report from the former Directorate of Criminal Investigations supporting these facts.

    Claims by Mr. Kimakeke
    Mr. Kimakeke posted a blog for a few days with false materials, accompanied by a solicitation for reader donation/funds. Mr. Kimakeke removed the blogpost five days later, with a statement on the same blogsite renouncing his claims.  Mr. Kimakeke has multiple times made false claims, and multiple times renounced those claims. An affidavit signed by Satani Kimakeke was previously provided to Canadaland, dated October 7th, 2020. In it, Mr. Kimakeke said under oath that he had fabricated his past claims about Marc Kielburger. Mr. Kimakeke specifically said “I told Jesse Brown on July 6th, 2020, prior to publication of the information on the Canadaland web site on these matters, that the claims about Marc Kielburger and WE Charity is, in fact, false” …, “however, Jesse Brown published the false information anyways. I also explained to Jesse Brown on Twitter the information was incorrect. He did not modify his reporting or take down false information”.

    WE Charity’s responses to Canadaland’s questions:

    2018 investigation:
    https://www.canadaland.com/all-of-wes-answers-to-canadaland-and-letters-from-their-lawyers/

    2019 investigation:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21044335-we-responses-to-canadaland-2019?responsive=1&title=1

    WE.org Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/we-charity

    WE.org Financials page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/governance/

    ME to WE Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/me-to-we

    ****

    This episode contains source materials used under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

    For a full list of sources and further reading, visit:
    https://www.canadaland.com/podcast/chapter-four-crimes-in-kenya/

    • 46 min
    Chapter Three - The Halo Effect

    Chapter Three - The Halo Effect

    In the age of “corporate social responsibility,” giant corporations are tired of looking like the bad guys. Microsoft, Dow Chemical, Allstate Insurance, Hershey’s, Teck Mining – these companies were used to being blamed and boycotted. But by donating to WE Charity, they got more than tax benefits - they got a whole new PR strategy. This is the story of how WE turned virtue into a commodity, and sold it to the world’s biggest companies. But at what point does a charity become a marketing firm?

    Music by Audio Network

    ****

    Official responses from The WE Organization:

    Canadaland asked WE about the allegation that it promised to inoculate one child every time the WE365 app was downloaded, despite having no plan to connect those two things. The WE Organization responded:

    “Given WE Charity’s 20+ year history of supporting medical programs, and with well-documented photos and description of partnership with government health agencies (https://online.flippingbook.com/view/888537/186-187/), and hundreds of global medical practitioners who participated in medical programs, we can confirm with confidence that our vaccine campaigns were successful and that all funds raised for our inoculation programs went directly to helping children as intended.”

    Canadaland asked WE about the allegation that it “invented” impact numbers (usage statistics) for the WE365 app. The WE Organization responded with this answer about the app’s download numbers:

    “The WE365 app and its impact were clearly tracked and measured - to suggest otherwise would be false. There was nothing subjective about it. When someone downloaded the app and became a user, the information was tracked by the APP store. The TELUS team, who were very hands on in the program deliverables, also had direct access to all of the data. There would be no reason or means for anyone to “invent” anything.”

    With regards to child labour, WE Charity has said:

    “WE Charity’s commitment to ending child labour is evident and beyond reproach based on more than 20 years of dedication to working with the poorest children and families around the world.”

    When asked about its partnerships, the WE Organization has said:

    “We recognize that no company is ‘perfect,’ but we take a 360-analysis to determine the overall socially responsible practices of the business. We take our vetting process seriously and have frequently declined/halted pursuit of partnerships because they do not align with our values… We are dedicated to adhering to our strict vetting process, even in cases where the opportunity cost has been millions of dollars.”

    The WE Charity story, according to WE:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/our-story

    WE Charity’s responses to Canadaland’s questions:

    2018 investigation: https://www.canadaland.com/all-of-wes-answers-to-canadaland-and-letters-from-their-lawyers/

    2019 investigation: https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21044335-we-responses-to-canadaland-2019?responsive=1&title=1

    WE.org Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/we-charity

    WE.org Financials page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/governance/

    ME to WE Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/me-to-we

    Further reading:

    Canadaland’s reporting on WE Charity: https://www.canadaland.com/?s=we+charity

    This episode contains source materials used under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

    For a full list of sources, go to: https://www.canadaland.com/podcast/chapter-three-the-halo-effect/

    • 36 min
    Chapter Two - The Cult of Kielburger

    Chapter Two - The Cult of Kielburger

    Kids in 17,000 schools have been encouraged to take the WE Pledge, join the WE movement, and “Live WE.” But what does that really mean? In practice, it has meant fundraising for WE, paying the Kielburgers’ private company for a “voluntourism” trip, going to work for WE, and living in communal WE housing. According to many of those who lived WE, it meant joining an organization very much like a “cult.”

    Music by Audio Network

    **********

    Official responses from WE:

    With regards to child labour, WE Charity has said

    “WE Charity’s commitment to ending child labour is evident and beyond reproach based on more than 20 years of dedication to working with the poorest children and families around the world.”

    When asked about its partnerships, the WE Organization has said:

    “We recognize that no company is ‘perfect,’ but we take a 360-analysis to determine the overall socially responsible practices of the business. We take our vetting process seriously and have frequently declined/halted pursuit of partnerships because they do not align with our values… We are dedicated to adhering to our strict vetting process, even in cases where the opportunity cost has been millions of dollars.”

    The WE Charity story, according to WE:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/our-story

    WE Charity’s responses to Canadaland’s questions:

    2018 investigation: https://www.canadaland.com/all-of-wes-answers-to-canadaland-and-letters-from-their-lawyers/

    2019 investigation:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21044335-we-responses-to-canadaland-2019?responsive=1&title=1

    WE.org Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/we-charity

    WE.org Financials page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/governance/

    ME to WE Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/me-to-we


    Further reading:

    Canadaland’s reporting on WE Charity: https://www.canadaland.com/?s=we+charity


    This episode contains source materials used under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

    Sources:

    Guelph Politicast
    https://guelphpolitico.ca/2020/08/19/guelph-politicast-234-we-a-personal-story/

    It Takes a Child
    Craig Kielburger’s Story – A Journey into Child Labour
    Directed by Judy Jackson
    Produced by Judy Films
    Youtube

    The Story of Craig Kielburger
    produced, and narrated by Sherine Mansour
    CPAC
    Youtube

    In Search Of Character
    LiveWire Media
    Elkind+Sweet Communications, Inc
    https://www.livewiremedia.com/product/in-search-of-character/

    The Price WE Paid
    The Fifth Estate/CBC

    Interview with Craig Kielburger
    CSPAN
    Craig Kielburger NSB Speakers promotional video
    Youtube

    Marc Kielburger NSB Speakers promotional video
    Youtube

    WE Movement Youtube Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm6agaIkn5aBJlLLds7P1HQ

    MeToWe Youtube Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm6agaIkn5aBJlLLds7P1HQ

    CTV News – Kielburger brothers interview with Lisa Laflamme
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_p5PRLy2os

    MTV Cribs: Craig Kielburger Episode
    Haddon Strategy
    https://vimeo.com/49975157

    • 35 min
    Chapter One - The Children's Crusade

    Chapter One - The Children's Crusade

    Craig Kielburger was the Greta Thunberg of the 90s – a 12 year-old kid from the suburbs who dreamed of freeing the world’s children from slavery. His activism made him famous, and he was endorsed by Oprah, the Pope, the Queen, and the Clintons. His campaign became a global movement and a powerful brand.

    But right from the start, there were uncomfortable questions about money and exploitation. Decades later, it all came crashing down. But the seeds of WE’s self-destruction were planted right from the start…


    Official responses from WE:

    According to the WE Organization: neither the WE Organization nor Marc or Craig Kielburger have ever been investigated by a law enforcement agency, currently or in the past.

    The WE Organization maintains that all financial transactions between its various entities, both charitable and for-profit, have followed all applicable laws.

    In his libel claim against Saturday Night Magazine: Craig Kielburger said that the article was false and led people to wrongly believe he was keeping the money for himself. According to a reported statement by a Free the Children accountant, donations made prior to the organization becoming a registered charity were deposited in a separate bank account, and the group was being run as a charity pending Revenue Canada’s approval of its application.

    2018 investigation:
    https://www.canadaland.com/all-of-wes-answers-to-canadaland-and-letters-from-their-lawyers/

    2019 investigation:
    https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/21044335-we-responses-to-canadaland-2019?responsive=1&title=1

    Further reading:
    Canadaland’s reporting on WE Charity: https://www.canadaland.com/?s=we+charity

    The WE Charity story, according to WE:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/our-story

    WE.org Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/we-charity

    WE.org Financials page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/about-we/we-charity/governance/

    ME to WE Transparency page:
    https://www.we.org/en-CA/transparency-reporting/me-to-we

    Music by Audio Network

    This episode contains source materials used under the Fair Dealing provisions of the Copyright Act.

    Sources:

    It Takes a Child
    Craig Kielburger’s Story – A Journey into Child Labour
    Directed by Judy Jackson
    Produced by Judy Films
    Youtube

    The Story of Craig Kielburger
    produced, and narrated by Sherine Mansour
    CPAC
    Youtube

    In Search Of Character
    LiveWire Media
    Elkind+Sweet Communications, Inc
    https://www.livewiremedia.com/product/in-search-of-character/

    The Price WE Paid
    The Fifth Estate/CBC

    Interview with Craig Kielburger
    CSPAN

    Craig Kielburger NSB Speakers promotional video
    Youtube

    Marc Kielburger NSB Speakers promotional video
    Youtube

    WE Movement Youtube Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm6agaIkn5aBJlLLds7P1HQ

    MeToWe Youtube Channel
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm6agaIkn5aBJlLLds7P1HQ

    CTV News – Kielburger brothers interview with Lisa Laflamm
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_p5PRLy2os

    MTV Cribs: Craig Kielburger Episode
    Haddon Strategy
    https://vimeo.com/49975157

    • 31 min

Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5
172 Ratings

172 Ratings

blsimm ,

White Saviors

This podcast shed a light on how unscrupulous charities can be. The corruption surrounding them. And what they can get away with right in the open . I want to believe that Kielburger brothers really wanted to “do good.” But greed and fame turned them into just another group of people with white skin who continue to exploit the continent of Africa and exploit various shades of brown people. In my opinion it makes them FAR WORSE than the “enslavers” b/c at least that don’t pretend to care. What angers me the most is that once again people with white skin “got away with it” while the people with varying brown skin got jailed or slandered for getting involved with these “saviors”. The next time I give my money or my time to a charity I will do my due diligence. Thank you for opening my eyes. I remember telling my mom frequently that poverty is BIG BUSINESS and sadly this podcast just confirmed it.

loweryourvoice ,

Couldn’t stop listening.

This is a mind-blowing exposé of a global charity with so many celebrity endorsements…. And so much grift and fraud. Very good reporting from a small Canadian publication. Worth listening to the full series!

blkcat97 ,

New to me

I had never heard of this organization but am so glad to know now since they are still active in the US!

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