Egyptian woman raises $1m for charity by selling Vodafone top-up card

Egyptian woman raises $1m for charity by selling Vodafone top-up card
The sale caused a bidding war when people realised what she was doing. (File/Shutterstock)
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Updated 04 May 2022

Egyptian woman raises $1m for charity by selling Vodafone top-up card

Egyptian woman raises $1m for charity by selling Vodafone top-up card
  • Anonymous woman starts bidding war for top-up phone card toward end of Ramadan
  • Mersal Foundation dedicated to caring for premature babies

LONDON: A young Egyptian woman has sparked an online donation frenzy for a charity dedicated to caring for premature babies by starting a bidding war for a Vodafone Egypt top-up card.

Around $1 million were raised for the charity after a donation craze sparked toward the end of Ramadan on Sunday.

“I want to donate to the premature babies you take care of, but I don’t have money. I only have an unused top-up card and I want to donate it,” an anonymous woman texted the Mersal Foundation, which has supported Egyptian families unable to cover their medical bills. 

The woman said she would exchange the top-up card, which held 10 Egyptian pounds ($0.54) of credit, in return for payment to the charity.

Mersal Foundation founder and CEO Heba Rashed pounced on the opportunity, announcing an online auction for the card, asking Egyptians and corporations to bid for it.

The campaign quickly started trending on Twitter under the hashtag “The_Most_Expensive_Top-up_Card_In_Egypt.”

Days before the campaign kicked off, Rashed had posted online that she was frustrated by how the foundation was struggling to attract donations. 

It does not pay for commercials, relying entirely on social media and word of mouth to solicit support.

Vodafone Egypt saw the campaign taking off online and promised to match the total donations by the end of the day, which are estimated to have reached $1 million.

“I was extremely happy to see the donations hit Mersal’s account. I wanted the young woman to feel happy regardless of how much she donated,” Rashed told the BBC. “I expected the auction to yield a few thousand pounds, but the result was astonishing.”

Rashed intends to use the cash to buy 17 more incubators for premature babies and open new medical units across the country.

Egypt’s infant mortality rate was 17 per 1,000 births in 2020, placing it 137th in the world. Slovenia, at the top of the ranking, had just 1.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

In 2021, the Mersal Foundation covered the costs for 962 babies to be given 10,130 nights in incubators. Each night in an incubator costs the charity some $140.

The foundation has four offices, employing 200 people. The BBC said the charity played a “crucial role” during the coronavirus pandemic, when many families with premature babies were struggling to find intensive care beds at government hospitals due to the overload of COVID-19 patients.

The foundation uses private hospitals to treat premature babies. Rashed’s Facebook page is flooded with online appeals for donations from young families who urgently need care.