This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Behind The Beautiful Forevers" by Katherine Boo. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What are charity scams? How did the character Asha get involved in charity scams in the book Behind the Beautiful Forevers?
Charity scams are when a charity fundraiser diverts the majority of the money collected from donors for personal use. In Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Asha used her nonprofit as a vehicle for government officials to divert funds meant for a school education program. She planned to make money from her share of the stolen funds.
Read on to discover how the desire to escape poverty drove Asha to participate in charity scams.
Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Asha Takes up Charity Scams to Make Money
For a while, it looked like all of Asha’s scheming had amounted to little. She had many hustles, but she still hadn’t succeeded in bringing in enough money to get her family out of the slum. However, her luck changed when some government officials approached her about overseeing funding for a new network of public schools.
The government had received funding, including some from foreign investors, to provide elementary school education to all eligible children in Mumbai. But it was mostly a facade so the program organizer could divert most of the money to himself and people who would help him. He wanted to funnel money through a nonprofit that could then disperse it to him and his accomplices. He approached Asha because someone had established a nonprofit for her a number of years ago for a government project that never came to fruition. Nevertheless, it was still a viable nonprofit he could use for his scheme.
The instigators of the charity scams created documents showing that Asha’s nonprofit had overseen 24 kindergartens for poor students for the past three years. This was enough to get approval for dispersing funds for the new school program to her nonprofit. Her job, then, was simply to receive money into the organization’s bank account, then write and hand-deliver checks to the people the project manager specified.
There was one small hurdle: The checks required two signatures. Asha approached the woman she’d named as secretary to the nonprofit, but the woman was too fearful they would get caught to sign the checks. Asha fired her and made Manju the secretary of the nonprofit so she could provide the second signature. The officials told Asha she wouldn’t make much money for herself the first year, but she would make more money later.
In Asha’s opinion, working in the corrupt overcity was easier than trying to survive in the slums. The trick was believing that you wouldn’t get caught and that what you did wasn’t that objectionable overall.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Behind The Beautiful Forevers summary :
- A nonfiction account of the lives of residents of in one Mumbai slum
- How the globalized world affects many people in India
- A story of poverty, exploitation, and the struggle to survive