As the setting sun cast a warm glow over Villingili, dozens of passengers got down from the ferry and made their way to their destination. For one little girl who was accompanied by her aunt, the ferry ride was part of an extraordinary journey she was making.
Mariyam Nishfa Faid, 9, had come to Villingili to visit the Children’s Shelter, the beneficiary of the Mf 5200 (US$404) fund that she had raised at her birthday party.
“I have books and toys, all I need really,” says a beaming Nishfa. “I have enough for now.”
Her tone, if matter of fact, seems oblivious to how astonishing her words are, in a world where the norm is for children to want more toys and more books.
Birth of an idea
Nishfa is an avid reader; her room has two shelves full of books. Her friends and family supports her interest by gifting her books.
“Mum gave me a book ‘Chicken soup for the soul for kids’ last December,” she says. A compilation of mostly true stories, a month later she would go on to read a story that would have a profound effect on her.
“It’s called ‘helping hungry kids’, a story about helping kids in need in Africa. I wanted to help so I asked my mum how I could do it.”
Her mother suggested she talk with her aunt Aiminath Naaz who had done volunteer work in Africa, “and she suggested that I could help the kids closer to home.”
Nishfa also states sweetly that since the money she raised is in Maldivian rufiyaa “it won’t go far in Africa.”
A party with a difference
Nishfa discussed with her family on how to raise funds, eventually deciding to take the opportunity of her birthday party to do so.
“I used to play football in the boys team in my school Jamaaludeen,” says Nishfa, explaining that she had to stop the sport since she broke her arm a while back. The initial idea was to have a party with a sports theme.
“We decided to do it simpler, so that nobody had to buy any jerseys. Invitees didn’t have to wear their best dress; they just had to wear a nice dress and come.”
Instead of bringing her gifts of toys and books, she asked them to bring money for the Children’s Shelter. She is immensely proud of the amount she raised and added the contents of her piggy bank to the donation. As for her party, “it was very good.”
A warm welcome awaited Nishfa at the shelter, with the staff mentioning how they had heard of her on TV also. The shelter houses 54 kids up to the age of 19. The children are looked after around the clock by 25 caregivers working in shifts.
Nishfa seems a bit overwhelmed after the visit, simply stating “I loved the babies.” Her plans include visiting the orphanage with her aunt once a week if possible, to read stories to the kids. Asked if her friends shared her concerns she seems almost perplexed when she says only a few do. However she is already inspiring others who share her concerns.
Fellow Jamaaludeen student Dhiraya Hassan, 8, donated to the fund at Nishfa’s party. Her mother, Mirufath Faiz, says she was very happy with the idea of donating instead of taking toys.
“Dhiraya also has the same mind-set as Nishfa, she donated the collection of coins in her piggy bank for the Pakistan relief fund.”
Dhiraya has announced to her parents that she wants to help other kids as well, and as a first step, has borrowed the Chicken Soup book from Nishfa.