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Cancer patient does all he can to help

Published: 
Monday, April 11, 2016
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Cancer patient Zahir Ali, of the NGO Sharing Humanitarian Love (SHL), embraces Joshua Applewhite as they stand on the plot of land at Tatto Trace, Valencia, donated to the 12-year-old and his mother. PHOTO: ABRAHAM DIAZ

When asked what he wanted, the first thing 12-year old Joshua Applewhite asked for was paper and material to make a kite. Joshua and his mother, Ingrid Applewhite, had been living in a savannah at Pinto Road, Arima, since she lost her job and could not pay rent. He spent many days watching other children fly kites and longing for one of his own, she said.

Cancer patient Zahir Ali, of the NGO Sharing Humanitarian Love (SHL), said he broke down and cried when he met Joshua and hugged him. Just hours after the story broke about the Applewhites in the T&T Guardian, Ali and a team from SHL were at the savannah looking for them.

“He told me nobody except his mother ever hugged him,” Ali, 44, of Aranguez said.

Applewhite, who was taken to safe house by Ali, said Joshua has been making a lot of kites and running up and down flying them.

“He wants to hug me all the time, something he never did before. I am taking it while I’m getting it,” she said, laughing.

Ali recalled his first meeting with the Applewhites: “I hugged them and told them I came with one purpose, to build a house for them.”

He said they went straight to Valencia to see a lot of land that had been given to them. People in the area who read Applewhite’s story immediately responded and cut the grass on the land.

“They promised to help purchase Joshua’s schoolbooks and assist in the construction of the house,” Ali said.

Multi Grade Hardware of Arima, a small business, donated half of the building material and construction of the house started over the weekend. It is expected to be completed soon.

Ali said SHL will furnish the house, build a parlour for Applewhite and stock it for the first time. He said he held discussions with the police and the Children’s Authority and insisted mother and child should not be separated.

“I told them I will take responsibility for them and we found a safe house for them. We bought toiletries for them and they had a bath and a good night’s rest,” he said.

The following morning, they took Applewhite and Joshua to the grocery and told her to buy whatever they wanted.

“We told her to cook her own meal, too,” he said. Ali, a cancer patient, said he does not know when God will call him home.

“I am doing all I can right now to help those in need.” He said he founded SHL last year after they went to drop a hamper for a needy family.

“The little girl was happy, not for the hamper, but the plastic bag we brought the supplies in,” he recalled.

“She showed us her schoolbag which had a hole in it and said she now had the plastic bag to put her books in.” 

Ali said SHL, through their Facebook page, has been highlighting needy cases and asking for donations.

“We have assisted over 4,000 families, built 900 homes and have given out weed whackers, power washers and forks and shovels and helped set up a number of shops,” he said.

Former Independent Liberal Party senior member, Inshan Ishmael, is an active part of SHL but insisted it is not an Islamic organisation and does not have anything to do with politics. Ali said a government minister is also a part of SHL.

Gregory Aboud, head of the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association, has also been in contact with Ali.