Friday 31 March 2023

Let's not stigmatise personal fundraising like GoFundMe

Let’s unstigmatise GoFundMe

There is an undercurrent of concern and stigma accompanying the use of GoFundMe to attract funding for whatever cause or issue you might have. It is probably that concern and fear of stigma that meant I did not resort to this model of making people aware of a situation I need some help with.

I can appreciate that GoFundMe seems like a mendicant shaking a begging bowl on the sidewalk (properly a pavement in English), but that is to misconstrue the value of social networking and seeking the friendship, the support, and the generosity of other people towards something you have limited resources to finance.

Utilising my social media network

It need not be that way, as I have benefitted immensely from the use of my social media networks to first inform and then gain support. My blog has been prominent in that regard where a doctoral student in Canada sponsored my blog for a year, soon after I ran out of funds when I had cancer.

Then, I had a World Bank executive contact me on reading a pertinent blog I wrote in 2012; after a conversation, they wired $5,000 to me, no strings attached, just something to support my endeavours. Obviously, I have not monetised my blog, that is not the purpose of my blog. Rather, I write stories; stories about me, what I see, how I am affected, or just to proffer an opinion.

On LinkedIn, I have had jobs offered without having to interview, again, it is not that all these things happen always, but to ignore a social media following on the many platforms that you engage when things are going well but go quiet in adverse conditions is to forget the amazing usefulness of networking for all sorts of life situations.

GoFundMe is open for all causes

One look at the GoFundMe Fundraiser start page, there are many categories of fundraising, all to varying degrees of criticality and importance, but we should be careful that we do not determine to rate one need more than another as if it is a competition to suckle on the milk of human kindness better than the other person.

Yes, Funeral and Medical needs could speak to life and death issues, but people can also fundraise for others or themselves, for causes or interests in as varied areas as Emergency, Charity, Financial Emergency, Animals, Environment, Business, Community, Competition, Creative, Event, Faith, Family, Sports, Travel, Volunteer, or Wishes.

Crowdfunding is not criminal

GoFundMe is simply another crowdfunding platform, primarily a donation-based crowdfunding with charitable to a wide range of funding requirements for which there is neither financial nor material return to the donor apart from the satisfaction of helping someone else in some need of help or support.

I published a GoFundMe page to address a simple issue, I need to take some time to study and gain some new vendor certifications to give me better job opportunities for which I have extensive background experience, but have recently been quite lacking in confidence. I seek to do this in a comfortable supportive environment, and that is preferably Cape Town. I need to reboot things, I believe that is a purposeful and well-considered activity that would yield results.

We should embrace fundraising

In closing, no one should be ashamed when they have determined what they want to and have to do, to resort to raising funds for their projects. Whilst on the GoFundMe platform, many might think fundraising is just for desperate life-threatening situations, the fact is every endeavour involves a form of fundraising from personal projects and concerns, through startups seeking capital from venture capital firms to big businesses raising finance from banks, on the stock markets, or through the trade of equity.

GoFundMe simply brings the facility to raise funding for personal and community causes. To stigmatise it is to fail to understand the democratisation of fundraising brought to the lowest common denominator. I am persuaded that my GoFundMe drive is going to be extremely beneficial to changing my circumstances, no one need be concerned or ashamed by the use of it. Thank you.


Thursday 30 March 2023

I published a GoFundMe appeal

In the public of our lives

The public of our lives is never a situation to take likely, for one, social media has such a wide expanse with the possibility of what you publish reaching audiences you may not have intended.

Indeed, much of what I have shared with my public has been varied, though more on the better experiences of life than otherwise. I guess it is unconventional to share the pain as it is necessary to keep up appearances, lest the side is let down.

Yet silence can be a limiter of advantage, prospect, or opportunity, we all meet adversity on differing scales and employ whatever resources or means we can to address those issues. Some we can handle within what we have to bear, others need the support of a wider community, and then there are circumstances where only a miracle will suffice, we probably sometimes pray more for that than anything.

Reflecting on coming through

I have had such amazingly good times; I cannot deny I have lived an enchanted life of adventure, possibility, love, discovery, progress, and excellence. I am living through a phase, like walking through a valley of the shadow of death as the Psalmist said when he encouraged himself through the fear, with the comfort of the Lord bringing him to where a table was set before him in the presence of his enemies.

It is a journey well-travelled by humankind, I just write from the midst of my storms. The separate lives we live mean viewing another in distress can evoke sympathy or glee, each person has to tackle whatever they face, the way they know how, or have to learn to, in the process.

Seeking the support of others

In view of that, I have sought the help, support, and kindness of friends and strangers to sponsor a quest to rekindle my passion, reboot my career, and reassert myself in all spheres of endeavour. All I am asking for is another chance to aim to be the best I can be.

There is no denying tough times present tough situations for which tough decisions are necessary, some decisions are difficult and humbling, exposing one’s vulnerability as much as it defines one’s stark humanity. Any pretensions to being a superman are therefore immediately dispensed of as raw reality deigns to express.

That is why I have set up a fundraising drive with GoFundMe to achieve those aims, asking the community and the public to help me get to a new place. I know that there are people who would have other interesting ideas about how best to address these circumstances, but I can assure them that this is a deeply considered and difficult activity that was not done on a whim. Thank you for your support and generosity.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Thought Picnic: Whilst in the midst of life unkindly, I look up still

Keeping it to ourselves

Typically, we are advised not to talk much about going through issues, trials, and tribulations whilst within the mix of the experience as they make for better stories when told after the fact. In the secrecy of what we hold somewhat sacred to avoid shame, embarrassment, ridicule, or pity, we soldier on in life batting away in the hope that we make an innings of significance.

Yet, the life of man is made up of events too many to number, even as we highlight the exciting ones more and the depths receive nothing but silent contemplation where even ignorance or unfamiliarity limits understanding of how to get help or assistance through the hardest of times.

Live life for the better

At one point, I was even counselled to present my situation as more pathetic, the thought made me feel like a fraud, bad things happen to people regardless of where they are in life, in the depths of misfortune there is hope and blessing to consider, for as one has life, there is much more possible beyond the present circumstances.

Indeed, I find myself at crossroads, buffeted from every angle and needing to make some consequential decisions as there is what I would want to happen, what I want to achieve, where my heart wants to be, and options laid before me that challenge many frames of reference. Yet, none is that new to me, just that the apparent solutions seem less easy to access than they seemed to be before.

Make a story of you

This morning, I encountered three sets of new stories, an entertainer I knew from over 30 years ago, who as drag queen Lily Savage, performed at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern before they made a successful career on television and radio passed on [Paul O’Grady], the legal position that might suddenly render me homeless was deemed valid, and a titan in Pentecostal circles, who founded the Hillsong Church and has met with increasing misfortune was landed with a drink-driving charge [Brian Houston].

Whilst it gives many opportunities to reflect, the cycles of life are interesting; where there is an end, others are left to mourn and celebrate your legacy, however, whilst you live, you face the journey ahead of you, in Manchester, in a possible California, or in a likely Cape Town, there is a story itching to be told and I guess I am the man for all his experiences to tell another interesting story again.

For all that I have suffered with the bad experiences, it does not make me any less grateful for the wonderful blessings that have given me much to celebrate and that is what I would do, count my blessings as I step up and out to new experiences.

Blog - Homeless! My exciting life takes a new chapter

Blog - England: How Lewisham Single Homeless Intervention Prevention humiliated me

Blog - Opinion: We cannot for our comfort ignore the homeless

Friday 24 March 2023

Thought Picnic: On mother today and everyday

On being mothered

A mother remains mother, motherly, and mothering and I am blessed to have my mother whose voice gives soothing and calm to a child nearing 60. Even with the challenges she faces, she abandons that for concern and consideration of others in encouragement and prayer she speaks to the heart of me, telling me not to lose hope and assuring me that there is a God on the throne.

My health she asks after, my well-being is paramount, she mines the timbre of my voice to determine how I am holding up even when I give assurances. She remembers every detail of things I have shared with her to know whether there has been progress or new developments. 

At times, what might seem hopeless is given the radiance of possibility as her fervent desires are expressed in private supplication and entreaties for tremendous change to come.

My mother who sat and watched my infant head still watches over my greying bald head, a blessing immeasurable in duty and responsibility, a treasure beyond any calculable value that many a time, we never well appreciate. Yet, in the whisper and the sound of her voice when we converse and in the playback in the recesses of my mind as I reminisce, I know I am blessed.

My Eema of God, dear mother of life, Shalom! Shalom! May your heart’s desires be met with the grace, favour, love, and power of the God you serve so diligently. Amen!

Thursday 23 March 2023

The UK: What can he do? How justice was served the Ekweremadus in this organ harvesting case

They are not entirely helpless

It was hardly 6 years ago that I wrote of a case of human trafficking involving Nigerian professionals fundamentally unable to check their privilege in the use and abuse of others for their benefit. The refrain of “What can she do?” was a word-for-word translation from Yoruba, “Kí ló lè e?”

I dare say that there are many with much power, influence, and money in the upper stratum of society from Nigeria who exercise and demonstrate this mindset in exploitation with regard to others without means, opportunity, status, or autonomy.

Blog - The UK: What can she do? How justice was served in this Human Trafficking case

Nigeria presents a theatre for criminality wherein it might be impossible to find redress or justice. However, that sense of untrammelled impunity sometimes bedevils Nigerians who orchestrate that behaviour abroad, as different systems exist for the unlettered and underprivileged to the law not only taking their side but acting with the utmost fiery vehemence to ensure justice is done.

All emotions awry

This morning, I read of the court finding of guilt against Dr Ike Ekweremadu, a 3-time deputy senate president in Nigeria, his wife Dr Beatrice Ekweremadu, an accountant, and a Dr Obinna Obeta who had successfully procured an illegal kidney transplant under false pretences for himself, a few years ago. [BBC News: Ike Ekweremadu: Organ-trafficking plot politician and wife guilty] [The Guardian: Nigerian politician, wife, and a doctor guilty of organ trafficking to UK]

I am both conflicted and incensed by this whole charade; conflicted by the situation of having lost two close relations to chronic kidney disease where a kidney transplant might well have given them hope and life along with the enjoyment of their participation in our lives for amazing stories.

The Ekweremadus were in a desperate situation for their 25-year-old daughter who had fallen ill in 2019 and needed the kindness of a donor to rescue her from the constant trauma of dialysis and incapability due to chronic and debilitating disease.

On that score, any parent would go to the ends of the earth with all the resources they can muster to find everything possible to help their child to health. It is the means by which this is procured that begs the question and has led to the indictment and conviction of the aforementioned parties.

They marshalled people and money

Within the confines of Nigeria, a donor might well have been acquired for exploitation, their organs harvested and the person discarded as a spare part to fend for themselves, after what was a cold heartless transaction. More is demanded of donors in the UK, it has to be altruistic, with coercion or inducement and never a transaction in monetary or other terms.

Through their privileged network of family and friends of considerable clout and influence, they procured a hapless street trader whom they promised a life of opportunity without acquaintance with why they brought him to the UK to have his kidney harvested for their daughter.

It was upon enquiry about his relationship to them and the consequences of his being a donor that the medical establishment decided against proceeding with a transplant.

How they failed themselves

Rather than mollify and commit to some humane endearment of their prospect, he was left in the care of procurer-middleman Dr Obinna Obeta, who for the grace of the kidney of a donor seemed not to have the capacity of self-reflection and gratitude for the gift of life, once possessed, for which he must have felt entitled than to be grateful to anyone from donor or surgeon.

The prospective donor was mistreated that he ran away and lived rough on the streets of London before handing himself in, to the police where his plight unravelled to the detriment of the so-called privileged, powerful, and moneyed Nigerians.

Meanwhile, the Ekweremadus were already shopping for another person to exploit, from whom to harvest a kidney for their daughter in Turkey, at the time the police pounced on them.

Careless with the caring part

It is my view and hence where my anger stems from, that had the apparent donor been treated with a modicum of respect, dignity, honour, and sense of gratitude, he might well have bought into this kidney transplant transaction, himself convinced the medical personnel, gone through with the exchange, had opportunities along with long-term care and consideration from the Ekweremadus apart from the personal sense of gratitude from their daughter that would have engendered a friendship borne of the gift of life shared.

It speaks to the earlier blog that I wrote in 2017 where a doctor and a nurse could have brought someone over from Nigeria to care for their own children and still maltreat that child carer with no sense of reflection or possible consequence on their children. Sometimes, I am just left baffled at the thinking that a carer for your children would be so hopelessly indebted to you that it becomes a licence to abuse them.

Having disregard is costly

What the Ekweremadus facilitated even under desperation and duress for their daughter was both criminal and illegal, they will be consequences and hopefully, lessons for others seeking the help of strangers to learn. From the onset of their arrest through how the case was building up, I personally could not see how they could walk away unscathed as it all seemed underhand, malicious, and seedy.

The words of the Chief Crown Prosecutor present the full indictment of how class, privilege, power, influence, means, and opportunity deludes people into thinking they can get away with it and that there can be no consequences for whatever they do because the people they have brought into their enterprise have nothing but just breath in their nostrils, good enough health, and they are spare parts put on earth for the harvesting to the health and pleasure of their lives and those of their children.

She said, “The convicted defendants showed utter disregard for the victim's welfare, health and well-being and used their considerable influence to a high degree of control throughout, with the victim having limited understanding of what was really going on here.

The disregard for another human being, no matter their status in life can bring you to utter ruin. The Ekweremadus and Dr Obeta would have that to think about as they languish in the restricted confines of His Majesty’s secure accommodations. The irony is that Dr Ike Ekweremadu helped draw up Nigeria’s laws against human trafficking – the mind boggles.

Monday 20 March 2023

From futility to fruitfulness

As it ought

Indeed, I have faltered in my thought,
For long have I determinedly fought,
As a fisherman every night was fraught,
For the fish needed, never caught.

To your audience was I then brought,
And a boat for a soapbox you sought,
From which the people sat to be taught,
The parables of heaven you wrought.

Then the nets once cast for naught,
You spoke to me and I sighed to aught,
In response, you gave a grunt in retort,
Suddenly the greatest catch overwrought,
A boat and two were packed to the port.

In your words were a bounty bought,
Delivered from the pain of want and rot,
In miracles you ever generously allot,
To show we were never an afterthought.

Inspired by The Chosen, Series 1, Episode 4 – The Rock On Which It Is Built 

Saturday 18 March 2023

How Akin became Yankee

Ticking the funny boxes

When it comes to the context of identity, I find that I can be quite pedantic and regimented in my thinking. I recognise the many influences that form the expression of who I am, by heritage, birth, association, involvement, recognition, and soon also by marriage.

The way I have for all intents and purposes become something of a world citizen, though I am yet to travel the world enough to lay that claim, I wield a passport that at least provides a welcome to most countries for a sojourn, but not a residency.

When I am asked to tick ethnicity boxes, the one I want to tick is Black English rather than Black British, sometimes, I would write in the box for Other, Black English, then we have orders of granularity, Black Caribbean, Black African, Black Other even as there are large populations of in the Americas, both north and south. These boxes do not fit anymore.

The quagmire of identity

Then with the recent penchant for claiming whatever identity or pronoun you desire, you wonder if you can detract from the obvious to impart the almost superfluously ridiculous; yet, conviction, is one you cannot dismiss easily if I have convinced myself I am Caucasian or Asian, who is to question me when they have assumed by default and accepted norms that I am what they see rather than what I seem?

There is no keeping up with identity politics, and we old fogies have a lot of catching up to do. Who I am is so different from what you see, and to make assumptions without enquiry to ascertain and verify what I have become because of what and who I think I am, without having to explain why it is that way is slowly becoming a hate crime.

Now, you need to be aware of deadnaming (2013), misgendering, pronouns, and much else. I am surprised the first two words are not neologisms, they are in our English dictionaries.

An English American

However, I have a nickname at home, that everyone can subscribe to and by that, we reduce the power-distance index to the point where we can communicate easily as peers. I like that kind of conversation with my siblings and it works well for me.

It was only a fortnight ago in a conversation with my mother that I learnt the real provenance of my nickname. It would appear strange that for someone who is quite proudly English, their nickname would be so distinctly American, also too American for my liking, yet it stuck and I have not quibbled about it.

Attending an office where my mother had to have my name registered, for the many times she said it to the hearing of the official, he just could not get it. He twisted and mangled my name into the spectacle of him giving the rendition of a patriotic nursery rhyme. That is how Akin became Yankee. [Yankee Doodle – Wikipedia]

I purposely did not use Anglo-American in the last section title.

In Telling: Not knowing there is help for you

Not knowing your dues

Understanding how to get help can be a handicap for people who have generally been self-reliant and independent. Having been schooled on self-sufficiency through grit, determination, and hard work, one can so easily be lost when the tried and tested modes of living and existing fail.

When some thirteen years ago I fell so seriously ill with cancer and the treatment meant it was impossible for me to consider returning to work as I underwent chemotherapy. Living in the Netherlands with all the accoutrements of an EU citizen and fully paying my taxes, I was unaware of what support I might get from the state. In fact, I did not think I qualified.

There was one month when I literally had nothing, but for the generosity of friends, I might just have one day expired on the floor of my living room and then would have been the end of all my troubles. However, it was one of the unique elements of the Dutch health system that they were not just concerned about my physical health but also my mental health and how I was getting on with life.

Support beyond the medicine

On one of my hospital visits, the nurse asked if I was getting any income support and when I responded in the negative, she was quite taken aback. She insisted that having worked in the Netherlands for almost a decade, I should have contributed enough to the system for such situations as my inability to work because of ill health.

She did not leave it at that, she marched me to the social security support office in the hospital and asked that they take on my case. Immediately, I was given forms to fill and I typed out a cover letter explaining my circumstances. The office fast-tracked the application to the responsible department and within the week, much-needed financial support arrived at the highest accessible support payout, backdated 6 months, which was the maximum that could be allowed.

Getting the help needed

If I had known any better, that application should have gone in at least 8 months before. Yet, with that lesson learnt, it is not that practised. The default inclination is always to be actively and fruitfully engaged in employment than depending on welfare payments.

It delays the necessary work of seeking support because you have the mind that things are on the turn and the reality is as days turn to weeks and weeks to months, that passage of time means what could have been done, is not done.

By the time you realise or understand that there is more than adequate support available, your situation is almost hopelessly dire. It is strange, yet troubling, the many who need help sometimes just do not know what help is available and how to access it.

Thought Picnic: When mountains seem immoveable

Why am I here?

There are times when you walk into a place and a sudden vehemence attempts to rise up within you to protest that you do not belong there. There is an otherness of the unfamiliar to which there is little relationship or understanding, the stuff you read about is usually, the sort of thing that exercises remoteness to your situation until circumstances change to give you experience.

The things I am good at, I think I know, and there are many other things I have rarely been able to adopt and bring into my frame of reference. Even where there is an entitlement, that ability to exercise access to such is at once distant and a niggling sense of failure. Things were not supposed to be like this, but things do happen and you do not have to be elected or selected to be the object of happenstance, it is the cycle of life.

What do I do?

What has sometimes threatened me and held me up is a kind of paralysis, the inability to fathom and find the wherewithal to act decisively in areas where there is little knowledge or total ignorance. These are places where for my failings and foibles, I probably need a bit more patience exercised from interlocutors as I am guided towards possibility and accessibility.

When humbled by the situation and humiliated by circumstances, you are quite easily marooned in the throes of turmoil, unable to concentrate and less able to accentuate. Progress comes to a standstill and confidence begins to look like a wonderful tool that was once effective but left to waste and somewhat ineffectual.

Where is the source?

When I look at it, I cannot answer why I am here, but since I am here, it is what I have to deal with. I have gotten to a point where I am no more praying for time, even as time is a constant rolling forward of participation engaged or reluctant, now, a miracle is something else, that is one thing I know I need, not just one, but many.

Even when I think I have run out of resources, strength comes, we never really know our own strength until a demand is made on it. I have to believe I am here to write a better story.

Thursday 9 March 2023

Thought Picnic: A famine unfolding

 Something on nothing

Famine is a spirit,
A cruelty on living nature,
Like creation walking back,
From the sixth day to the first,
The skies stand closed,
The clouds bereft of spirit,
People look up and cry,
Succour is a distant memory,
The faint are really fainted,
The weak weakened still,
Death hovers over land,
Harvesting souls to misery,
The grass is totally parched,
Water is the stuff of dreams,
The world begins to shrink,
As girth absconds for gaunt,
All countenance is fallen,
No smiles visit the face,
The hope for tomorrow,
Is surrendered for survival,
A fast is already imposed,
From the situation of lack,
The people cry with prayers,
When shall the rain duly come,
For grain to take forth life,
And beast grazed the land,
Bellies filled with plenty,
Laughter is cacophony loved,
Things find a new normal,
People gain verve and purpose
To write of famine past.

Wednesday 1 March 2023

Thought Picnic: Great capacity and gratitude beyond adversity

The days of then

In a life that has had the experience of many things, I find in each day, a cause to be grateful and thankful for life, even when other things are not particularly going right.

The 1st of March, 13 years ago would have been the 8th session of chemotherapy after which I felt I was ready to restart my life with no inkling of what the long tail of cancer would entail. It transpired that I did not have to take that last drilling of cytotoxic medication because when I saw a 9th session scheduled after I took my 7th, my consultant and the oncologist decided not to proceed with the 8th.

Just over 5 months of chemotherapy changed me, I had lost 25% of my body weight and though I had the willpower for a lot, there was little strength for much. My medical team felt I needed at least 6 months of recuperation, however, there were mounting bills and a mortgage I could not ignore. In the third week of March, I was back to work.

In adversity, see possibility

My team was very understanding, I was allowed to have Wednesdays off, and that meant, I had enough strength to work and recover. I look at that journey where if the chemotherapy did not take, I was given 5 weeks through the statistical information that people who were admitted in my state not lasting a decade after diagnosis and say I am exceedingly blessed.

It is the same spirit that informs my approach to many other hardships I have faced since then, part of which was selling up my apartment in Amsterdam at over a 10% loss, needing to return to the UK to start over again, along with a few downturns in employment prospects. There is hope and strength that powers me through adversity that keeps me full of gratitude.

A story shared

When I attended a support forum on how prostate cancer affects black men yesterday, I was surprised at how my own experience of cancer affected the participants, they all seemed to want to hear more and all I wanted to say was not to be afraid to have things checked out along with working with medical personnel for the best outcomes.

I thank God that I am here to share my experience and tell my story that even when you seem to be hopelessly staring death in the face with a stark and dire diagnosis, you can have hope and expectations to the point that when you look back the passage of time leaves in awe of the wonder of life. Shalom!