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Swim with dolphins, meet Nasrallah: Tammana grants wishes of all kinds

BEIRUT: Struck by grief after the death of her 5-year-old son in a Jet Ski accident seven years ago, Diala Enfil was determined to channel her anger into a positive cause. “I wanted to do something to bring him back,” Enfil says, “I realized I couldn’t, so I established Tammana for Karim – to honor his memory.”

Tammana is a non-profit association that grants the wishes of children with critical illnesses in the hope of providing respite and relief from the difficulties of everyday life, lifting the spirits of the child and their family.

Any child between the ages of 3 to 18 years with a critical illness in Lebanon is eligible for a wish – the organization professes to serve children regardless of national, religious, socio-economic or cultural background.

The small team at Tammana is comprised of two permanent members of staff and 12 volunteers.

Enfil recently closed her graphic design business to focus exclusively on her work with the charity.

“Sometimes we go to the hospitals to look for potential beneficiaries,” Enfil says, adding that over 90 percent of those selected have some form of cancer.

“Other times people call us recommending someone. The best aspect is that doctors have observed a positive change when a wish has been granted. When we started they were skeptical of what we were doing, now they phone us up recommending beneficiaries.”

Tammana currently grants three wishes a week, usually costing in the region of $1,000-$4,000, with sponsorship coming from companies including Persil, Bank Med and Sayfco Holding.

Since the organization started in December 2005, 939 wishes have been granted. Enfil explains that in granting wishes, the organization tries to be limited only by a child’s imagination.

Wishes vary from a desire to have a particular toy, to meeting a celebrity, traveling to a particular place or becoming someone the child hopes to be as an adult – such as a bride or a sports star.

In addition to providing laptop computers and iPads to beneficiaries, Tammana has taken children to swim with dolphins in Dubai, Euro Disney in Paris, and a Manchester United football match in England.

Other beneficiaries have had their wishes granted to meet celebrities and politicians including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Haifa Wehbe, James Blunt, Lebanese President Michel Sleiman and even Hezbollah chief Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah – although Ensil is fairly hush-hush on the logistics of this particular meeting.

Recently one beneficiary who requested an iPod saw Christmas come in mid-September when an abseiling Santa Claus descended from a helicopter to greet her and deliver the gift in Beirut Souks.

“Seventy people worked on the project,” explains Enfil, “all of them for free and Solidere did not charge us either. It was incredibly touching.

“When you see a smile on one of the children’s faces you know you are doing something positive – even if it is only temporary.”

Speaking to The Daily Star, Alain Hochar from Horizon Draft FCB, an advertising agency that collaborated with Tamanna, said: “It was a blessed project because everything came together flawlessly.”

He added that even the Lebanese Army, who had facilitated Santa’s abseil, was highly cooperative.

“I was expecting rigid rules and regulations, [but] they said that for this girl they will do anything,” he said.

Jean-Marc Houri, now 19, traveled to Euro Disney in Paris with Tammana in 2008.

“At the time I had been in hospital for six months. I was bored and uninspired and then suddenly I was in Paris,” Khoury says. “I couldn’t pinpoint any particular aspect of the trip – the whole thing was special. It is difficult to summarize my gratitude to Tammana. There are no words to describe what they do.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 04, 2012, on page 2.

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