It’s a wonderful thing to see Warwick rally, and every once in a while, behind a common cause we get to watch campus stand up as one. Whether raging against the “Warwick Aubergine” logo behind a petition consisting of 5,473 signatures; standing in united celebration at various graduation ceremonies; or smashing Varsity for 26 consecutive years as #TeamWarwick, witnessing the bulk of the student collective on one page in my three years here has been a rare sight.
Little did I know, the latest mobilisation of our student voice would strike a chord extremely close to home. In a four day flurry of social media activity which left no stone unturned, a chunk of the student body here would help contribute £50,00 towards the treatment of 21 year old Politics and International Relations student Alexander Paul.
Looking beyond the details that have been distilled for the purposes of various newslines, I’d like to note first and foremost Alexander was, and still is, a great friend of mine.
Stepping past the bleakness of words printed on these pages and elsewhere online such as “Stage Four Brain Cancer” “Chemotherapy” and “Radiotherapy” I’ll always remember the good times we’ve shared with his voice still booming in my ears. Well worn phrases like: “Bro! Shings, you’ve got this!” or “Keep it pushing King!” helped punctuate my first year and half at Warwick. Alex helped reaffirm my self belief when it was left flagging and helped energise countless others when the grind of life at University began to wear them down.
I’ve watched him struggle with the most savage of diseases, both at his bedside and from afar, all the while with the same good grace and thirst for knowledge he carried before
Well known across campus for his unique mixture of energy and positivity, and more importantly fit and healthy, the news of his sudden illness came as a shock. Following his seizure, induced coma, emergency surgery and eventual diagnosis, things have been surreal. I’ve watched him struggle with the most savage of diseases, both at his bedside and from afar, all the while with the same good grace and thirst for knowledge he carried before, but things have been far from easy.
Against a killer which claims the lives of 29% of the population every year in Britain if not more, outpourings of love and shows of support, none the least of those from the Prime Minister herself, would not be enough. Things would need tangible steps, it would take help which the budget of a stretched NHS couldn’t provide Alex. He’d need a form of hyperthermic treatment which was available in Germany to increase his chances of survival. With that window of hope of course, came the inevitable obstacle of cost. The treatment as well as living arrangements for Alex and his mother abroad were substantial.
So acting in the shadow of bleak circumstances on New Year’s Day, a childhood friend of Alex’s mother, Barbara Walters-Ennis created a page on the crowdfunding website Just Giving with a short description of Alex’s predicament and target mark of £50,000 in an earnest appeal to the good will of those who might stumble upon the site. As January progressed the page saw steady, but perhaps standard progress until last weekend, when the URL found its way to the Warwick websphere, setting into motion a truly remarkable series of events.
Twitter saw much of the same with #HelpAlexBeatCancer eventually becoming a becoming a trending topic in London. Most fittingly, it was those closest to Alex who helped spread the word furthest.
The link to the Just Giving page began to circulate on Facebook with Alex’s friends spearheading the effort to share and donate behind messages of encouragement and salutes to their friend’s character.
Twitter saw much of the same with #HelpAlexBeatCancer eventually becoming a becoming a trending topic in London. Most fittingly, it was those closest to Alex who helped spread the word furthest. Third year Philosophy Student David Ogbe shared a video of of his friend dancing in a Humanities lecture theatre accompanied by the words: “He is so full of life. Please donate and spread awareness #PrayforAlexPaul #HelpAlexBeatCancer” gaining 1,020 retweets.
As the days passed, it became clear that this was a concerted effort that would keep on growing. Cover photos were changed, memories of Alex at his best were re-shared and must importantly the tally continued to rise. Whether inspired by his skills as an orator and budding politician, his spark as a spoken word artist and performer or just enamored by his ability to elicit such an outpouring of love, Warwick students continued to share from personal and society pages with the University themselves even chipping in with just over £700 and retweets from both the Central University and Politics departmental accounts.
With the donations still steadily pouring in on Tuesday morning we held our breath and waited on what looked like a certainty. You could almost hear the collective virtual roar when an anonymous donation carried the mark to £50,001. 100%, we’d made it, we were there.
Unsurprisingly and most fittingly, Alex himself still based in Germany had the final say in under 140 characters: “Love is stronger than chemo, I swear! Thank you all.”