9-year-old from Mississauga inspires others to volunteer in community

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In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading up to Ontario's first lockdown, Hana Fatima and her father noticed an elderly woman waiting in a long lineup while they were grocery shopping one day.

Fatima, a nine-year-old from Mississauga, asked her dad if they could help carry the elderly woman's grocery bags to her car.

“When I helped her, she was really happy," Fatima said.

"Then I got home and told my family. I then remembered some seniors on my street, and I asked my parents if we could go help them. They were really happy.”

Fatima said her desire to help was sparked by thoughts of her grandparents and how they would have been struggling at the onset of the pandemic.

Little did she know her simple acts of kindness would lead to the creation of the Good Neighbour Project, a network of more than 6,000 volunteers across Ontario who speak more than 30 languages and have committed to delivering groceries and other supplies to elderly or vulnerable people in their neighbourhoods.

“After (helping elderly people in her neighbourhood), my dad posted on Facebook about how we were helping seniors on our street.”

Fatima's father, Tariq Syed, said more than 600 people responded to the Facebook post wanting to help within 24 hours. Thousands of people from the GTA, London and Ottawa have since signed up and helped the Good Neighbour Project grow.

Syed said he's proud of her daughter for thinking of others first during a time of crisis.

“(The pandemic) was something we’d never experienced and we had no idea how to navigate through it," he said. "I was more concerned about myself, my family, but then Hana saw that person in the store.”

Syed said there are volunteers who have made hundreds of deliveries since signing up. Along with delivering groceries, volunteers have also helped those in need pick up medicine, helped food banks deliver food to clientele and helped churches and mosques deliver hot meals to the homeless through the winter.

The efforts of the Good Neighbour Project has earned them kudos from a number of GTA mayors, including Bonnie Crombie, Patrick Brown and John Tory.