Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Story ... Behind the Story!

It was unpredictable.  Amazing.  Actually.

In less than 24 hours, more than enough donations had been given or promised to provide a poor African family with the financial resources to schedule their one and only child of 3 years old for a surgery that would close the large hole in her heart!

The media director of Next Generation Ministries produced a short video of the need and we released it along with the opportunity for donations.  And, within a single day, we were developing a strategy to see the final chapter to be carried out at The Heart Institute in the large government hospital in Kampala.

But, we had no idea the story would be comprised of so many twist and turns that we would be left shaking our heads and some of us even speechless.

The First Chapter was a classic example of how a need and a solution came together without any glitches.  I wrote about it on December 5th.

Amina with her 22 year old mother Aisha
Our relationship with Amina and her mother and father was seamless.  We had verified their residence.  We had Amina's heart examined and evaluated by a cardiologist at one of the best hospitals in Kampala.  We had contacted Morning Star Foundation, which specializes in finding solutions for children with heart defects.  They would organized the logistics. Next Generation Ministries would gather the finances.  Together we would walk through the surgery with Amina and her family.

Simple.  Right?

The surgeon scheduled admission to The Heart Institute for December 17th.  Test would be conducted the following day in preparation for the surgery on Friday, December 19th.

Tuesday night I called Muhammad, Amina's father, and reminded him to bring Amina to my house no later than 6:30 AM.  We had made this early morning trip to Kampala twice before without any complication.  I had no reason to believe this time would be different.

One of the donation boxes in a restaurant
At 6:35 I called him to find out if he was about to reach our home in Jinja for the trip to the hospital in Kampala.  We had other appointments and had to keep time with all of them.  He said, "I'm on the way, coming."  For those of you unfamiliar with Africa, this means something like, but not always, "I'm about to finish preparing myself and have every intention of getting a taxi and will arrive sometime within the next hour ... or two!"  I told Muhammad, "If you are not here at 6:45 AM, I will be going with these other people.  Please get a taxi and meet me at Mulago Hospital so we can get Amina admitted."

At precisely 6:45, and with no sing of Amina and her family, we drove off with total expectation that we would find the child and her parents at the hospital.  But ... we did not.  As we began to make multiple phone calls over the next several hours, we were given conflicting explanations, all designed to keep us believing that Amina was on her way and going to arrive, at the hospital for admission, any time.

We waited all day, with Nikki of Morning Star Foundation, up to 5 PM and decided there was something really fishy going on.  We left the hospital, got some dinner, and drove back to Jinja ... confused and suspicious.  That evening, some of our associates began to get their information networks active.  We began to hear that there was no effort for this family to get to the hospital in Kampala.  Instead, they had been reported as being seen on the streets of Jinja and Iganga, on a vehicle with loud speakers, raising money for heart surgery in India!

Moments before the live broadcast began
Early the next morning, Thursday, December 18th, we began to move on the streets of Jinja to see if what we were hearing was actually true. Our minds were crowded with speculations about what this would imply if this father had really been using the misfortune of his daughter's heart condition to gather money for an operation in India that he had never informed us about.  We felt anger rising up in us when we began to suspect that we had been played.

After confirming that money had been collected for some time in the donation boxes distributed in various locations, I was told that Muhammad was suppose to be on the largest media station in just a few minutes to use that medium to raise support.  I walked down to the NBS TV and Radio station to investigate.  One of the donors who had discovered that enough money had been collected by NGM to pay for Amina's surgery, and in fact she was suppose to have been admitted the day before, was already in the station complaining to the host personality.  I was immediately invited into the broadcast studio and informed that Muhammad was, indeed, suppose to be on the program to raise more funds.  In just a few minutes he arrived with Aisha and Amina.

The scam comes apart at the seams ... LIVE!
Muhammad gave the history or Amina's heart condition and it was accurate.  But, when the presenter began to push him as to why the child was not taken to the hospital the previous day, the contradictions began to flow like honey loaded on a biscuit.  His answers were not satisfactory.  And, because thousands of listeners are familiar with the ways of Uganda, they could see that this man was coming to the end of a scheme he had been using as a source of income ... if his daughter had the surgery right here in Uganda and the hole was closed.

Several business men in Jinja, who had participated in Muhammad's effort to raise funds, entered the studio in hope that they could be heard, and put some distance between them and Muhammad. He was the only one having keys to the donation boxes in their establishments and there was no accountability.  It was eventually estimated that he had most likely raised between 18 and 20 million shillings in his combined efforts.  BUT, he did not have a passport and had no one working with him to really see that his daughter would travel to India for surgery.  Additionally, when I confirmed that her type of surgery could be done very well at The Heart Institute and that NGM had all the money necessary for the surgery, transportation for the family, as well as food and any other contingencies, outrage began to come from the call in listeners.

Jinja businessmen appreciating NGM on air
My heart had already move away from condemning this man and was wondering if the child and her need would get lost in the indignation.  I did not want her to suffer.  I had Pam contact the hospital and surgeon to see if we still had an opportunity to see the surgery happen ... IF we could get Amina there in the middle of the afternoon.  We discovered Amina had not lost her place on the surgery schedule.  So, during a commercial break, I begged Muhammad to please let us take his daughter and her mother to the hospital for the surgery.  He agreed and we set off for Kampala.

Amina soon after her successful surgery in ICU
On the way, Aisha began to tell us the truth about what had actually happened the day before.  She informed us that they had raise 4 and 1/2 million shillings and that she and Amina had never set off for Kampala and The Heart Institute.  Pushing our emotions aside, we reached the hospital, admitted Amina, and promised to return the next morning in order to support the family.  Before leaving we made sure that Amina and her mother had food to eat.  We even purchased an inexpensive cell phone for Aisha so that she could communicate with us.  Even with all the money the husband had, he had not given her a phone.  We are convinced he wanted to control all communications to protect his scheme.

Morning Star Foundation rep, Nikki, in ICU with Amina
Friday morning we rushed back to Kampala since an earlier surgery had been canceled and Amina's had been moved up by 3 hours.  We arrived just after she was taken into the operating room.  It was obvious that the mother was scared.  We prayed together and hung out until Amia was out of surgery and in ICU for recovery and monitoring.

After Aisha saw her daughter, Amina, in ICU she rushed out to see us and was bursting with happiness.  She was relieved.  She was smiling like I had never seen her smile.  She began hugging everyone.  Her happiness was too much for her to contain.  This was the woman who carried Amina for 9 months in the womb and who must have worried about her for the past three years ... with the additional burden of knowing how her husband was using her daughter's misfortune for his personal financial gain.

Amina after surgery with Dale Chapman & Papa
Just three days later, yesterday, on Monday, we visited Amina who was up and around! Just three days!  When she saw me she ran toward me and hugged my leg and laughed, called me Papa, and smiled and smiled and smiled.  She seems to be a totally different girl.  I'm sure she has no understanding of the implications of her surgery on her life, but she sure seems to be one happy girl.

There is another story behind this story that is behind the story.  The deception, the outcry, the indignation, the anger, and disgust for the behavior of the father of Amina is still there. People who have donated have vowed to never give again to any need like this.  The TV interview, which exposed him, is being rerun this afternoon. Other media outlets are asking if we could please come and talk about this story. Next Generation Ministries is receiving appreciation from various sources for what they have done.

But, like I said, there is a story that is behind this story.  It is shorter, but just as significant. Look for it in the next post to this blog.

Thanks to all those who prayed and/or financially contributed for the improved health of a little 3 year old girl whose future has just been given some increased options.

1 comment:

  1. In-spite of the challenges, tests and discouragement, God still shows him self strong. Hallelujah.
    it was never about us but GOD. Thanx Dad


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