A 23-year-old student in Australia has been inundated with messages of support and praise after taking in his homeless, pregnant cousin when she had no one else to turn to.
Tommy Connolly, an aspiring athlete at the University of the Sunshine Coast, said he hadn’t seen his 17-year-old cousin for more than a decade when he moved to resume his studies and decided to get in touch.
He found out that his cousin had been sleeping rough on the Gold Coast, was 32 weeks pregnant, had no shoes or phone and was almost illiterate.
With the baby’s father in jail and her parents not on the scene, Mr Connolly said he took his cousin in “to make sure she’d keep the baby, stay off the streets and have a better life”.
Writing on Facebook, he said: “This was her only option. She’s spent more time on the streets than anywhere else, and knows the police better than she knows her own family.
“She could write the book on traumatic experiences. Not many people know her story. It’s very intense. Nobody deserves the life she’s had.”
Tommy Connolly posted pictures and shared his story on Facebook, and said he was there in hospital to cut his cousin’s baby’s umbilical cord Between studies and his track athletics training, Mr Connolly worked selling fruit and vegetables to cover the cost of moving into a new home and preparing for the arrival of the baby.
Then, in mid-March, he posted a picture to his Facebook page showing both mother and baby healthy in hospital and said: “Well… I just filmed a birth and cut the umbilical cord!”
Mr Connolly’s older brother Liam has since set up a Gofundme page where people can donate up to a target of $50,000 (AUS) to help the unlikely new family get started, and Facebook posts tracking their progress have been shared thousands of times.
In an interview with Daily Mail Australia, Mr Connolly said he was aware he’d done a “really good thing” but “felt guilty getting all this attention”.
“We’ve had all these messages which has made us realise there are so many other people in this situation, I don’t want people to think it’s a unique thing,” he said.
Mr Connolly admitted he had taken on “the father role as you’d imagine,” but added: “[My cousin] does 90 per cent of the work – and if it’s one or two years of my life I have to put on hold to make sure two lives are going to be saved it’s nothing at all.”
On Facebook, the cousin said she was “the luckiest girl in the world”.
“Since carrying this gorgeous boy, all of my friends kept telling me that he would be taken away from me,” she said. “This made my pregnancy very difficult. All I wanted was to give this little man a better life than I had – a second chance was all I wanted. Thank-you, Tommy for everything, and for helping me with my spelling.”
Mr Connolly has previously cycled from Brisbane to Sydney to raise money for underprivileged school children in Ecuador, and on the Gofundme page his brother said he had “always been the most generous one”.
“I set this page up to give Tommy the kick start that he needs and to try and give this little baby boy the life that his mum never had,” he wrote.
“If everyone out there gave just a small amount it could create a life for a new born baby boy that almost missed out had it not been for my brother Tommy stepping in to rescue him from an uncertain future with no family there to protect him.”