A TIARO woman who is in love with a man she has never met is desperately trying to raise funds so she can visit him in Gambia - and she has fought back against claims that the GoFundMe page she set up to achieve that goal is a scam.
Sharonlee Cordell, 55, met Ebou Janha, 41, on Facebook more than a year ago and gradually the two became friends.
- EDITORIAL: Love online comes with lots of risks
- Readers tell their stories of finding love online
- Maryborough residents falling prey to online scams
When Ebou told Sharonlee he was in love with her, she rejected his declaration until she discussed it with a friend later and Sharonlee realised she was in love with him too.
"She (the friend) was the one who picked up on it," Sharonlee said.
Sharonlee is on a pension and Ebou says he is poor, earning the equivalent of only $81 a month, which means without help, the two may never get to meet.
Sharonlee has created a GoFundMe page with a target of $10,000 so she can travel overseas and meet Ebou - as well as buy him a wedding present that would be valuable in Gambia - a motorbike.
She said most Gambians have no form of transport and Ebou walked nearly everywhere he went, so the present would change his life.
Sharonlee was accused of "scamming" after setting up the GoFundMe page and hit back at the allegations, saying she was 100% sincere in her desire to meet Ebou, who she regularly Skypes with.
"I would never call anyone a scammer," she said, explaining how hurt she was at the accusation.
"I try to lift people up."
She said she was devastated that people would accuse her of that.
Sharonlee also addressed any concerns people might have about the veracity of her relationship with Ebou.
She is aware of the dangers and warning signs of online relationship scams as she has had two people try to get her to send them money previously when they approached her on Facebook.
However her relationship with Ebou is different, Sharonlee says, and he would never willingly accept her money.
"He's never asked for a cent off me," she said.
She had to insist on giving him $10 once when he suffered an eye injury, she said.
Despite the distance between them, Sharon said they considered themselves to be married - she even sent him a ring and wears a similar one herself to symbolise their relationship.
"Ebou is everything to me," she said.
One day Sharonlee hopes to live in Gambia with Ebou, after her two teenage daughters are independent.
She said they were hoping to set up a farm and create a wonderful life, not only for themselves but for Ebou's family - he has a 12-year-old son from a previous relationship - and the community they would live in.