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A cry for help heeded

A 14-year-old teenager’s life hangs on your benevolence. Abian ‘Abbie’ Ntshabele has a rare cancer and needs P500,000 for a critical operation. A vigorous fundraising campaign, ‘Help Save Abbie’, has kicked-off and as Mmegi Correspondent, NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE observes, headway is being made - 

 
 

“I first heard about Abbie from my best friend Mpho Pilane who is also in the ‘Help Save Abbie’ campaign in Botswana,” recalls UK-based singer songwriter, Lorraine Lionheart, one of the leaders of the fundraising campaign.

“Pilane is a family friend of the Ntshabele family. She had known about Abbie being ill, but like most people, hoped the young girl’s coming to the UK would solve every thing.

“At the end of 2014, Abbie’s mother, Tiny, contacted Pilane with the bad news that the UK could not help.

“She was, as you can imagine, deeply hurt but doing her best to find other options.

“Mpho then contacted me to see if there was anything we could do. I knew right away that I wanted to help, but to be honest, I was afraid to get involved.”

Lionheart’s fear stemmed from the cynicism some members of the public project whenever an artist becomes involved in a philanthropic endeavour.  In many cases, the artist’s efforts are viewed as self-serving, being either an attempt at cheap publicity or an appeal for attention.

Lionheart knew that the money required was a lot, but she believed it could be raised if she and others threw themselves into the task.

“I am a great believer in the belief that if you want something done you should do it yourself,” she says.

A few days after her friend Pilane updated her, Lionheart was in Portugal on private matters and there, she made the decision to help with the fundraising campaign.

“Helping to save a child’s life is a lot more important than what other people’s opinions of why I’m doing this may be.  As a woman and a mother, I know this could happen to anyone’s child,” she explains.

Back in the UK, Lionheart called Tiny, Abbie’s mother.  She asked for and received permission to start a public appeal for Abbie. The songstress met the family in Nottingham and events began unfurling quickly after that.

The fundraisers, who initially were Lionheart, Tiny and Pilane, started a Facebook group and began adding members. They spread the word through other online channels and also reached out to the media, setting up interviews for Tiny.

“We opened a crowd funding account with gofundme.com and money started coming in. In no time the news was spreading.  We also opened an email account, especially to handle messages to Abbie,” she adds.

The crew put a package together and began approaching companies, NGOs, churches, foundations and individuals. Lionheart also filmed a video at Nottingham, which she believed would heighten publicity. “The appeal started seeing positive transformation and thousands of people have been reached and mobilised to participate.  Pilane has been a major team player at all times, leading the team in Botswana and keeping all activities under control,” she says.

From the initial nucleus of team members, volunteers and friends joined in to lend a hand and the results thus far are inspiring.

“The campaign is going very well and by January 8, we had raised a little over P209,000 in just three weeks. “So many people are offering to assist with the fundraising and spreading awareness and a lot are donating too. “The next financial update will be on Monday and it will be a good one.”