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Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

Last Night A DJ Saved My Life

The Journey That Changed My Life

I recall only one other occasion when I cried this much.

What I heard hit me like a thumping rabbit punch. I never saw it coming. I wasn’t prepared.

Clutching Matilda, moderately-read fourteen-year-old Faziirah clung to my arm as though a child would her favourite dolly. Except she’d never had a dolly. In truth, like everyone I met that day, Faziirah had never really had anything.

“When I was nine, my dad sent to be killed by a witch,” she said, “because they found out my mum had given me HIV and I brought shame on the family. Thankfully, Granny saved me, so now I am grateful to live here.”

It was at that moment my eyes were opened.

Here is the most basic, soulless, remote block of concrete you could imagine. The grey undulating stone floor sits – and sleeps – 30 children. Often at the same time. Bland, empty walls elicit sadness, the helplessness palpable by the absence of colour or feature. From the back wafts the smell of something resembling porridge. Yet it’s 15:30.

Respite from the sterile chaos is a dusty yard, overrun by skinny chickens sitting on decrepit climbing frames and makeshift swings. The mercury pushes 35 degrees. Shade is a hut. But there are two cows in there.

Here is volunteer-run recreation for the disabled and mentally ill. Here is where, as the eldest, Faziirah cares for her “brothers and sisters.” ‘Siblings’ who cannot talk, some who cannot walk. To move around, one small child pushes through his knees because his legs are too disfigured to stand. Here there is no cure for disability without funds.

Faziirah is bright. She’s able. Faziirah doesn’t belong here. None of them do. And yet Faziirah was grateful she did.

Heart. Broken.

Two and a half years ago I travelled to Uganda to witness first-hand the stricken communities in the most remote and impoverished parts of the country that our charity, Last Night a DJ Saved My Life, had started funding.

Truthfully, I never thought I would return feeling the way I did.

These people have nothing, and yet their outlook on life is nothing short of remarkable. Inspirational doesn’t tell the tale. Leaders tend to talk about resilience a lot, but if we’re meaning the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties, imagine a place where there is no chance to recover, where the difficulties just keep on coming.

A place where kids walk miles to fetch water from a muddy, infested pond. The same pond that then makes them so sick they cannot return for days. Oh, the irony. The blessing.

Schools are crudely-erected ramshackle rubbles. And with no money to pay for teachers, parents are the educators; students sit listening from filthy floors or sun-beaten benches. Knackered skipping ropes and long-since burst footballs represent playtime. Joy.

Elsewhere, families are torn apart by antiquated laws. Food is grain. Happiness is a pair of shoes.

But do you know what? These kids, these desperate parents, they keep on smiling. Huge, beautiful grins hiding the hidden.

But here’s the good news:

With funding, the whole landscape of opportunity changes. We can build wells and schools, employ teachers, provide sustainable livestock, supply books, and deliver proper food and clothes that fit. We can and we have. You have, in fact.

Because a little goes a long way. Rice costs buttons, a hen is a fiver, two pigs twenty, a cow fifty.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

A qualified teacher commands just two hundred a month. A brand new well that provides fresh, clean, water for a lifetime is a couple of grand – you may spend that this Christmas!

Over the past three years the MembersOnly network – your network – has helped fund eight freshwater wells, saving families from sickness, preventing the need for kids to walk miles each day, creating time for education and, most important of all, proving hope.

It costs just £350 to put a kid like Faziirah through proper education foe one year. Three hundred and fifty pounds! Nothing to us, everything to her.

You know, Faziirah calls me ‘Dad’ when she messages me from the phone we bought for her birthday last year (coincidentally falling on the same day as my youngest son’s) – it feels strange every time she says it. But that’s the impact this can makes.

So here’s the question, the CTA if you like! Can you help?

All donations have influence. Maybe put pen to a pig (see what I did there?) You could donate unused toys or clothes. Or how about contributing the proceeds of eBaying unwanted Christmas gifts?

I talk a lot about passion, finding purpose, giving back. What you just read might help explain why.

Thank you.

You can donate via my Just Giving page: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/simonlewismo