By Aliyyah Abdullah
HALIMAH’S HELPING HANDS, a charitable foundation officially launched on June 7th 2014, and based in Santa Cruz, was established to assist in supplying the educational needs of primary school children. It was spearheaded by Hisham and Haajra Mohammed in their daughter’s memory. Their daughter, 11 year old Halimah Aishah Mohammed, died of pneumonia on January 15th 2014.
Her death was sudden and unexpected.
Halimah was very ambitious and was expected to write the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam in the year she passed away. She was known for being insightful, friendly and very mature despite her young age. She was described as a motivator to her peers at school and she ensured that while studying for the SEA exam, she also kept involved in her Islamic classes. She was a model student and displayed remarkable concern for underprivileged children. She would often gravitate to those in her class who were less fortunate and in many ways motivated them.
Speaking to the Muslim Chronicle, Ruqayyah Hosein, cousin to Halimah and the Foundation’s Public Relations Officer, said that Halimah’s Helping Hands mission is to earn the pleasure of Allah through the work of the foundation. They would like to create a perpetual charity for Halimah and strive to provide a better quality of life for children both locally and globally.
Currently Halimah’s Helping Hands provides for the educational needs of underprivileged children by conducting needs assessments in order to identify what each child requires. Items such as textbooks, uniforms, stationery and even transport allowances are provided depending on the child’s situation. The foundation strives to build relationships with each sponsored child’s home to ensure that those parents who can’t afford to provide for their children’s educational needs get in touch with the right people. These include liaisons with welfare and employment agencies so that the entire family can better themselves.
The foundation also does hamper drives and would eventually like to branch off into providing counselling services. As of this year (2015) – the second year of the foundation’s operations – they are sponsoring about 200 children. This was a substantial increase from the initial 85 children in its first year. The foundation also hosts an annual dinner to raise funds and in February 2015 they ran a public Children’s Fun Day which allowed children to enjoy themselves and interact with each other.
Halimah’s Helping Hands is a non-profit organisation and relies strictly on the donations of supporters and well-wishers. The response, Ruqayyah says, from the community has been very positive and overwhelming. Despite this, the foundation’s biggest challenge will be to continue to support more and more children even if donations fall short of their targets. To support more children would require increased donations and volunteers.
According to the United Nations Institute for Statistics, estimates show that approximately 124 million children worldwide and adolescents were out of school in 2013. Even in Trinidad and Tobago today, many people still cannot afford to send their children to school. According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, 38.7% of the population 15 years or older had no educational qualifications. But Halimah’s Helping Hands is intent on making Trinidad and Tobago, and by extension the world, a better place – one child at a time.
One of the reasons why the foundation was started is based on the well-known saying of the Prophet (peace be upon him) where he mentioned that the deeds of the deceased come to an end as soon as he or she dies, and the renewal of reward ceases for him or her, except in three cases: his or her offspring is supplicating for them, the knowledge that he or she leaves behind through teaching or writing, or ongoing charity.
Both Haajra and Ruqayyah credits a very strong belief system and faith in Islam for helping the family to cope with the loss of Halimah. Ruqayyah believes that without faith, losing someone you love will be very hard to deal with. However, being involved in charitable work and giving back also helps. Halimah’s three sisters are also actively involved in the foundation, and the family believes that this is something that Halimah would have been proud about given her passion for helping others.
Ruqayyah’s final piece of advice was: “We tend to be busy and focused on our lives and when we look back, our youth is gone. And then we reflect, “What have I achieved?” Don’t let old age or illness reach you before you can benefit someone. Don’t wait, don’t regret! Help someone, even if it’s just a smile.”
Persons interested in becoming a member or contributing to the foundation can get in contact via their Facebook page or via their website at www.halimahshelpinghands.org.