Strangers help girl dying from cancer fulfill her dream

On Saturday, three-year-old Putri Nittra Tazqiah was transformed into a princess for an afternoon.

Wearing a beautiful crown and grinning widely at photographers and videographers, she was the centre of attention among the 100 guests at Pasir Ris Park last Saturday.

But under that beautiful crown, her little head is bald.

Putri is suffering from end-stage liver cancer.

She is not expected to live beyond the next six months.

Her party was possible only because of the generosity of businesses which contributed their services, as well as the story of another little girl, who died last month.

That girl, little Nur, touched the hearts of many people here when her story appeared in The New Paper in May.

Among them was American Rima McDonald, 37, who was galvanised into action to help raise funds for the little girl, who was suffering from dilated cardiomyopathy - a condition in which the heart becomes weakened and enlarged and is unable to pump blood efficiently.

Nur's parents were, at the time, trying to find hospitals overseas which would accept her and do a heart transplant. They were also asking for funds to make this happen.

Said Ms McDonald: "She somehow reminded me of my daughter at that point. I just couldn't believe that she only had a few more weeks to live," said the divorced mother of two kids, aged six and 16, who lives in Singapore.

She initiated a fund-raising project via Facebook, Little Nur's Heart Fund Two-Week Online Donation Drive, with the target sum of US$200,000 (S$256,110) - to be raised within a fortnight.

It was a runaway success. In a mere eight days, over 100,000 people from the world over raised US$250,000.

The centre of attention

The centre of attention

Little Nur died on June 9 at the age of four years, three months after her heart failed.

Her parents have pledged to use the funds raised to help other children. But it wasn't the end of the story.

"Some of the members in the group urged me to keep the community together. We wanted to do something to help her other children like Nur," says Ms McDonald.

Within a week, they decided to professionally organise a group called HeartGivers, and also set up a Facebook page to connect volunteers.

Some 15 members of the initial group, including co-directors Ms McDonald and account executive Ms Hasria Hashim, 27, came together to form the core of this new organisation.

It is now undergoing registration for charity status, say the two co-directors.

It will help critically ill or disabled children by organising special events and activities for them. It also plans to conduct visits to hospitals.

Like it did for Putri.

They've been visiting her in hospital and organising activities like making balloon animals while Putri undergoes her treatment.

Putri wants badly to be a princess, so the group bought a princess-themed dress from the US and organised the party.

She was wearing the special dress yesterday.

Her mother, Madam Rodhrah Yati Mohd, 44, who is unemployed, says her little girl was the centre of attention yesterday.

She also received presents from the 100-strong crowd, made up of her family, HeartGivers volunteers and their kids, as well as members of the public who had found out about the party on the group's Facebook page.



Says Madam Yati: "I feel very touched as I did not expect them to do so much for the children... There was face painting, balloon sculpting and even a magician, the whole atmosphere was so beautiful."

The mother of four added: "I could never have dreamt that such a big outdoor party could have been held for my children."

She is thankful for the help and support.

"HeartGivers is able to bring such joy into Putri's life at this last stage, and give her memories that I would not be able to provide."

The group is not raising funds for Putri as her healthcare costs are covered, but they are looking for volunteers and sponsors to help with events and hospital visits, including photographers and videographers.

"We would like to reach out to more children like Putri, and do anything to make them smile. We also want to host parties for bigger groups of kids as well.

"Putri doesn't have much time left, but it gives us such a sense of satisfaction just to see her laugh," said Ms McDonald.

"I feel very touched as I did not expect them to do so much for the children... There was face painting, balloon sculpting and even a magician, the whole atmosphere was so beautiful," said Madam Rodhrah Yati Mohd.

Money to go to charities

Money to go to charities: Nur’s dad

More than $400,000 was raised for Nur’s heart transplant in less than three weeks, including the funds from MsRima McDonald’s Facebook initiative.

Little Nur died before she could make it for the heart transplant operation.

Her parents had made a pledge at her wake on 10 June to help other children battling critical illnesses with the funds that have been raised.

Nur’s father, Mr Muhammad Ghazali, 27, a security supervisor, told The New Paper last Thursday, that a “large amount” of the funds would go to Singapore Heart Foundation (SHF).

But he declined to specify the exact sum that would be donated, and would only say that the rest would go to “other charities that benefit children”.

He also did not specify which were the other charities. A spokesman for the SHF confirmed that they have been in communication with Nur’s father.

In response to queries, the spokesman said they had not received any of the money to date.   

This article was first published in The New Paper .

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