Tahir Butt is taking on a challenge that most adults, leave alone a sixteen-year-old, would be wary of. He is raising awareness and fundraising to support cancer treatment for children at Kenyatta National Hospital through a cultural concert.
According to the National Cancer Institute, there are 3,200 new cancer cases among children annually. With all the high-level discussions on early diagnosis and treatment of cancer, it is easy to lose sight of the power the average person has to make a difference in fighting cancer in Kenya.
Tahir is a Grade 11 student at Aga Khan Academy in Nairobi. As part of his curriculum mandated one-year school project, he is required to develop and execute a project of social impact. After losing his aunt to cancer two years earlier, a project around cancer treatment was an obvious choice.
“I was always in touch with my aunt, even when she was getting her treatment. Losing a relative is difficult,” Tahir says.
The challenge was figuring out a creative way to raise funds within the deadlines of the project.
“My biggest concern for Tahir with this project was how he would approach people to ask for funds since he is naturally shy. But the school project has helped him become a more confident person” Naila Butt, Tahir’s mother, states proudly.
Tahir's parents introduced him to several people for guidance.
“We were also very lost at the beginning. Once we were able to connect with Faraja Cancer Trust, they helped us focus and build up (Tahir’s plan). They have been a big help,” says Tahir’s father Sameer Butt.
Tahir had initially wanted to fundraise and support the work of the Trust, but its Founding Trustee, Shaira Adamali, guided him towards treatment of cancer among children.
Together with one of his grandfather’s musical students and talented Indian flute player, Kirit Pattni, he visited the Children’s Cancer ward at Kenyatta National Hospital and performed for the children. The experience sharpened his focus. He set himself the target of raising at least Sh200,000 towards the care and treatment of the children.
Coming from a musical family — his grandfather, Ustad Butt, is a classical musician renowned for his music writing and vocal prowess — Tahir organised a private musical concert to raise the funds.
“My parents helped me organise this event. They helped me raise the funds; they communicated with people. I was in charge of writing the messages informing people of the project and the fundraising show, why I am doing it, and how to donate,” Tahir offers.
“It was frustrating at the beginning. We were to have this concert in September but it kept being postponed,” he recalls. This was due to the varied schedules of the performers lined up for the concert.
Eventually, after months of planning, Tahir held the concert earlier this month. He has since raised over Sh100,000 and plans to surpass his target before the project deadline. But the end of the school project will not be the end of fundraising for him.
“Even after the project is done, I intend to keep fundraising for (cancer) treatment,” he assures.
Tahir hopes to not only get an MBA and run several businesses in future, but to also open a cancer treatment centre in the country in memory of his aunt.
For other young Kenyans wondering how they, too, can make a positive impact in their communities, Tahir has some words of encouragement: “Do what you think is right, don’t overthink it. Push yourself to meet your targets no matter the odds, don’t give up. Work as hard as you can to achieve what you intend to achieve.”