It all started with the image above. On the 19th of November 2018 I received a Facebook friend request from Bacar Djau, not a name I recognised and from Guinea Bissau, a country I’d never really heard of. My initial reaction was to just delete the request. I’m generally very selective of people who I share my social media with and I assumed it was a case of mistaken identity anyway. Out of politeness I sent a message saying that I didn’t know Bacar and I suspected he was trying to connect with a different Matt Palmer. The response that came back is something I’ll never forget and hopefully will lead to the lives of many people in Guinea Bissau being changed for the better.
“I’m trying to make friends around the world and see how they live.”
It was enough to make me accept the friend request. I was genuinely intrigued but if I’m perfectly honest I suspected that in some way this was a scam and ultimately this would turn into someone trying to extract money from me.
Over the course of the next few weeks though Bacar and I chatted a lot. His written English wasn’t very good at that time and sometimes it was a struggle to communicate as he tried to show me his life and I tried to explain mine.
Possibly the most surprising thing at first was this: Bacar lived in a village where the houses had no running water; generally no electricity; extreme poverty was the norm, and yet he had a mobile phone! When the battery ran out he’d have to go to a shop to charge it and with all the sending of photos he often ran out of data. Even so, I couldn’t quite get my head around the fact that he had a phone but no taps. I think this goes to show how little I really understood about life in the third world, a fact that was later emphasised after I showed him some photos of my (very normal) house and he asked how many families lived in it.
After some months of us talking every day and slowly becoming friends, Bacar told me about an English lady from London who would go to Bissau to help train English teachers there. This was the first time I heard about Linda Ruas, a co-trustee of this charity. Bacar was very keen for me to talk to her on the phone the next time she visited and so a few weeks later I rang Bacar (the first time we had ever actually spoken) and he put me onto Linda. After a brief chat we agreed that we should meet in London at some point with nothing in mind more than me learning more about how Linda ended up volunteering in Guinea Bissau, and me understanding more of the situation in the country.
Over the course of a couple of coffees I gained a far deeper understanding of how desperate the situation was in Guinea Bissau but also how little money you needed to make a real difference to real people’s lives. It was shortly after this that Linda and I, along with her daughter Michelle, decided to start a charity.
So here we are; the charity is up and running and you can see on our Instagram page that we’re already making a difference in people’s lives. Please donate if you can. It might seem like a small amount to you but it can really go far in Guinea Bissau.