By Madeline Rosenberg
As lockdowns took hold across the world this spring, Dr. Shirley Cheng learned that many of her students had lost their jobs. Some of them went without food for days. Others knocked on doors for leftovers and worried about looming eviction.
Hearing these stories, Cheng, a blind and physically disabled award-winning author who runs the online ministry www.ultra-ability.com decided to act. The White Plains resident launched a coronavirus relief fundraiser called Unite in Love that has helped more than 140 people in developing countries stave off hunger and eviction.
“It was really painful for me to read these thoughts from my students,” Cheng said. “I thought to myself, ‘I just can’t sit here and do nothing about it.’ If we have the resources and the ability to act, we should act.”
Since May, Cheng has raised more than $1,400 that she has distributed to families living without access to food banks or unemployment benefits. Cheng said the fundraiser acts as immediate emergency relief, providing bare necessities for survival as the pandemic continues to disrupt her students’ lives.
Cheng has taught a free online Bible class for nine years that has connected her to thousands of students across the world, reaching people from Nepal to Kenya and Australia. She also previously ran two other fundraisers and has written nine books, including “Embrace Ultra-Ability!” and “The Revelation of a Star’s Endless Shine.”
The 37-year-old said she had once planned to become a scientist. But after Cheng lost her eyesight at 17, she turned to the Bible, explaining that she gained “a spiritual vision in place of [her] physical sight.” Cheng said she launched her ministry to help others find joy and fulfillment through lessons she teaches over e-mail and Facebook.
Unite in Love will run as long as families need assistance covering food and housing costs, Cheng said. Even small donations go a long way: $5 can buy about eight cups of beans or 19 cups of rice in Liberia, she said.
“There was a sense of tremendous joy and fulfillment when I heard how relieved they were when they received the food money,” Cheng said. “We should live up to our humanity to help those who are in need when we have the power to do so.”