“I thought what if this was my mom. The person I love most, or my daughter, at a time when I’m no longer alive to protect her, and she will be that age…The thought of it killed me.”
While this campaign has now ended, we wanted to showcase a girl who put so much energy and action behind the generous impulse and instinct to help. Money raised is being donated to The Seniors Fund and Focus Ireland on October 24th but Dia suggested that if you’re moved by this story you could also donate to Alone.
If you’re a member of GirlCrew Dublin, you probably know Dia Le Desma well. She is our matchmaker queen and known for running amazing singles mixer events. Over the last number of weeks, Dia has been using her ability to rally the troops for good. A picture appeared on our newsfeeds of an elderly lady sitting on the pavement in Dublin’s city centre. A heart-breaking image by all accounts. Most of us probably scrolled by it. Maybe we stopped to shake our heads and comment, about how awful it is to see a lady of that age so desperate. We may even have scrolled on to watch a video of dancing cats and never thought about that lady again. Not Dia, she stopped scrolling and she cried tears for a lady she has never met.
Dia was immediately on a mission. She set up a Go Fund Me page and began the task of finding the lady, with the mission to do everything she could to help. The next morning she headed into the city centre to the place the photo was taken and interviewed one of the street sellers. “Once I explained I had started a fund for her and showed him, he told me what he knew.” Dia left her phone number with the street seller in case the lady should return. While Dia was searching high and low for this lady, people continued to donate to the fund. Things escalated when the photo made the papers and people from all over were telling stories about the lady with speculation mounting – was she a gambler?, a thief? This was hugely stressful as Dia didn’t know if she was chasing a lie or how all the funders would react if in reality it transpired to be a lie.
Dia stuck to her instincts and kept up her search for more information. She contacted charities, people who worked locally, and the Gardai (Irish Police). She simply would not give up until she heard from an official source that the lady was alright.
Eventually, following written request for information, a response came through from the Gardai. The lady was begging, not for financial reasons but for reason born out of loneliness, she craved the social aspect it brought. This lady is in receipt of a pension and is being looked after by the Irish state. But the information felt like a double edged sword – It’s such good news that the lady is being looked after and is not homeless, but was now devastating to think that an older lady was so lonely that she felt the answer was to go out on the street and beg. But loneliness is a bigger issue than many of us realise and especially amongst our older generation.
According to Irish charity Alone, loneliness among the elderly community is believed to be as damaging to their health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. This lady’s plight hit a chord in GirlCrew Dublin… 57 people donated a total of €1,040. Dia found the reaction completely surprising and is very grateful for everyone’s help:
“I’m really really overwhelmed with goodness and love and kindness.”
I hope that when I’m 90 I’ll still be organising events for geriatric girl crewers, so we never face this kind of loneliness. Hopefully the work done by Dia will inspire us all to visit our grandparents and elderly neighbours more often to help stamp out the problem.
I talked to Dia to find out more.
What inspired you to get involved?
When I saw that photo, I cried. I thought what if this was my mom
a person I love the most or my daughter when I’m no longer alive to protect her, and she will be that age the thought of it killed me really. It pushed me to look for her and help her out if she was in a terrible situation like no money to buy food or alone. So once I found the truth from an official source I was relieved.
Most people see these things think that’s sad and then just move on so it was amazing you did something. What steps did you take to find out the truth?
Well first I went to the place where the photo was taken and spoke to the artist that worked there at that spot. He knew a bit but not a lot. He said to me she had started doing that 6-7 months ago, the time that she came and left, that she was a lovely lady was reluctant to give me info at first. Once I explained I had started a fund for her and showed him then he told me what he knew, which was the above, that she came from 12-2 during the week and Saturdays then I asked him to take my number and call me as soon as she was there to tell her I was looking for her. Gave him my number to give to her too so she could call me and I would have come and met her and learned her situation and give her the money as I thought she was in need.
Then all stories came from all over on FB once the photo made it to the paper that she had family, that she gambles, all sorts of things that she was a thief, and it was unpleasant. So I was worried I was collecting money for a lie and at one point I was very upset. Then someone, who I can’t say who directed me in the direction of the Garda. That perhaps they knew her which they did, and so I wanted official information then I called them, and they asked me to write to them I did get my replies. I also called Focus Ireland, they were a bit busy, but they were aware she was begging so once I got my response from the Garda; I updated the page, and that was that. I don’t have a need to find her as I was assured she is taken care of so I’m OK in my soul so to speak.
I can imagine that must have been super stressful on you would you do the same thing again?
I would have yes I didn’t know anything about her absolutely. I really would it gave me a piece of mind you know I think deep down us all care a lot of people donated 57 people without knowing anything about her without knowing me, they trusted me with their donations I think they are GREAT and AMAZING
How did it make you feel to see so many people donate?
WOW, I had happy tears. I was really really overwhelmed with goodness and love and kindness. Just overcome with emotions. To be frank I don’t think words can describe the gratitude I felt so much goodness in these people – amazing.