x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Project grants wishes for chronically ill children

Two Emirati students have turned their school project into the I Wish campaign to help boost the spirits of sick children.

Hend Bin Tamim, left, and Nada Ali Ibrahim pose with 11-year-old Meera Al Qassab at her residence in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National
Hend Bin Tamim, left, and Nada Ali Ibrahim pose with 11-year-old Meera Al Qassab at her residence in Dubai. Satish Kumar / The National

DUBAI // Eleven-year-old Meera Al Qassab has three wishes: to go to Paris and see the Eiffel Tower, move her family to a farm full of animals, and meet the Ruler of Dubai.

Two students from Zayed University, Hend bin Tamim and Nada Ali Ibrahim, aim to make at least one of those wishes come true by securing Meera an audience with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

"I want to say Salam A'likum [peace be upon you] to him," says Meera, who has cerebral palsy - a disorder caused by a temporary disruption of oxygen to the brain that affects basic movement and speech. "I want to tell him that I love him."

Ms Tamim, 21, and Ms Ibrahim, 20, have made it their mission to realise the wishes of chronically-ill children through the I Wish campaign.

"In Dubai, we have lots of charities in hospitals where they give them toys," says Ms Tamim. "But no one ever asks them: 'What do you want to do? What is your wish?'

"I wanted to make their wishes come true and not just give them a gift."

Their first project was to make a dream come true for a 12-year-old boy with a genetic disorder, who the students asked be identified as only 'Sultan'.

Sultan's wishes were simple: to visit Ferrari World and own a camera.

By using the social media networking site, Twitter, the girls rounded up donors and sponsors to make his wish come true last month.

"We got enough donations to book a two-night weekend stay for him and his family at Yas Island," said Ms Tamim. "We put his gift, a camera set, in the Hummer limousine that took them there."

Ms Tamim said it was important to her that their campaign focus on children with non-life threatening medical problems, as they are often forgotten.

"Our main goal is to motivate the child because sick children might get a little depressed every now and then and ask: 'Why me?'" said Ms Tamim. "But if we give them the advantage of having a dream come true, it will give them hope and faith."

The I Wish campaign was first conceptualised as a theoretical project for Ms Tamim and Ms Ibrahim's final year public relations project.

"I did not think we would go forward with this project," says Ms Ibrahim. "What motivated me to continue is Hend's belief and inspiration for really wanting to make this happen."

Making Meera's wishes come true is next on the cards.

The animal farm was not something they could realistically accomplish and, while the students did approach sponsors to fly Meera and her family to Paris, it was too costly for one company to sponsor flights for the family of eight.

So they moved on to her wish to meet Sheikh Mohammed. Meera says she considers him like a father and wants to show her appreciation.

Meera's father, Ali Mohammed Al Qassab, says he hopes her dream comes true.

"We told her to choose whatever she desires," said Mr Al Qassab, who works in the army. "It would be something good for her."

Explaining his daughter's condition, Mr Al Qassab said her situation was tough when she was a child.

"Since she was born, they told us she has water inside her head and this has affected her sight and hearing," he said. "Later on she had a problem with walking and started standing on her toes."

Meera has since undergone several surgeries in Germany, and her condition has greatly improved.

"The 'things' we're trying to get for Meera and Sultan, that is not the big picture," said Ms Tamim. "It's the fact that we made Sultan feel happy when his wish came true. That's what we're trying to reach."