I recently talked to Mustafa Sheikh, a young man who has set up a charity to help kids in poverty.
He told me he has been an entrepreneur since high school days - a ‘hustler’ he describes himself as. When he left Gisborne to go to university in Auckland, he originally intended to study medicine. After a year he gave that idea away and graduated with an BSc (Hons) in Chemistry.
But Mustafa had been struck by the poverty he realised existed in his home town. He told me he still loves the East Coast and has happy memories of his childhood. However, he determined that he must do something to address the inequality in our society, particularly in low decile schools. So he set up the Bread Trust, and along with the other trustees, Hamish and Crystal (medical and communications students respectively) they began mentoring intermediate-age kids.
Everyone at first was sceptical about the project, including his family who thought he should be getting a ‘real job’ to secure his future, but he is so passionate about protecting poor kids from negativity he has persisted and the trust is making good progress.
Mustafa is following his philosophy of ‘giving back’. “It’s the best feeling in the world to know that my presence on this planet is helping others,” he told me. He finds it extremely embarrassing that such issues exist in such a ‘developed’ country.
Everyone has dreams said Mussie. Protecting dreams is more than a slogan and helping children in poverty is more than simply providing them with material possessions. “It’s a larger issue stemming from a complex social origin.”
The Bread Trust believes it is critical to instill a positive mindset in those mired in hopelessness. Equal opportunity is easy to espouse, but is not always so easy in practice. No books at home, no way to travel to activities or somewhere at home to study, or just read, are a common problems in the lives of people living with poverty.
Bread is supported by Giltrap, Hampton Downs and V3 events company. They solicit donations from corporates. They hold super-car events. Mussie admits he loves cars. “We took a Ferrari into a decile one school. I said to the students dream and protect your dreams. Your amazing minds are capable of anything you wish to do.”
It’s not so much about the materialistic view of the super cars, he told me, but rather instilling courage to dream.
Mustafa Sheikh is convinced that child poverty is preventable. Kids they mentor soon gain in confidence. Success breeds success.
A typical mentoring session with Year 7 and 8 might include asking kids to write down something they are passionate about. One might say ‘I like drawing’, so they will be given paper and drawing gear and asked to practise after school. Another example was a class where healthy eating was discussed. They examined several fruit. They discussed taste, examined nutritional value and cost, concluding that many fruit were good value for money.
Bread emphasises good research skills too, and discusses developing communication skills via computers.
Here is a young man following his dream to equip just a few school -age kids with a positive, can do attitude to life and success. It may sound a bit like Obama on the campaign trail in the US, and it is working. One of the boys recently mentored was dux of his year at Wesley. It is becoming increasingly hard in our free-market economic world for kids born into lower socio-economic homes to better themselves. The bottom 10% hardly ever migrate to the top 1%. Mustafa and his Protecting Dreams charity are doing their best to break through that cycle for as many young New Zealanders as they have time and resources to mentor.
Let’s applaud their efforts and give them a hand. (JOHN ELLIOTT)
Check out the charity at www.bread.org.nz