PROFILE — This kid mobilized 6,000 volunteers across Ontario for a good cause
Over 9,000 at-risk people helped so far
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Claim to fame
What started as a simple act of kindness by a nine-year-old has turned into a provincewide effort to help those most affected by COVID-19.
In 2020, Hana Fatima helped start an initiative called the Good Neighbour Project, which delivers essential groceries and medications to people in need across Ontario — at no cost.
Today, the project has grown to include 6,000 volunteers who speak more than 30 languages, with chapters in Toronto, London and Ottawa.
So far, more than 9,000 people have received help through the Good Neighbour hotline.
How did a nine-year-old manage that?
From a small gesture to a huge effort
When the pandemic began, Hana was shopping in a grocery store with her dad when she noticed an elderly woman struggling to carry her groceries.
Despite a feeling of panic in the store because of the new reality of COVID-19, Hana slowed down to lend a helping hand.
She pointed the woman out to her dad and the two of them offered to help carry the woman’s groceries to her car.
Hana’s simple act of helping a woman with her groceries has now snowballed into a massive, provincewide effort. (Image credit: Chris Glover/CBC)
The woman was incredibly grateful, Hana said, and the feeling stayed with her.
“When I saw the elderly person, I thought that was my opportunity to go and help somebody,” said Hana.
“Because whenever you get a chance to be helpful and kind, just go do it without thinking about it. Everybody should do that.”
Hana then asked her dad if they could take it a step further.
“You see an opportunity? Somebody needs help? Just go and do it.” - Hana Fatima, 9
Helping out the neighbourhood
Back at home, Hana and her dad gave their number to a few older neighbours and said they could call them any time they needed groceries.
The idea was that Hana and her dad would pick up essential items for them so that they didn’t have to risk exposure to COVID-19 in crowded stores.
One of the elderly people Hana helped, a 73-year-old named Ahmad El Rifai, had an underlying medical condition that put him at risk.
Ahmad El Rifai has heart issues and said Hana’s help was a blessing for him. (Image credit: Chris Glover/CBC)
He said Hana was a saving grace for him.
“This young lady, she is a blessing in our neighbourhood,” he said. “We always appreciate what she does.”
Upping the ante
After seeing how Hana felt when helping others, her dad shared the idea with a few friends and invited them to do the same.
His friends started telling their friends, and before long hundreds of people were volunteering to do the same thing in their communities.
Hana’s words of wisdom? If you see someone in need of help, just go and do it. (Image credit: Chris Glover/CBC)
Although Hana doesn’t know what she wants to do when she grows up, she said she has found a purpose in being kind and helpful.
Her words of advice? Just make it happen.
“You see an opportunity? Somebody needs help? Just go and do it.”
With files from Chris Glover/CBC and Shanifa Nasser/CBC
TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Chris Glover/CBC