BY TOBY PORTER
A scientist whose life turned around when he bumped into a former school mate fresh out of prison has launched a kindness platform to help transform other lives.
Don Diffang, who was blocked from taking exams at Haberdashers’ Aske’s school in New Cross, has created Do Me A Favour Buddy – a people-powered support network at Pop Brixton – a pop-up store complex in Brixton Station Road.
The 43-year-old already has a successful career as a clinical researcher, but wants to encourage other South Londoners to steer away from self-destructive behaviour and towards helping others.
Do Me A Favour Buddy (DMAFB) launched on Monday offering a laptop computer to a random person who volunteered in the next 30 days to do something for someone else – or someone who joined needing help.
DMAFB was created after Mr Diffang found himself homeless.
Diffang said: “My landlord kicked me out of my place, I couldn’t find anywhere to stay, and I couldn’t figure out how to solve it – I was working long hours in a demanding job.
“Luckily, a chance phone call put me in touch with somebody who gave up his time to ring around, view potential flats, and set me up with a place to live.
“I moved into a dream place in Brixton, never having met that kind stranger face-to-face. He was the first person I invited over to the new home, and when I asked him why he had helped a stranger, he said, ‘It was my choice, I enjoyed it…I help you, you help me, everybody happy.’
“His words became my mantra, giving rise to the thought ‘what if there was a site that brought people together to have fun, whilst doing meaningful acts of kindness for each other? “
Diffang and his co-founders have created a growing collective of passionate people volunteering their knowledge, time and talents, bringing volunteers from as far as Jamaica, Ukraine and India.
The platform enables those in need of help to come together with those happy to offer a helping hand.
Helpers are recognised and rewarded for their good deeds on the platform with Karma Points – a virtual reward-points system earning exclusive discounts with local shops and traders, nurturing the local economy. DMAFB aims to unite and strengthen the local community.
Diffang was raised by Cameroonian parents on the Dog Kennel Hill Estate in Dulwich
and went to Dog Kennel Hill School before Haberdashers’.
“There was a crack epidemic on that estate when I was growing up,” he said. “My neighbour upstairs killed himself when he was on drugs.
“I was the class clown. My parents ended up having to pay for me to take my exams because my teachers refused to let me sit them.
“Black kids at my school ended up in jail. I got caught up in other things. You can’t see the bigger picture.
“Then I bumped into a friend in the street. He had been in jail. But he had not been violent or bad. He did not fit the stereotype.
“He said ‘Don’t get caught up like I did.’ That stayed with me. One wrong turn can change your life. Instead, now, I am a clinical researcher and own a flat.”
He wants to pass that message on to other boys being led down the wrong path. He said: “Imagine a world in which kindness was the norm and not the exception. In today’s polarised and politicised times it seems almost unthinkable. And yet, our new movement believes it is possible.
“The truth is that by looking out for each other with kindness, we the people, become the antidote against the poisonous fear, and hatred, spread by those profiting from dividing us.
So frankly, it is worth me forgoing a mortgage payment to buy a Macbook Pro to reward someone who is willing to step up for their neighbourhood by doing something kind – to me their action is the bigger sacrifice.”
Diffang did try to build a skills exchange platform 15 years ago. “But it became about one person cooking in exchange for another painting his or her fence,” he said. “There was nothing to distinguish it from the normal marketplace – it became like a transaction and that was not the aim, so it died.
“This time, a lot of people have been very kind to us and given their time to help push us forward. I worked in the evenings and weekends to help set it up. In the process, I have been taught to make films and now I can teach others to do the same.”
To enter the competition sign up for free at www.dmafb.me, then post an offer or a request for kindness.
Refer your friends and family so they also have a chance to win.
Every friend you invite who posts a favour earns you an extra 50 entries for you towards a MacBook Pro and they will automatically receive five entries towards a Fairphone 2 phone for themselves.
The more friends that enter, the better the chances are to win.