What started as an idea that was kicked around on a school bench led a group of Doha moms to raise some QR24,500 for the families of those killed in the Villaggio fire on May 28.
A total of 19 people died from that fire, including 13 children and four teachers who worked at the Gympanzee nursery.
The families of three of those teachers, native Filipinos, will receive the better part of the funds raised by the Little Angels group, who presented the Philippines Ambassador to Qatar with the money on Thursday.
“Thank you so much for your efforts … I believe the families of the victims will really appreciate it,” Ambassador Crescente R. Relacion told three of the organizers yesterday.
Relacion said the embassy itself had raised some QR46,000 in donations for the affected Filipino families. And he said he expects more money to go to the families:
“I believe that… some amount from insurance will be given to them because in Qatar when there is loss of lives, it will be around (QR)200,000.
And the heir apparent himself has assured us that the families will receive something, [some] compensation from the government, if the insurance company will not give.”
The mothers first set up a Facebook group three months ago, the day after the tragic mall fire left 13 small children and six adults dead. ”It was a sort of support group – for people to voice out about what happened. People wanted to know what was going on,” said Liz Husain, the group’s creator and a mother of five.
From there, the idea took hold to put together and sell ribbons to benefit the families of those lost. Purple ribbons because, ”[It represents] the boys and the girls and for bravery – the Purple Heart for bravery – and purple is the symbol of calm for the families,” Husain said.
The group’s leaders said they experienced some initial trepidation, but was reassured by the guidance of ILoveQatar.net founder Khalifa Haroon, who advised them on how to organize the group legally.
“Mr. Khalifa really clarified the guidelines for us,” said Brazilian mom Karen Rocha, who added that they wanted to make sure not to run afoul of Qatar’s strict donations regulations.
Little Angels Ribbons began a month-long campaign a couple days after the fire by selling their ribbons at Park House English school, where the organizers’ children attend. But the project rapidly spread to other schools, including Sherborne, Compass, Doha College, Newton, DESS, the Berlitz Center and Apple Tree Nursery before it culminated in a three-day sale at Katara.
Once the money was collected, organizers got into contact with as many of the victim families as they could – largely by contacting their embassies. Parents who lost their children at Villaggio all agreed that their portions should go to support the families of the Gympanzee teachers.
“Something positive has come out of something bad,” said British expat Samantha Taylor, who was one of the moms making and selling the ribbons.
“When they had the memorial for the fire, it wasn’t just expatriates – everybody came together. [It was the] same with the ribbons – everybody came together for the greater good.”
The first payment was made by wire transfer on Wednesday to the mother of South African teacher Shameega Charles, who also left behind her five-year-old son.
After making the second payment at the Philippines Embassy, the mothers say the last portion is left for the families of the two firefighters who died trying to save those trapped.
Credit: Top photo by Omar Chatriwala, second photo courtesy Little Angels