NRI sisters Mehr Bhatia and Shenaya Bhatia have been selling packaged nuts for a year now, raising money to support children with cancer and help them with a better treatment at Mumbai’s Tata Memorial Hospital. Till date, their effort has provided 1500+ nights of shelter to children and their families, who would otherwise be staying on the footpath.
Under the Helping Hands Foundation’s (a Mumbai-based NGO that works with cancer patients) Accommodation Project, the duo sells nuts at local events and exhibitions in the UAE to raise funds. Mehr, 16, says, “We don’t take donations; instead, we sell organic nuts for a certain price, the proceeds of which all go to the project. A packet of nuts priced Dh40 can fund a night’s stay of a child at the hospital.”
Last week, the two visited Mumbai to meet the children, along with their parents, who are second-generation entrepreneurs in Dubai. Says Shenaya, 12, on their trip, “The experience was an eye-opener, we knew it would be hard for those kids and their families but seeing it ourselves made us aware of how much more we need to do.”
It was the first time they met the affected children. Mehr says, “Communicating with the children in the hospital wasn’t very successful as they were quite young and shy to speak to visitors. Later when we visited the Dharamshala where the kids and their families were staying during treatment, we spoke to a 17-year-old girl who told us about how she was treated in the Tata Memorial Hospital but her Leukemia then relapsed and her whole family had to travel back to Mumbai from her village for the treatment, she has spent seven years of her life in and out of hospitals.”
She adds, “We also had the chance to speak to some of the parents who told us about the struggles they go through and how their entire family is affected throughout the period of treatment. Both parents are required for the duration of the child’s stay in the hospital as usually the mother stays with the child and provides emotional support whereas the father then goes out to collect funds to support the rest of his family.”
They now plan on taking the awareness one step further by giving more talks across Dubai and in schools. The duo says they would like to keep the exact amount of funds raised disclosed.