Tiny Hearts praises record attempt as “huge success” for charity in the Maldives

Maldivian NGO Tiny Hearts might have fallen short in its attempts to secure a place in the Guinness book of World Records, despite thousands of people turning up at Male’ National Stadium yesterday, yet the NGO said the event was nonetheless a great success for charitable aims in the country.

The NGO, which was formed back in 2009 to help local children suffering with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), attempted to gather thousands of people into a heart shape to raise awareness about the number of Maldivians affected by the condition. The charity estimates that one person in every 100 born around the world suffers from a CHD.

According to organisers of late nights record attempt, the target number for participants needed to enter the record books was 11,708 – a figure corresponding to the date of the attempt July 8 2011 – with 4,665 turning up to be involved.

Although not sufficient to make the record books after several attempts yesterday evening, a spokesperson for tiny hearts said that as a means to create awareness and organise local people to a cause, the event was still a success for the group.

“Ultimately, we aimed to get as many people together as possible to raise awareness [about CHD] across the country. We therefore achieved our objective,” said the spokesperson. “We managed to organise thousands of people together for a single cause, with no salaried staff: this is a huge success.”

Future goals

Yesterday’s event was designed as a means to celebrate two years of Tiny Hearts being registered as a charity in the country. Yet in looking ahead to its future goals, the NGO’s spokesperson said that it was not presently planning to renew its attempts to break into the record books – focusing instead on fundraising measures.

“Right now, we are trying to minimise costs in looking for events for funding,” the spokesperson said. “At present one surgery [for a local child] costs US$5,000, this does not include additional charges for transportation abroad. People affected by CHD are increasing all the time in a country. We have more than 200 children registered with the charity and there are likely to be an even larger number unregistered.”

Last year, a charity football match organised by the charity involving public figures and celebrities raised Rf265,000 (US$20,500) for patients.

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Lack of local cardiologists forces NGO to fly in doctors

Maldivian infants with suspected congenital heart defects (CHD) are being flown to India for corrective surgery because of the lack of a pediatric cardiologist at Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital (IGMH).

In one Indian hospital alone, over a two year period 40 Maldivian babies have undergone surgery for CHD claimed Maldives NGO ‘Tiny Hearts Maldives’, which is advocating early screening within the country.

Heart defects are a leading cause of infant mortality, obstructing or constricting blood flow in the heart and blood vessels or affecting the heart’s rhythm.

Early detection is possible through an echocardiogram however while IGMH owns an echocardiogram machine, the lack of a trained cardiologist has left it unused.

In response, THM is bringing two cardiologists to the Maldives from India who will be running a three day screening camp for pregnant women from 9-11 February.

While the camp is being held to screen unborn babies for congenital heart defects, particularly women who are between 18-24 weeks pregnant, “there is also the possibility for adults with heart conditions to come along and have a check up,” said Fathmath Hishmath Faiz, one of THM’s founding members.

On the first two days of the camp the doctors will be screening around 15 women a day each. The final day involves an awareness program on CHD.

THM have held a previous screening camp on 12 September 2009.

Hishmath said “We screened 12 babies during our first camp, but it was not as many as we would have liked because they were the only the cases we already knew about.

“The main focus of this camp is to find more cases of CHD,” she said, but added that it was also important “to create more awareness about this condition.”

Tiny Hearts

THM was officially launched on 23 September 2009, as an NGO to promote awareness about CHD.

According to www.congenitalheartdefects.com, CHD is one of the most common forms of birth defects and is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

THM has a 24-hour hotline (7745173) for any inquiries regarding CHD.

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