Wafa Fahour wanted to make a difference, but she wasn’t sure how. I met Wafa at the Islamic Museum of Melbourne, a hidden gem of Muslim Australian history, where she is a volunteer. The museum has beautiful artwork, artefacts, and delicious coffee.
An incomplete orphanage for boys
Recently, Wafa came across a story about an orphanage called the School for Quranicmemorization for orphaned children in a district called the Gambia in Jedda, Africa. It was to be built as a place of worship, a school, and a home for 24 orphaned boys. It needed finishing —it had walls but no roof.
Wafa wanted to know more about the man, Mohammed Daboe, who had asked for help on the project. She noticed he was friends with a prominent Muslim in Sydney whom she contacted to establish the legitimacy of the organisation. He reassured her it was genuine.
Mohammed had a very old lap top, but they could still Skype. He explained that he dealt with many orphaned children in Gambia, because their parents had died at a young age through poor health care and sanitation, and high levels of disease. The children weren’t schooled and they had to steal to survive. He described it as anarchy for the young.
Mohammed had big plans for the boys in the orphanage. He wanted them to memorise the Koran and then work abroad as scholars to different islamic cultures around the world. He dreamed they’d return home to pass on what ever they had learned to protect the children of The Gambia. He wanted them to live longer so they could get an education and work to better their community.
Leave it to me!
Wafa had never done anything on this scale, but she said: ‘Leave it to me, let me think.’
She made the decision to raise the money — about $1,500 for the roof— by putting out a post on Facebook.
As a Muslim, she knew that everything had to be transparent so that people could put their trust in the project, and know that their money could not be diverted for any terrorist cause.
I’m on a roll
Wafa wanted to complete the building. ‘I’m on a roll’, she told Mohammed, who gave her an estimate of AU$13,500. She told him: ‘I’m not promising anything’, but went on to raise the money in two and a half weeks nonetheless. She’d put up a picture of the bank balance and said to her donors: ‘Here’s your money. I hope you’re all proud and excited!’
One person who met her at the museum asked to know more’, then handed her AU$2,000.
A month later, the building of the orphanage was complete, with progress being photographed and shared with her Facebook community all the way.
Wafa told me Mohammed got very excited when she said: ‘Okay, next task?’
‘We need to furnish it’, he said.
They required AU$2,000 to provide 24 beds and the necessary linen. The money was raised within a week and a half.
These children are lucky to eat meat twice a year.
‘Find meat,’ she said. They got a cow. ‘Get vegetables. Get couscous and little bottles of prima,’ she instructed. They had a huge party with the local community and the boys moved in.
Angel from heaven
Wafa said humbly that being involved with these children, and helping to make a difference in their lives has made her think in a whole different way.
PS. It get’s cold in The Gambia at night. The next project will be blankets. Watch this space!
Next chapter: Wafa and the Wells