Listen: Kenyan-born Charles Mully on why he gave his wealth away to rescue abandoned children
When you think of the great philanthropists and revolutionaries of our time Charles Mully may not be a name that comes to mind. However, it’s being spotlighted in the new documentary Mully, which tells how the Kenyan-born native went on from the slums of Africa to become a mutli-millionaire, who later gave it all away to rescue abandoned children.
Charles grew up on the streets of Kenya after being left behind by his family. His dad was an out-of-work alcoholic and his mum was doing the best she could to raise the family with no support.
When Charles woke one morning to find he’d been left behind, he started a life of begging and doing what he could to survive the day.
Once he hit his teen years, Charles decided to make the long walk to the city of Nairobi to try and find paid work.
Thanks to the generosity of a stranger, Charles got a job as a farm hand that eventually led to a leadership position and set him up to go on to start his own businesses, where he ultimately became a very wealthy man with a thriving family of his own.
Charles’ status as a multi-millionaire was something to be proud of – the way he’d outgrown his past and created opportunities for himself and his children was admirable. But it’d also made him more detached from the children still living in poverty throughout Kenya.
Confronted by his own lack of generosity toward kids that begged on the streets as he had, Charles felt God compelling him to leave his wealth behind and use what money he had to start the Mully Children’s Family (MCF) – an organisation that has rescued and rehabilitated over 25,000 children from the slums since its inception in 1989.
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Charles told Hope 103.2 that when he didn’t give to those in need “it reminded me about how I was very, very poor and how I used to go and beg”.
“I did not give these people [money] to go and buy bread but them something came into my heart and said, ‘God forgive me, I was like them. And please help me to have that love for them’,” he said.
Hollywood actor and director of Mully Scott Haze (Venom, Jurassic Park: Dominion) came across Charles’ story in the Father to the Fatherless book and, not believing it could really be true, set out to investigate Charles’ life himself.
Listen: Mully director Scott Haze speaks about investigating and telling the life story of Charles Mully
“I didn’t believe the book full,” Scott told Hope 103.2.
“I said, ‘this can’t all be exactly how it is’.”
“Until I got to Kenya and I spent a lot of time with Charles, just getting to know him and the family and earning their trust – and earning their faith in me that I would tell this story. And all of the things that are in that book are true – and more.”
Charles’ Christian faith is what compelled his actions he said, and that’s something Scott resonated with, and felt the world needed to witness.
“I’ve been in dark moments in my life when I wanted a sense of hope or inspiration, and Mully went through a hard time and what he did with that pain has echoed across the face of Africa.” Scott said.
“What resonated was the faith [Charles] had that he’d made this decision [to rescue children] and he’d go out, and that God would be there to back him up. A lot of people thought Charles was crazy when he did what he did.”
The film will be made available for free from February 14 and, in the context of the current pandemic, Scott believes it will strike a chord with people who need a message of hope and a new perspective.
“I think there’s been so much pain across the globe this year, where people are struggling to find purpose,” he said.
“People are being recalibrated to what matters most. A lot of people have either turned away from God or leaned into God in their faith, and I think right now this is the movie that the world needs.”
In the midst of the pandemic, Scott said, “I firmly believe that God is involved in everything, and in James 1 it talks about being faithful in a storm and that’s what Charles is”.
“In the story where he ran out of food or he ran out of money he had faith that it would work out – he did what he could control, and he gave over what he couldn’t control to God. And, that’s kind of the situation we’re all in. The world’s changing and we can’t control it.”
As Charles considers the people who will watch the movie, he said, “I’d like to encourage anyone who listens to me that you should not despair or give up”.
“I want to encourage you that there is only hope when you trust yourself and know that somewhere, somehow, God can do things in a very mysterious way. Dedicate yourself to be committed to the work that you do, and to be faithful to God and do great things for others.”
Listen: Former Mully Children’s Family student and Melbourne businessman Wilson Imoni shares how the organisation helped him leave the slums, and how a childhood dream helped him feel at home in Australia.
Mully is free and available online from February 14.
It will also be screening live on Facebook for Sydney audiences at 7.30pm (AEDT) on February 13, before its Valentine’s Day release. This virtual screening event will include a Q&A with Charles Mully and a special update on what’s happening at MCF today.