About a year ago, Ghulam Mustafa was badly burned while trying to rescue his wife from a fire. She died and six weeks later he woke up from a coma. The hard-working father of four children felt like giving up hope. But, when he looked into his daughter’s eyes, he realized that wasn’t an option.
In caring for his own children in the face of tragedy, Mustafa inspired family friend Nikil Badey, 16, of Hoffman Estates. Badey found a creative way to help Mustafa in his time of need. Badey invited Mustafa to be his chaperone on the TV show “The View,” under the guise he was accepting a school-related award.
When Raven Symone introduced the segment about the VING Project, a nonprofit organization that inspires teens to give back to the community, Mustafa knew something was up. Badey called him up to the stage to accept a $1,000 check, and to let him know how much he inspires him.
“I could never forget that day, especially his smile,” Badey says. “It was truly felt from the heart.”
The VING Project (VING is the second half of the word “giving”) is fully funded by a Chicago family who wants teens to experience the joy of giving, in the hope that they become life-long givers. Through VING, kids ages 14 to 18 compete against each other to surprise an individual in need with a $1,000 financial boost. All the teens have to do is go to the VING Project website and upload a video of them answering the question, in 60-seconds or less, “If you had $1,000 to give to an individual in need, who would you give it to and why?”
The recipients of the $1,000 gifts must not be relatives of the teens who nominate them. The “needs” often are the result of unexpected events – accidents, illnesses, job loss, says Jill McClain, VING’s executive director.
“I think teens look at these moments and say, ‘I wish I could do something,’ but maybe they feel like they can’t financially help someone, because they’re a teen,” McClain says. “Now they can see themselves as a giver.”
Badey found out about VING when McClain gave a presentation at his school, like she has done at many schools since 2014, when the organization launched.
“The quickest way to happiness is learning to be selfless,” McClain says, quoting the song “Growing Up” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. “You don’t have to give $1,000 to do something significant in the world. The message of VING is learning that there [are] opportunities to help others all around us, no matter where you live or how old you get.”