By Javed Mohammed
I recently had the incredible opportunity to visit Cape Town, South Africa to attend the grand opening of the Givelight Foundation Cape Town Home for orphaned girls. I met up there with Sister Dian Alyan, the founder, her son Adnan, a Givelight board member, and Sister Noshaba Afzal and her husband Naeem. It is hard to encapsulate our journey as there are so many dimensions to it so I will focus on three things. Blessings, love, and synchronicity (as well as in brief why I went).
Baraka: Blessings Surrounding the Home and Journey
As we arrived at the Givelight Foundation Cape Town Home, a sense of tranquility and joy filled the air. The home radiated with a unique aura of baraka, blessing all those who entered its doors. From the moment we stepped inside, it became evident that this space was more than just a physical shelter; it was a sanctuary that nurtured the souls of the orphan girls who will call it their home. The essence of baraka could be felt in every corner, reminding us of the divine grace that had brought us all together for this noble cause.
In addition to this, Sister Dian reminded us in her remarks at the opening, that it has been a seven-year-long journey to get to this home. I don’t know all the steps but one of the major ones was that Givelight after a long search was able to purchase a piece of land. Salma Wadee, who is an architect in Johannesburg, and her team worked on some amazing plans for the new GL Home. Once the costs were factored in, they realized that both from a time and money standpoint, it wasn’t practical even if they scaled the size of the project down. That’s when the local GL team headed by Dr. Yusuf Arieff started to search for an already-built property. And this is where Baraka comes in again.
All of us visitors came from California and specifically the San Francisco Bay Area. For those not familiar with it, also known as Silicon Valley. It is one of the most, if not the most expensive area in the United States, and I am referring to real estate prices. The median price of a home is a couple of Million Dollars. That’s a lot of moolah! So the team acquired this former hotel/guest house in an upper-middle-class area with an amazing view at half the estimated cost to build. There is a Musallah on the top floor, and the view from sunrise, day, and sunset is truly amazing. You cannot put a price on this and Allah has given it as a gift to the orphans of Cape Town.
Love: A Profound Connection with Everyone Around
Throughout our visit, love permeated every interaction and experience. The girls at the Givelight Foundation Cape Town Home welcomed us with open hearts and contagious smiles, making us feel like a part of their extended family. Their resilience and strength touched us deeply, reminding us of the transformative power of love and compassion. Beyond the girls, the entire community embraced us with warmth and kindness, affirming the unity and connectedness of humanity. It was through love that barriers were broken, friendships were formed, and lasting memories were created. Specifically, it was such a warm welcome to have Dr. Yusuf pick me up at the airport. Both he and his wife, Dr Amira Adam later welcomed the whole team to their home for lunch the day after the launch. They along with Dr. Amira’s mom, had prepared a delicious feast. Love is that sixth dimension, which is hard to quantify but you feel it emanating from people and I felt it there.
An interesting but related sidenote is that on the day before the launch the local GL team, with Sister Nasierah Badroodien who runs the GL Home, had organized a Cape Town tour for us visitors, the staff, and the girls. One of the places we visited was in a downtown Cape Town neighborhood called Bo-Kaap. It is a popular destination, lined with colorful houses, and shows where the local Cape Malay (read Muslim) culture started. There are several mosques there including the 1790s-built Auwal Mosque, the first masjid in South Africa. We all go in and do our Salah/prayers there. There is something special about this place, not just because it is a mosque, but some X factor.
Anyway as I head out I see in a glass display, a couple of copies of a book, titled in big letters, yes you guessed it “Love.” It is a beautifully designed book with a nice green cover, and in my heart, I really want this book. So much so that I will confess, I was even tempted to break the glass, but somehow that did not appear to be a good idea, so I took a photo of it. Sorry for the long digression, but lo and behold, it turns out the author, Ismail Londt, who is one of the Imams of this masjid and did the dua at the opening has been invited as a guest to Dr. Yusuf’s home. I didn’t connect the name with this person. Again a spiritual giant, and so down to earth. What a surprise! To top it off, I find out that Nathema Vally who has been with us at the GL home, is the book designer and we get signed copies of the book. I mean what are the chances of that, which brings me to the next point Synchronicity.
Synchronicity: Guided by the Hand of Destiny
One of the most remarkable aspects of our journey was the profound synchronicity that unfolded before us. Every person Givelight needed, whether as staff, board members, or volunteers, appeared at just the right time. Among these remarkable individuals were starting with Sister Nasierah Badroodien who I previously mentioned is running the day-to-day affairs of the home, Naseema Hassan, a dedicated board member and a lawyer who helps GL with all its legal work; Nathema Vally, an exceptional graphic designer and head of media and communications; Shamiela Badroodien, whose culinary expertise helped in preparing a magnificent feast for the event; and Luati and Musa, who diligently managed the housekeeping tasks.
I already mentioned the unexpected lunch invitation from Dr. Yusuf and his wife, who graciously hosted us for a delightful lunch at their home. There was Br. Ismail Dollie and his son Yaqub took all of us around Cape Town, as well as dropped me off at the airport. He is a walking encyclopedia of Muslim history and Cape Town. During the opening there were so many other people who I discovered had given their services to GL at no cost, from food to the media team. Then there is Sister Shereen Moolla who is a counselor and is donating her time to meet up with the girls every week to address any mental health and wellbeing issues. These synchronistic encounters affirmed the idea that when we embark on a noble mission, ‘And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’ If that line sounds familiar to you, it is taken from the best-selling “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho. Sister Dian introduced me to the book and the quote, and it just connects with the heart.
This brings me to the question of why. Why would one go to the other side of the world for an event like this? I don’t usually share this detail, but Sister Dian encouraged me to do so. I also expressed these semi-random thoughts during my remarks at the opening. To provide some context, I had the good fortune of visiting the Givelight Morocco home in Oujda back in 2019. I can’t find the words to adequately express how much of a profound experience it was for me to be present with, play with, and engage with those orphans. As a lover of books, I have participated in Givelight’s “Books of Light” projects, which involved local work in California, and building libraries in foster homes. When Sister Dian introduced me to the Cape Town project, my wife and I decided to sponsor the library there. It has been a somewhat lengthy journey, and now, finally, the opening was taking place, so I felt compelled to attend. Unfortunately, my wife couldn’t join me, but her spirit was there with me.
So there you have it, my visit to Cape Town, South Africa, to attend the opening of the Givelight Foundation Cape Town Home was an unforgettable experience. It was a journey enveloped in baraka, where blessings flowed abundantly. The love and warmth we received from the girls and the community affirmed the power of compassion to transcend boundaries. The synchronicity that guided our path served as a reminder that when we follow our hearts and commit ourselves to a higher purpose, the universe aligns itself to support us. I hope and pray that this trip not only transforms the lives of the orphan girls but also leaves an indelible mark on everyone’s soul who has the honor and privilege to serve it. Cape Town will forever hold a special place in my heart as a testament to the limitless potential of love, baraka, and synchronicity in shaping our lives and the lives of others.