LONDON: Two eight-year-old boys, who have upped their philanthropic game over the past year by selling lemonade, have now set their eyes on raising money to build homes for Syria this Ramadan.
“We’re raising money for homes for Syria, and we’re aiming to raise double the amount of what we raised for Yemen, which is around £250,000,” Mikaeel Ishaaq, one of the LemonAid Boys, told Arab News.
He said they like raising money because they want to help needy people to have access to basic provisions, like food and water, so they can be equal to them, and maybe one day, get to meet them.
“We’ve done Yemen, Palestine, and Rohingya, and now we want to help Syria,” his charity pal Ayaan Moosa said, adding that they were now focusing on helping Syrian refugees and those displaced from war.
The two best friends, from Ilford, in east London, began raising money for humanitarian causes when they were six years old by selling homemade lemonade. To their surprise, their initial campaign to collect cash for Yemen went viral and caught the attention of award-winning actress and human rights campaigner Angelina Jolie, along with several Premier League footballers, human rights organizations, and international TV stations.
For this year’s campaign, the boys have teamed up with UK-based charity Penny Appeal and are squeezing oranges, instead of lemons, for OrangeAid in conjunction with the international humanitarian organizations Team Orange.
“It feels different because oranges have bigger seeds, so you have to push harder into the oranges. We’re having a lot of fun and we’re happy because we’re making other people happy in other countries, and we’re doing zakat,” Moosa added.
His father Shakil Moosa said his wife, and Ishaaq’s parents, were “quite active in charity” and helped specific causes. They had wanted to introduce their boys to their work from a young age, but never thought it would go as “crazy” as last year.
“As Muslims, it’s a huge part of our life, it’s one of the pillars of our religion, so we want to instill that into our children from a very young age, and they’ve been doing this now since they were six years old, and now they’re eight, and it’s just everyday life for them,” he said.
Last year, the boys also won a number of accolades and were nominated for a gold Blue Peter Badge — the highest award given for exceptional achievement by the BBC children’s program — by the British rapper Stormzy. Following that, they won the Rotary Great Britain and Ireland Young Citizen Awards for their humanitarian causes.
The boys are now Penny Appeal’s new ambassadors after also collaborating on another Ramadan campaign to help raise money for Palestinian medjoul date farmers by promoting the dates with their own recipes online.
Nazira Bemath, the charity’s PR manager, said: “That’s when the idea was like, you know what? These boys are amazing. Let’s get them on board, and they actually came to me and said we’d like to raise money for Penny Appeal and this time we’d like to do Syria and that just was exactly what we were raising for this Ramadan, we’re doing a big campaign called Rebuilding Syria.”
Moving forward, she added, they were planning to do several projects with the young ambassadors and get them to front different lifestyle and Muslim community campaigns over the coming year and join forces with the well-established charity that had the tools to enable them to really make a difference.
“They’re little role models, if other children see them doing stuff like this for charity, it rubs off on other children, other kids want to get involved. And the idea is to really build the young fundraisers of our generation, and Mikaeel and Ayaan envelope exactly what we’re trying to do,” Bemath said.
Redbridge London Borough Council leader, Jas Athwal, who visited the Penny Appeal van in Ilford town center, said it was “absolutely fantastic” that so much money had been raised to rebuild infrastructure and housing in Syria, but also to rebuild people’s lives.
“When people are down, especially in places like Syria, Yemen, even now in Ukraine, we have to come together as humanity to make sure that we stand up for our fellow human citizens, our brothers and sisters, because we don’t know when we may need help ourselves,” said the politician.
“The LemonAid Boys, Penny Appeal, what they’re doing is just so wonderful, and I’m just so pleased that there are people living here in Redbridge who’ve got the vision, the foresight, and the empathy to actually really deliver for fellow humanity.”