A rural British village has succeeded in an audacious appeal for funding from the billionaire Emir of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
The villagers of Godolphin Cross, in Cornwall, wrote to Sheikh Mohammed asking that he support their campaign to raise up to £100,000 ($130,000) to buy the local Methodist chapel.
The church is home to the local community association and would likely have fallen into the hands of a private residential investor if it was sold on the open market.
“We were staring down the barrel,” Richard Mckie, the chairman of the Godolphin Cross Community Association, told Business Insider. “We had done successful local fundraising but were nowhere near raising that kind of money.”
One of the oldest members of the village remembered Sheikh Mohammed’s connection with the area after finding an old newspaper clipping. Godolphin shares its name with the Emir of Dubai’s world famous horse racing stables.
After finding an email address online, Mckie wrote a short message to Sheikh Mohammed, who has a net worth of $18 billion (£14 billion), according to Forbes. He read out an abbreviated version of his original appeal over the phone to Business Insider:
“I am writing to you on behalf of the villagers of Godolphin Cross, in Cornwall, which shares a special link with you and your famous horse racing stable. We are facing a real fight to save the last community space and are appealing to you for any support you might offer in our fight.
“We need to raise between £90,000-£100,000 to be able to purchase the building and at present, we are finding it difficult to get British grant makers to help us. While we have raised money locally, progress is slow and we are uncertain that our efforts will be successful. If you can help us in any way, it would be a magnificent gesture.”
Mckie said he heard back from Sheikh Mohammed’s personal assistant. Initially, the community association thought it was being hoaxed, but eventually, it became clear that the correspondence was the real deal.
Mckie would not reveal how much Sheikh Mohammed donated, but said it was enough to get the campaign “over the line.” He added: “They were good as gold…he’s done us proud. He’s welcome to a pasty anytime he comes to Godolphin.”
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Mckie said the Cornish community still needs to raise £350,000 to restore the hall, with fundraising efforts underway. He added that having use of the church will allow the community association to maintain a youth club, as well as provide a space for the local Scouts group. A local library, shop, and part-time post office are also on the agenda.
Citing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Mckie said: “You could say that this is hall is for many, not the few.”