Not everyone has the courage nor patience to understand and work with special-needs children. Dr Zafreen Valli flutters her philanthropic wings as a guardian angel to these often overlooked individuals, using her expertise as a medical practitioner, her empathy as a compassionate Muslim woman and her concern and affection as a mother. Chairperson of Care4u2.Respite.Outreach, Zafreen spends every minute of her spare time finding ways to make the lives of these exceptional kids more comfortable, easier and full of joy.
Originally from Rustenburg, Dr Zafreen Valli currently resides in Johannesburg, and runs her medical practice from Emmarentia. She grew up in a home where community and social work played an integral part of her daily life and where giving back was taught to her at a very young age. This instilled core values, good morals and a sense of community in her.
Zafreen’s school teachers and principal always motivated her to reach her full potential and excel in everything she put her mind to. Learning about the Quraan and its principles from her moulanas and apas (Islamic teachers) in madressa – and living her daily life humbly – has helped her understand the purpose of life. Zafreen mentions, “Unknown to me, those days and those activities were guiding me into my very own path in doing community work.”
She recalls the valuable lessons from both her parents about respect, listening, understanding pain and grief, lending a hand whenever or to whomever it was required by, never turning a person in need away and most important of all; not to expect anything in return. She extends her benevolent hand to others “simply for the pleasure of the Almighty and with the hope that He accepts all of my efforts. Ameen. This in itself gives me contentment and purpose.”
Care4u2.Respite.Outreach was formed six years ago when a need was realised within the special-needs community. There were no avenues to turn to for much-needed help with various issues in their homes. Together with a group of talented and professional women, Zafreen has been on the organisation’s board since its inception and also serves as its chairperson. Care4u2 has steadily grown and expanded beyond the borders of Gauteng to other provinces across South Africa as well as Lesotho. Globally, they have assisted Syrian refugee families (living in Turkey) with special-needs requirements. Care4u2 works with Al-Imdaad and the IHH for Syrian refugee children.
Care4u2 services include:
The ‘Respite Care’ programme which gives exhausted parents and caregivers a well-deserved break by sending them away on a short vacation.
The ‘Outreach’ programme helps special-needs individuals and their families with the provision of food, clothing, specialised wheelchairs and assistive devices.
Learnership programmes and job placements are arranged for children afflicted by cerebral palsy, autism, spinal and muscular atrophy and dystrophy, etc.
A normal day for Dr Valli stretches across taking care of her children, running a home, attending to her practice and accomplishing all of this in between seeing her patients.
Dr Valli uses her knowledge as a medical practitioner to deal with special-needs children and their families with a much better understanding. On a daily basis, this includes trying to raise funds, monitoring all projects, attending meetings, ensuring that all the specs for the wheelchairs are correct, that all deliveries are made on time, and that the wheelchair fits the child perfectly.
Religion is the nucleus upon which Zafreen rotates her life. “Islam is truly a way of life. It teaches us unity, love, respect, tolerance and no prejudice and discrimination towards each other.” Her work with special-needs individuals spans across all races and religions, and exemplifies what Islam stands for; striving to serve all of humanity.
Dr Valli describes the most emotional project she’s been involved in: being able to assist a Syrian refugee and father of four children with cerebral palsy (who now live in Turkey). On hearing that they could give each of his children a wheelchair, he thanked the team profusely and most humbly declined, saying that just one chair would do. He said that the organisation should rather give the remaining three wheelchairs to other children in need. When asked why, he replied that there will never be a time when he and his wife will be able to take all four of his children out together. Since the children are severely affected by cerebral palsy, they would rotate the wheelchair among them for separate outings. His humility broke Zafreen’s heart, and we can fully understand why.
Her proudest philanthropic moment can be tracked to when Care4u2 helped Syrian refugees during its fifth year of existence as a welfare organisation. Alhumdulillah.
This mum of two boys experienced her most rewarding project when handing over an electric wheelchair to a twelve-year-old child with cerebral palsy. The little girl was completely fascinated by the hooter on her new chair. Her innocent laughter and excitement on hearing that beeping sound, and being able to press the button and achieve that result made Zafreen realise that all that matters in life is exactly this; a child’s smile at every accomplishment – a simple task for us, yet a huge task for her.
Zafreen’s biggest role model is her dad. To this day, he is very involved in community work and carries it out with such passion, that she cannot help but admire his enthusiasm and positivity for every project.
Her life motto: “Be passionate about what you do, persevere and never give up. Ask for guidance from the Almighty and have faith in Him always.”
Her favourite Hadith: ‘Innamal a’malu binniyat’. This translates from Arabic to “Indeed all actions are based on intentions.” Zafreen truly believes in these words and tries to lead her life by this principle.
Her favourite Quranic verse: Surah Al Fatiha – the opening lines of the Quraan. To Zafreen, a human’s entire being exists in this verse. She says it reminds us of how merciful and gracious Allah is, and that He is the master of the ‘Day of Judgement’. “We should worship and ask for help from Him only; to Guide us to the straight path and the path of those who he has blessed, not of those who have strayed.”
Zafreen is most grateful for having spent every single day with her mother for what was the last three years of her life. This experience taught her that the human mind is the most powerful tool in being able to cope and adapt to any situation and condition.
Her greatest life lesson: “Whatever happens to you happens with God’s will, not a single second earlier or later. What is meant for you will be.”
Dr Valli supports initiatives like Proudly Muslims of SA, as we play an important role in showing the world that Muslims and Islam are not what is portrayed out there. Islam is a religion of peace and teaches us all to love and live together with tolerance. Organisations like this one show our positive actions and portray how much good Muslims do in their daily lives.
If today was her last on earth, Zafreen would encourage others to remain steadfast in their beliefs. “Prayer and faith guides us and is the answer to everything. Also be the best person who you can be.”To Zafreen, success is based on our actions, mannerisms, relationships and keeping to your word. “These profound abilities are free and make one extremely wealthy in all aspects of your life,” she adds.
Her future goals include growing the Care4u2 initiative from strength to strength. Insha-Allah.
She advises other welfare workers to accept being judged and criticised, but to remain humble. “Have passion and continue to strive because every little bit that you do is changing lives and making a difference.”
Dr Valli hopes to be remembered as being part of an organisation that made a difference in the lives of special-needs individuals worldwide. Insha-Allah.
Making every day an outstanding one for children with specials needs, Dr Zafreen Valli seeks to change the world for them and their families. She helps provide them with mobility to make significant strides, nourishment and care to live longer, healthier lives and encouragement and education to uplift them to new heights.
For more information on how you can help, visit the Care4u2 website