Two seven-year-old school friends from East London who set up a ‘Lemonade for Yemen-Aid’ stand and have helped raise £100,000 for the humanitarian crisis after their campaign went viral, have been recognised with a Rotary Young Citizen Award 2021.
Best friends Ayaan Moosa and Mikaeel Ishaaq set up the stand outside their home in Redbridge to raise money for Yemen after they heard about the plight of children there who are starving. They made promotional videos and told all their classmates to come along.
Mikaeel said: “If we don’t help the children in Yemen, they might get sick and die.”
The boys thought they might raise £100 but ended up raising thousands more after the story took off. After they were featured in the local newspaper, the boys were interviewed on the BBC, ITV, on radio and featured in stories around the world. They have each received a ‘Blue Peter’ Gold Badge for their inspiring campaign.
Their campaign has even attracted the attention of actress Angelina Jolie who sent them a note saying she was sorry she could not buy any lemonade but wanted to donate. The boys received a “lovely note” from Ms Jolie along with “a very generous donation”.
If we don’t help the children in Yemen, they might get sick and die.”
Asked what the boys had first thought when they found out about it, Ayaan’s mother Adeela Moosa said they initially did not know who Ms Jolie was although “their dads were very excited”. They soon realised who the Tomb Raider and Maleficent star was after being shown various clips and films.
The pair have sent a video message in response thanking Ms Jolie, telling her that: “If you ever come to London, feel free to buy a glass of fresh lemonade.”
Ms Jolie, who is a UNHCR special envoy, has previously spoken about the crisis in Yemen.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed during the civil war in Yemen, while an estimated 24m people, equivalent to 80% of the country’s population, are now in need of humanitarian aid to survive. The scale of this crisis is the largest in the world, according to Unicef.
Through the UN World Food Programme, the boys have received videos from the children in Yemen that they are helping and sent back videos promising them that “we are not going to stop and we will not forget you, don’t ever give up, we are always thinking of you.” The UN World Food Programme has made a video about them.
Donations to the boys’ appeal have come in from all over the world. Ayaan said it was amazing to raise so much money “ but also because we were on TV all the people will know that we’re raising awareness for Yemen and raising money so by the end of this we’ll have like trillions and trillions of dollars to help Yemen.”
His mother Adeela Moosa said: “My son’s whole experience is that he is so happy to help children who are suffering in Yemen so that they are able to eat enough food, with his best friend beside him.”
Redbridge Rotary Club were so impressed by the boys that they nominated them for a Rotary Young Citizen Award.
Ayaan and Mikaeel gave their reaction to winning the Award: “We felt so amazed when we got the Rotary Young Citizen Award, we were so happy that we were jumping around and celebrating, having so much fun and we couldn’t believe it.”
Ayaan’s mum Adeela has worked with the charity One Nation where 100% of the donations go towards aid for Yemen.
The two boys received a trophy, certificate and £300 to go towards their chosen project or charity from Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland. They were presented with their Award at a Virtual Rotary Young Citizen Awards Ceremony hosted by BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell.
We felt so amazed when we got the Rotary Young Citizen Award, we were so happy that we were jumping around and celebrating, having so much fun and we couldn’t believe it.”
The President of Rotary International in Great Britain and Ireland Tom Griffin said: “What an incredible story! That these two very young people should not only be moved by the plight of children in Yemen but should have the ingenuity to find a way to help them is a great story; it’s clear from its success that what they have done has touched many hearts.”