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Donor catches 'lying' orphanage

South Africa

By Hillel Aron

Staff Reporter

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A Cape Town orphanage has admitted to doctoring a series of pictures to spare the feelings of a generous donor whose wish was to see poor South African children attending a World Cup game.

The orphanage was caught out by the donor himself, who is an expert in photo retouching and editing.

Carl Stevens, a 54-year-old Englishman living in Australia, saw a documentary on TV a few months ago about poor children in South Africa.

He was moved by what he saw, and wanted to do something to help.

He told the Cape Argus that he did not want to deal with a big charity, so he looked up orphanages online and settled on Al Noor in Woodstock - home to more than 20 children.

He wrote them an email, asking if he could donate money to send the children to see a World Cup match.

"I think the experience of seeing a game may help them realise a dream," he wrote.

Amina Madien, Al Noor's director, wrote back to Stevens, thanking him profusely. Before long, Stevens had transferred about R3 250 into Al Noor's bank account. Madien told Stevens that tickets had been bought for two games.

Her story began to unravel after Stevens asked for a photo of the children at one of the matches. Madien stalled for more than a week, offering Stevens several excuses.

Finally, she sent him the pictures - five of the worst Photoshop jobs he had ever seen, Stevens said.

Stevens said he was familiar with Photoshop, a programme used to retouch, edit and manipulate digital images.

"They did a shoddy job," said Stevens, laughing.

Madien admitted that the pictures had been doctored, but said the orphanage had lied to Stevens to spare his feelings.

"People did not want to hurt the donor's feelings by not going to the stadium, by telling him we didn't find tickets."

She said Al Noor had used the money to rent a bus and take the children to the city's fan park and to buy T-shirts and cooldrinks.

She claimed that the orphanage had spent R9 000 on various field trips during the World Cup.

"The World Cup did make an impact on the children, it just wasn't in the stadium," she said.

Madien admitted that the photos were fakes, and said the organisation was sorry for lying. "It was our duty to explain to Carl, and for that we are sorry," she said.

Al Noor has made headlines before - it was closed once in 2005 and once in 2006 for operating without registration.

It is now operating under conditional registration and gets no money from the government, relying instead on private donors.

Stevens said he harboured no ill will towards the orphanage or Madien.

"She meant well," he said.

"(I'm just the) wrong person to send Photoshopped pics to."



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