Readers rally to Caister charity appeal to save African boy
A Norfolk charity organiser has been overwhelmed by the response of EDP readers to his race against time appeal to save an African child who could die from a heart condition that is treatable in the UK.
Former police officer Phil Feller runs a charity supporting blind children in the Gambia with his wife Joan, and 12-year-old Modou Saidy is the son of one of their loyal African helpers. The boy, who is too ill to go to school and becomes breathless at the slightest exertion, urgently needs the mitral valve in his heart repaired or replaced.
Launching an appeal in the EDP two weeks ago, Mr Feller, 64, of Humber Close, Caister, near Great Yarmouth, said the Chain of Hope charity had agreed to fund the operation and three weeks' stay in London, but he needed to raise at least �2,000 for the air fares and money to help support the boy and his father while they are here. Mr Feller, who still works at Yarmouth police station in an administrative role, said: 'The first donation came in within three hours of the EDP coming out.
'I have had emailed pledges and more than 20 phone calls as well as personal donations; people have come up to me in the street in Caister and pressed money in my hand and they have done the same to Joan when she has been selling at boot fairs for the charity.'
So far, more than �4,300 has been pledged and the EDP article has even prompted a separate �1,000 donation for his charity – Friends of Visually Impaired Children in the Gambia –from a Norfolk charitable trust.
Donations and pledges have come from people of all ages, including three clergymen; the largest donation has been for more than �2,000.
He said: 'It has been chaotic and I hope I have managed to reply to everyone who wanted me to. I can't thank everyone enough. People's generosity in these tough economic times is just staggering.'
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Mr Feller, who was inspired to build a desperately-needed blind school after visiting the Gambia on holiday nearly 20 years ago, said people had been touched by the tragic story.
Modou's father, Lamin Saidy, a taxi driver, had lost his eldest son Ebrama to malaria only months before his youngest child was taken ill.
Mr Feller said Modou has been to Dakar in neighbouring Senegal for medical tests and the results had been sent to the Chain of Hope.
It is hoped the life-saving operation at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London can go ahead after the Olympics.
Any surplus money raised will go to the Fellers' charity which has transformed the life prospects of hundreds of children.
Anyone wanting to add further to the appeal is asked to contact the Fellers on 01493 721506 or email firstname.lastname@example.org