I moved to New York many years ago from The Gambia with my wife and four children. I ran a successful business here, but when economy fell apart, I lost my company and was forced to send my two oldest children back to The Gambia to live with relatives. Since then, I’ve only been able to find part-time work and I struggle to makes ends meet. I hope that things get better soon so my children can return to their family and maybe even attend college.

After my business failed, I had some debt on a credit card that I paid off, with difficulty, over two years. So when I was served with a notice that I was being sued by a company I had never even heard of, I was very confused. My friends told me that the debt collector could take all my money or even send me to jail, so I should try to make a deal, even if I did not owe this money anymore.

I didn’t know what to expect in court. I felt overwhelmed and all alone.  While I was in the courtroom waiting for my case to be called, someone approached me and asked if I needed legal assistance. She said she was a volunteer attorney with NYLAG and could provide me with free legal services for the day. I was suspicious and couldn’t believe that someone would offer to help me for free, but I accepted. After hearing my story, she explained that I didn’t have to settle out of fear, and she told me that I had a right to ask for proof from the debt collector. I also learned that I would not go to jail. I left court that day feeling much more confident but still not sure what to expect.

A few weeks later, the debt collector sent me a lot of paperwork demanding all sorts of personal information and documents. Then I received a big package called a “Motion for Summary Judgment” that instructed me to return to court.  I was completely confused about what to do, so I contacted the attorney who had helped me in court that day. I met with her and she reviewed how I should respond to all the requests. She also explained that the plaintiff was filing a motion for summary judgment in an effort to prove their case against me by paper instead of at trial.  NYLAG helped me prepare my response to the motion and discovery requests.

From that point forward, I realized that the NYLAG attorney only wanted to help me and was not asking for anything in return. I put my complete confidence and trust in her. In the end, the debt buyer lost the motion against me, and when it came to trial, the case was dismissed. Without the help from the Volunteer Lawyer for a Day Program, I would never have known how to stand up for myself and win in court.