Established in 2009 by Layla Yahya, Bigger Heart is a Wales-based charity organisation that works to enrich the lives of children, young people and vulnerable members of the community.
Our mission is to empower the lives of these individuals, ensuring brighter futures for all, in spite of their backgrounds.
My name is Nawal and I go to Bishop Gore School in Swansea, I am the daughter of Bigger Heart Zanzibar founder, Layla Yahya. I visited Zanzibar in 2015 with my mother and this is the story of what happened.....
It all began when my mother took me on holiday to visit her home town, Zanzibar when I was 7 years old. She took me to the Kizimkazi village for a day trip. I had no idea what it would be like.
We went on a boat tour to Dolphin Island. When we were boarding, I noticed a few young children around the area selling shells (see above photo of me with them on the beach) and handmade carved necklaces it looked as if a lot of hard work and effort had gone into making them. I realised that the majority of the children were not wearing any shoes and their clothing looked torn.
This made me feel sad and I thought that I should be more grateful to everything that I have. I turned to my mother and asked 'Why are they not in school?' I wanted to know the reason to why such young children, some of my age were not in school during that time day.
My Mum, Layla Yahya, with the children of Kizimkazi school after a lesson
After buying the necklaces my mum went to talk to them. The children said that they did not have enough money to afford to buy uniforms let alone even go to school.
The fact that they did not have the opportunity to have an education really upset me and made me thinks twice. I had the sudden urge to want to see what the schools in the surrounding areas would look like.
I asked my mum if would we were able to visit one of the nearby schools. A few of the children volunteered to take us to the school. When we arrived I was shocked at what I saw. First of all the classrooms did not have doors or even windows. Some of them didn't even have roofs at the time.
I sat on the floor with the children to see what it felt like to sit on a hard floor all day but I was uncomfortable after a few minutes and felt sorry for those who had to sit there all day. The floors were rock solid concrete which was full of potholes and dust. Since there weren't even any desks or chairs I felt sorry for the children who had to sit on extremely hard floors all day. When it was boiling hot the sun would shine over the students, burning their skin and when it was raining the classrooms were absolutely soaking! It all took a while to sink in...
I didn’t think the schools would’ve been like this. It was heart-rending to think that children had to attend school without having breakfast. It must have been tough to concentrate all day in the scorching weather that they had.
Later on that day I had a chance to play with some of the children and I managed to learn a bit of Swahili. I had noticed that some of the children were not wearing any shoes.
This again was saddening, walking bare foot all day on some of the objects which were extremely harming. I asked my mum if I could give them my pair of shoes and some of the toys that I brought with me. I was amazed at how they all fought over a few toys.
It made me realise how much they wanted those toys which made me feel blessed and happy. Overtime I finally thought of ways in which I could make myself useful. I started helping them by giving them stationery, clothes, toys, first aid kits etc.
It pained me watching young children having to do such hard tasks. They had to fetch really heavy buckets of water which are not clean and carry it on their heads. On the other hand there were some children that didn't even have parents in which ended up in them having to look after their younger siblings.
After my experience I managed to share my story with my Primary school St.Thomas. I am glad that the project hand managed to grow, thanks to The Wales Africa Community Link, St Thomas Primary School and St Thomas Library for being a massive part of this project.