UB student creates GoFundMe page for his orphaned cousin
Santeno Nembhard’s mother died a day after Thanksgiving. His father was shot and murdered in his home in Jamaica in 2013.
Nembhard, who is 14 years old, is now an orphan, living with his 9-year-old sister and grandmother in an impoverished section of Jamaica.
Garfield Walker, Nembhard’s cousin, started a GoFundMe page on Nov. 29 to raise money to support Nembhard and his sister. In just four days, he raised $1,035.
“I took it upon myself to say ‘if there’s one thing that I could do to help this kid, it’s to help him stay in school’ so that’s why I started the GoFundMe account to raise as much money as possible to help him pay his school fees, his books and his uniforms and stuff that he needs,” Walker, a senior biomedical sciences major, said.
Nembhard’s mother died after a hard-fought battle with adrenal cancer. She was 33 years old. She underwent extensive rounds of chemotherapy and lost her job in the process. When the cancer intensified to Stage 4, she started experiencing excruciating back and abdomen pain, Walker said.
When Nembhard’s mother died, he said he would commit suicide or get himself killed.
The day after his mom died, Walker said his cousin still went to school.
“I know if I stay in school and study, I can work and help my sister,” Nembhard told Walker. “But, mommy always helps me with my homework. Who is going to help me now?”
Walker said after Nembhard’s father died, he was very sad, but his mother comforted him through the difficult time. His mother became his “rock,” Walker said, but now Nembhard feels depressed and alone.
“He always told me he wanted to do something with his life to help his mom out of poverty,” Walker said. “In the back of his mind he knew his mother wasn’t OK because when she was diagnosed I believe in 2014 or 2015, she was in a lot of pain. She had to do a lot of surgeries back and forth and chemotherapy and radiation as well and for a time he knew in the back of his head that something would go wrong with his mother.”
After creating the GoFundMe, Walker reached out to his family, friends, professors and advisors individually to tell them about the GoFundMe. When he told his doctor about the initiative, she wrote him a check on the spot.
“I went out directly to each person, I walked on this campus basically all day yesterday, going to my professors face-to-face asking them. I emailed every single person individually, going through Facebook, in my contacts until my hands started hurting me,” he said.
Walker fears his cousin may fall into the bad behaviors and lifestyle, which reign prevalent in the poverty-stricken neighborhood his cousin resides in.
“I really want him to become something. I don’t want to see him worthless,” he said.
UB students have started GoFundMe pages to raise funds for their tuition and living expenses, but some felt uncomfortable soliciting money from others. But Walker said he won’t let his pride get in the way of raising money for his cousin.
“I’m a very shy person. I don’t like to talk a lot. I don’t like to interact with people. After I heard the story, my pride just fell to the ground,” Walker said. “I [didn’t] care if I was begging. I didn’t care if I looked like I’m desperate or my family is poor. I just don’t care about that. He is 14 years old and he lost both of his parents. He has a sister that’s nine years old and she cries everyday.”
Walker was born in Jamaica and lived there for 13 years. When he came to the U.S., he said he wasn’t academically prepared for college. The Educational Opportunities Program, which assists students from disadvantaged backgrounds financially and academically, was instrumental in Walker’s advancements.
“I really value education. I think it can get people to where they want to be in life and in Jamaica it’s very hard. These programs don’t exist so you have to be the best of the best to get to college much less even pay for it,” Walker said.
Walker said because his cousin is going though so much emotionally, he doesn’t want financial hardships to be on his list of worries.
One thing Walker has learned is that people are “genuinely kind.”
“I realized that whenever you make yourself available and invulnerable and you show your humanity, people will truly want to help you. They see the story, they see my efforts, and it really moved themselves to help,” he said.
Walker said he knows what it’s like to have no money. He currently has no money in my bank account or on his UB Card.
Walker’s mother is currently battling cancer, recently finishing her last round of chemotherapy and hasn’t worked for two years now. Her diagnosis has made it impossible to support Walker financially.
“So if someone donates $5, $1 [or] $10, I know what that means. I won’t say ‘$5 that’s nothing—it’s a lot for me,” he said. “I know what it means to not have because I don’t have right now. And for students like myself to give, it really means a lot to me.”
Ashley Inkumsah is the co-senior news editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org