Who knew one blog post could be the start of a big change? To be honest, that was the goal, but I never imagined that the first Simple post would be the reason for it.
On the 26th of September, I wrote a post, "What's Wrong with People"; it was a bit dark but ended with a positive and hopeful spin. I emailed the post to subscribers and received a comment from a woman named Christine. She said that my opinion was wrong and people overall are just bad. Reading her comment made me feel horrible and left me wondering what she had experienced in life that made her feel this way. So, I contacted her and asked if she would feel comfortable sharing her story.
After a few correspondences, we arranged a WhatsApp video call. We talked for almost an hour she told me about her life, how she lost her mother and her father to AIDS when she and her four siblings were only teenagers, and how she had to drop out of school because of her circumstances. She tried to find a safe space with her boyfriend, but after her pregnancy, he became abusive towards her and her little son Joshua. She was strong enough to leave him and carry on on her own. After almost five years, the boyfriend was back in the picture promising he had changed and acted accordingly. But after her second pregnancy to Israel, the abuse started again. This time she left him for good, found comfort in the Christian world, and joined the Born Again Christian community.
Christine now lives in a room with her two beautiful sons, Joshua and Israel, in the slums of Kampala, Uganda. She was providing for her boys by teaching, but because of COVID, she was laid off. She tried working as a freelance teacher for a while, but that wasn't sustainable. Without a job, she found herself in a difficult situation to support her kids. She asked for help from her family members, they suggested she abandon her sons, she asked for help from her community and the pastor, merely to receive false promises and inappropriate messages. She wrote to many organisations and political figures, and yet again, she was given no response and left with no hope. Her only strength was her two boys and her big-hearted close friend, who had just had a baby, and despite the difficulties she was facing, she managed to help Christine with food and household. That's when we crossed paths. That's when she read my blog post. Hearing all this made me understand why Christine believed people are just bad.
She never once asked for my help during this conversation, she was strong and honest. Her energy and spirit inspired me, and I wanted to offer her help. I promised her I would try my best to get her out of this situation. Witnessing her eyes sparkle just because I took the time to listen to her and promised her to try anything to help her was remarkable, but also scary. I didn't want to disappoint her, so I wanted to make sure I was clear about trying my best, but that I couldn't promise that I would be able to do something about it. That didn't change the joy she was feeling. All she needed to hear was, "I'm here to share your burden."
After our inspiring talk, I went straight to researching. I wanted to find the right charity that would guide me on how to help Christine. For Chary On Top, we do thorough research on charities to find genuine charities that do good and are transparent. Unfortunately, our search hadn't reached Uganda oversees charities yet, so this was a great excuse to dig into that. After a few hours, we found Uganda Cares and checked their information on GOV.UK Charity Registrations. It seemed their annual reports were in order, so I called the contact number on the government website after a concise and weird conversation, we lost connection and I tried to call back a few times, but the line was blocked. For future reference; we won't be featuring Uganda Cares on our platform.
We had a limited time to move because Christine was drowning in her son's school debts, struggling to pay for food and transportation. She even caught her eldest son stealing a calculator from the supermarket for his education. She was upset that her son stole, but she was even more upset that she couldn't even provide a calculator for her son. After talking to her kids' school and calculating the amount needed for boys to complete their education, buy essential equipment, cover the transportation and clear the debt, we figured £1,930.00 is the fair number.
I used my personal social media account and shared the story of Christine with my close friends and family. They were all touched by her story and very excited to help. To avoid the service fee, I asked people to transfer the donations straight to my bank account and was planning to transfer the total amount to Christine's account.
While I was sharing my account details with my friends, I received a phone call from my bank telling me there's been a fraud action detected on my account. At one point, the guy on the call asked me about my day to fill the silence while waiting for the system; I told him that I was trying to fundraise for two kids' education in Uganda, and it felt unfair that I was in this situation. He thanked me for the good I was doing and carried on rescuing my money. After an hour on the phone, we lost connection, so I called the number back to find out that I was being scammed for an hour and had emptied all my accounts with my own hands. Thanks to my great bank, I got all my money back, but I couldn't shake off the horrible feeling for hours.
The worst part was risking my friends' money and some of my family members telling me I shouldn't trust anyone and reconsider my trust in Christine and accept the probability that she could be scamming me as well. I knew in my heart that Christine was genuine, and I didn't want some a**hole's actions to affect an innocent woman's life. There and then, I decided that the world is filled with horrible people, but I choose to see the good people and spend my life concentrating on them.
I set up a GoFundMe page and directed all the donations there - just to be safe. In 2 weeks, I collected £1,038.00 (after £36.68 of the service fee was deducted) through GoFundMe and £67.40 from bank transfers. In total, I fundraised £1,105.72 and personally contributed to the rest, making it £1,930.00 in total.
Joshua had a big exam on the 4th of November to move up to high school, and if Christine hadn't managed to pay the school debt, Joshua wouldn't be able to move to high school even if he passed his exams. He had asked me to send him a good luck card to lift his spirits. I knew he wanted to be an engineer, so I bought a 3D pop-up jet-plane card and posted it two weeks before Joshua's exams to make sure he received the card. Thank's to our luck, UK Post Office went on strike, and my post never reached Joshua before his exam, despite the Ebola break that postponed his exams for a week.
The happy ending is Joshua smashed his exams, and after all the problems we faced, we managed to transfer all the funds to Christine. Seeing the joy on their face was worth every situation we faced. Hopefully, Christine will find a teaching job soon and be able to provide for her family, but until then, this little support will reduce the stress on her shoulders. The whole experience proved to me that I need to do my best to make Chary On Top the best giving experience there is.
It's been almost three years that I've been working on this project. And I will not give up until I witness the role that Chary On Top has in the change that is much necessary in this world. Thank you, Christine, Joshua, and Israel for reminding me why I started this project.