Almost £20k donated to UCL Lebanese student who was ‘two days from being homeless’

‘I know for a fact that everyone put the same amount of love into every donation, and that’s the only currency that matters to me’

Samer Al Gharib, a Master’s student at UCL, received almost £20,000 in donations through his GoFundMe page to help him complete his degree during a time of financial hardship.

This hardship was induced by the pandemic and the economic crisis in Lebanon which, combined, left him with next to no money to pay for his degree and rent.

The GoFundMe page, which has already exceeded its target of £19,020, was set up as a last resort after previous attempts to secure income were either cut short or insufficient.

Samer Al Gharib is a 22-year-old student from Hackney, who was born and raised in Lebanon. He is currently studying for a Master’s degree in biomaterials and tissue engineering at UCL.

Soon after starting his Master’s in 2020, Samer encountered financial problems due to the pandemic and the August explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, just 20 minutes from where Samer’s family live. He hasn’t seen his family “since January 2019”, and during the explosion “they felt their whole house shake”. Samir was playing Fortnite in London “with one of his friends back home who was pushed across their room by the shockwave”. The explosion enhanced the economic crisis Lebanon faces today.

Speaking to MyLondon about how the crisis has affected him financially, Samer said: “Initially we had money saved in the bank that could help pay for my tuition, but the situation got worse and worse and banks wouldn’t allow people to withdraw more than $100 per week.

“Then as time went on they wouldn’t even give you that $100 and it became less and less likely I could pay my fees, it was so stressful.”

This crisis left Samer with little money, staying on a friend’s sofa, and “two days away from becoming homeless”. But after giving out 150 CVs, he managed to secure a restaurant job in September. To manage this job, in addition to his degree, he would study “all morning before cycling all the way from Hackney to Hammersmith and back for work in the evenings”.

But the national lockdown in November took away this stream of income, leaving him without the money needed to pay his rent or tuition. Commenting on this financial issue, alongside the worsening situation in Lebanon, Samer said: “I had to find new ways to make money, tutoring, modelling, I was just living paycheck to paycheck. Just as I was about to run out of money something new would come up.”

Samer told The London Tab how his friends encouraged him to make a GoFundMe page in the hopes that he could raise enough money to fund his tuition and pay rent: “I wrote my GoFundMe first draft in September 2020 and had just been procrastinating on sharing it since because of how anxious I was about doing such a thing…until I really hit rock-bottom and my friend motivated me to go through with it as there was no way out of this mess unless I acted.

“So I told my story and shared it to as many people as I possibly could. I never at any point anticipated anyone to acknowledge it, and when it received the attention it did I was so overwhelmed in emotion that I am still processing it.”

Samer set a target of £19,020. While this is a large amount of money, the target was easily exceeded within a week through the donations of generous members of the public. This has “helped him overcome one of the most stressful periods of his life”.

In response to this huge act of kindness, Samer said: “All I did was tell my story and people just had it in their hearts to help, there were all kinds of different values of money but I know for a fact that everyone put the same amount of love into every donation, and that’s the only currency that matters to me.

“I’m just so grateful to every person who’s done anything to help me. I’m trying to think of ways I can repay them in future.”

With the GoFundMe page exceeding its target, Samer has decided to donate the extra money raised to the Lebanese Red Cross in an effort “to help the growing humanitarian crisis there”.

Sharing his gratitude and thanks to everyone who donated, Samer updated the GoFundMe page saying: “I am writing this update to inform you all kind humans that I have met my goal! The money is being withdrawn into my account and it will take around 5 business days until I can officially pay my fees and provide you guys with a proof of receipt as promised.

“All donations donated from this point forward will go to the Lebanese Red Cross! Thank you so so much for everyone who helped me make this dream a reality.

“I want to ensure every single person who helped, from the largest donation down to the smallest and every share in between, that your help will not go to waste. I can happily and humbly count each of you as my friends. You have helped me in my time of need and I only hope that I can do the same in the future.

“Once I have paid, I will post an update showing proof of transaction to UCL and Lebanese Red Cross.

“Until then, i’mma work on smashing my degree and prove to everyone that your efforts will not have gone to waste.

“Thank you again for all the love, kind words and support! I shall not disappoint.”

When The London Tab asked Samer what he is hoping to do after completing his Master’s, he said: “Well, I think same as everyone really. I would like to be financially independent as soon as possible from any 9-5 jobs so I can start doing some real meaningful work to help the world become a better place and to lend a hand to humans in need, whether it be financial or personal. The least I can do is try to give back what was given to me.”

It’s safe to say, we’re all looking forward to see what he does and where he goes!

Samer will update the page with proof of payment to UCL and the Lebanese Red Cross accordingly. To view the GoFundMe page to donate or share the page click here.

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