While the nation battles Covid-19 on all fronts, the pandemic has brought out the worst in most of us. Most of us are busy complaining about the challenges that come with the month-old lockdown while others are questioning why the government is ‘putting up’ with the hundreds of migrant workers who are the most vulnerable to the rapidly spreading disease. Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms are full of desperate posts asking for necessities with the pandemic hitting our economy hard.

Such mind-numbing negativity is just what two students from Male’ set out to conquer armed with their very own humanitarian movement, ‘The Avatteri Initiative’.

In an interview with ‘The Press’, founders of the initiative 21-year-old Fathimath Meeshan Ismail and 20-year-old Mariyam Yan’a Tholal said they witnessed the negativity on social media regarding the pandemic and was inspired to combat that, and bring back positivity, kindness, compassion, and generosity.

Qualities the Maldivian community once thrived upon but now are slowly disappearing in a highly politicalized society.

Meeshan explained that growing up she always heard stories about the way the entire neighborhood used to be friends. It was a time when the community came together just to arrange meals out on the streets, regardless of political stance or social status. It was a time when neighborliness and good manners went a long way. A world youngsters like Meeshan were unfortunate to witness.

But those redeeming qualities have been ingrained into these two friends who share a love for good food, fundraising, and community work.

Meeshan who is studying International Business at Taylor’s College Malaysia, and Yana, who is a Psychology major at HELP university in Malaysia, launched the ‘Avatteri Initiative’ on the 1st of Ramadan and has not looked back since.

'Avatteri Initiative' has been coordinating with MRC

They have been busy organizing Ramadan meals for the less than fortunate in these difficult times by partnering with several local restaurants including Mamak MV, Papa Sams, Alfredo, and Pickles as well as their anonymous partners. They have made themselves the bridge between Maldives Red Crescent and local do-gooders looking to provide a helping hand to those desperately in need for such generosity. These include migrant workers as well as local families stricken down by the economic uncertainties of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The youngsters have also been encouraging fellow citizens to donate care packages to those in need and inspiring others to follow in their footsteps.

Call for contributions were well received

The Avatteri Initiative has been using the technology for better use during the lockdown amid the spread of the virus. They have had an online movie night and also initiated a photo challenge via twitter, both well received by their followers.

We have also been promoting ways to keep in touch with neighbors, even while self-isolating. That means creating a new normal for our community, by using technology to our advantage. We have had an online movie night recently, and we hope to have more events like this soon too
Yana, Co-Founder of Avatteri Initiative
A weekly challenge for their followers

Both the founders claim that they have been overwhelmed by the response they have received since the launch of the initiative. Meeshan explained that their simple idea has now turned into something on a larger scale by the massive support they received from the local restaurants to the sheer amount of donations they got from their partners.

Avatteri Initiative has been collaborating with local restaurants

They have had the chance to witness the Maldivian community band together in the face of a worthy adversary like Covid-19, which has brought the mightiest of countries to their knees.

We've also received so many incredible submissions to our weekly challenges, as well as tangible proof that our efforts are making a difference, such as people sending pictures of care packages they've given to and received from neighbors. We were also really honored that the UN reached out to us, it wasn't something we expected but it was definitely something we really appreciated!
Meeshan, Co Founder of Avatteri Initiative
A care package from a citizen inspired by the youngsters

What is more amazing is that these two inspiring young ladies have been coordinating all these efforts while being on two different time zones. Yana is back in Malaysia while Meeshan is here in Male’. They said that this was one of their biggest challenges as it takes a lot of constant communication back and forth from both of them to keep their operation running smoothly.

Meeshan also noted that since both of them are full-time college students, it is difficult to juggle all the balls in the air, that too in a pandemic.

But these seem trivial compared to the aspirations they have for their initiative.

Yana and Meeshan want to register ‘The Avatteri Initiative’ as an NGO as soon as possible. They aim to create even a bigger impact on a larger scale and are ready to expand their team to achieve this dream.

The Avatteri Initiative logo

Right now their initiative is only active in the Greater Male’ area, but the two friends want to leave their mark on other parts of the countries by collaborating with other regions of the Maldives.

They also added that the UN Mission in the Maldives had presented the possibility of working with them on future events, which will open more doors for the youngsters.

No matter how the future pans out for them, one thing is for sure; Yana and Meeshan have heeded the nation’s cry for help in the most beautiful way possible. They have utilized their tech-savvy talents for better use instead of wasting time making Tick Tock videos like most youngsters today.

Yana and Meeshan have shown that you just have to build up the courage to stand up and attempt to make a difference, no matter how small that difference may be.