Uganda acid victim to arrive here next week for treatment

Acid attack victim Namale Allen with social activist Lynsay Lewis.
Acid attack victim Namale Allen with social activist Lynsay Lewis.PHOTO: UPASUAJI AFRICA

When Ugandan acid attack victim Namale Allen first heard that she was going to Singapore for treatment, the mother of two was so overjoyed, she started screaming and dancing.

"She was saying over and over, 'God bless Singapore'. She said she can't believe how many people would care for her," said Ms Lynsay Lewis, 34, founder of Upasuaji Africa, the humanitarian foundation that is helping Ms Allen, who is 26.

Ms Allen lost her sight, and had her face horribly disfigured in May last year, when an unknown man poured acid on her.

She will be coming to Singapore on Sept 14, a trip made possible after several online donation drives here managed to raise the funds for her travel and medical expenses.

A fund-raising page, set up on GiveAsia.org by Singaporean lawyer-turned-chef Willin Low, 43, raised US$15,000 (S$21,300) in two weeks. Another US$41,000 came from the efforts of a group of expatriate wives.

Ms Allen will spend her first few days in Singapore going to see doctors, including renowned eye surgeon Donald Tan, as well as a team of plastic surgeons, all of whom have offered their services pro bono, Ms Lewis said. Professor Tan is one of the world's leading experts on osteo-odonto-keratoprosthesis, a highly complex procedure which involves constructing a new eye using a tiny plastic lens and the patient's own teeth.

Ms Lewis added that the length of Ms Allen's stay depends on the outcome of the assessments, and if she will be undergoing immediate treatment here.

While the doctors have offered their services for free, other medical expenses, such as Ms Allen's hospital fees, will likely come from the money raised by the three expatriate wives.

The donation page was set up on crowdfunding site GoFundMe.com by the director of the Real Singapore Expat Wives community, Mrs Roberta Ciccone, with the help of two friends from the group.

Many of those who donated were Singaporeans. Over US$46,360 was raised, but the funds come to about US$41,000, after deducting GoFundMe.com's fees.

Mrs Ciccone, 37, said that the money will go towards funding Ms Allen's expenses in Singapore.

"The money will go to the hospitals as deposits. Anything that she needs for her expenses will come from that fund," said Mrs Ciccone.

She added that members of the Real Singapore Expat Wives community will also be meeting Ms Allen once she arrives in Singapore to offer their assistance.

The fund-raising efforts - first reported in The Straits Times on Aug 14 - have come a long way since Ms Lewis first appealed through the Upasuaji Africa website for US$10,000 to bring Ms Allen to Singapore.

Upasuaji Africa has also raised US$30,000 to date, but Ms Lewis said that there is still some way to go. "We're continuing to raise money, as we know the costs for Ms Allen's hospital expenses are going to be really high. We are targeting US$200,000, which is how much we think we need, " she told The Sunday Times, adding that she was thankful to all who have helped.

A grateful Ms Allen has also been praying for all the people who have donated, she added. "She tries to smile as much as she can. She cannot actually form a smile, but you can see that she is trying."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 06, 2015, with the headline 'Uganda acid victim to arrive here next week for treatment'. Print Edition | Subscribe