Robert Bassam and Easterns Automotive: A Well-Needed Donation to Nigeria’s Girls
Robert Bassam is the CEO and founder of Easterns Automotive Group, a car dealership chain with stores across the Washington, DC area. Robert Bassam is not just a businessman; he is also a philanthropist who helps different charities by attending to some of their urgent needs. He believes that the rich should help the less fortunate by implementing sound philanthropic practices and taking note of the things they need at the moment; charities, in turn, should have measurable targets to determine the impact of their efforts on the lives of people.
For many people, philanthropy simply means throwing money at problems, but not to Robert Bassam. “Throwing money” doesn’t have to mean spending cash; this type of philanthropy could include setting up foundations, non-profits, or donating to existing organizations. However, there are several documented instances of donor money being funneled to causes that are radically different from the causes that the donors would like to support.
One good example is the Barnes Foundation, an art museum with two locations in the Philadelphia area. The non-profit was originally founded as an educational institution for art students, and as such, opened its doors to the public only for two days a week. The original terms of operation also prohibited the loaning and touring of its extensive Impressionist and Modernist collection, and the colored reproduction of the same. However, by the mid-1990s, the museum decided to send its collection of works by masters such as Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh on a world tour, thus breaking its founder’s original intentions. By 2012, after a series of legal challenges, the gallery had moved from its original arboretum setting in Merion to a new location in Philadelphia.
There are a few lessons to be learned from the experience of the Barnes Foundation. First, a non-profit should have clearly-stated goals that will serve as the backbone of its operations. Second, steps must be made to ensure that donations will indeed serve their intended purpose. It’s not enough to claim that one’s donation will go to “children in Africa”; that sort of statement is vague and does not raise any awareness for one’s cause.
Fortunately, Robert Bassam chose to be wise about the groups and individuals that he helps. As a child who worked to support his family, he learned the value of a strong support system and the importance of proper guidance. When he first heard of the “#BringBackOurGirls” campaign, he looked around for someone who had actual knowledge of what was happening to young girls in Nigeria. Then he managed to get in touch with human rights lawyer Emmanuel Ogebe, who was planning to take a dozen Nigerian girls to the United States to escape the Boko Haram group.
Through Ogebe, Robert Bassam learned that the girls lacked the proper luggage for bringing their personal belongings to the United States. He then decided to give the refugees a timely donation of luggage on behalf of the Easterns Group so that they can escape to a safer place.
Because of the gift of luggage from Robert Bassam and the Easterns Group, the girls could move on from their horrible life back in Nigeria and are now building new lives of their own. Robert’s gift of bags shows that the best donations are those that address immediate and specific needs.