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Features

Making Dreams Come True: The Little Rascals of Iran

January 7, 2016
Shima Shahrabi
6 min read
The famous Mahdis and her shopping excursion
The famous Mahdis and her shopping excursion
Mahdis' wish was to be famous
Mahdis' wish was to be famous
Mahdis and one of her "bodyguards"
Mahdis and one of her "bodyguards"
The famous Mahdis on Christmas Day
The famous Mahdis on Christmas Day

Mahdis is nine years old, and like many other children, she wishes for fame, and for people to recognize her on the street, ask for her signature and stand in line to take their photograph with her. She has also a life-threatening, hard-to-cure disease.

But now Mahdis’ wish has come true. Photos of her are doing the rounds on social networks, and her popularity has made the news.

On the last Friday in December, when Mahdis was getting into the car to accompany her parents to a party, she had no idea that her dreams would come true before the night was over.  A few days before, a group going by the name of “Little Rascals” (“Voroojaka” in Persian) had prepared the grounds to fulfil Mahdis’ biggest wish. 

Little Rascals was set up a year ago by a group of young and imaginative people who wanted to make wishes come true for children with hard-to-cure diseases. “For years now, all around the world people have formed groups to make such children happy,” Hadi, a member of the Little Rascals told IranWire. “Little Rascals was formed with exactly that idea in mind. It helps realize the wishes of these children by providing them with moments, and perhaps hours, of joy.”

The idea took shape in the “start-up” lab of Tehran’s  Sharif University of Technology. It began its activities after months of research and consultation with psychologists, physicians and charities.

The “Little Rascal” or “Voroojaka” moniker protects the identities of the children who want their wishes to be granted. For Iranians, “Voroojaka” is a reminder of the German children television series Master Eder and His Pumuckl, shown on TV in Iran and popular in the 1980s and 1990s. The main character, Pumuckl, was only visible by one other character in the show, becoming invisible when others approached. The Little Rascals website borrows substantially from the German animation.

“The site is a tool for getting people’s support. It doesn't directly grant wishes,” Hadi explained. “This group only gathers the children’s wishes and presents them on voroojaka.org.  Anybody who wants to can grant these wishes.”

People who come to the site to grant wishes for the children are called “wishing angels” or “fairy godmothers and godfathers.”

“The fairy godparents are our own people — you or I or a group of people can fulfil a child’s wish,” Hadi said. “When someone presses the ‘Accept Wish’ button they are then in direct contact with the Little Rascals and they can coordinate with the group.”

Hadi emphasized that the group does not receive any money and only asks fairy godmothers or godfathers to grant wishes they are able to fulfill. “We want to provide these children with joy. From the start, there was never an intention of making money. To pay for expenses, we are looking for other sources like sponsors, advertising and e-commerce, but not from the fairy godparents.” 

 

Bodyguards and a Silver Mercedes

According to Mehr News agency, nine-year-old Mahdis’ fairy godparents are a group of bodyguards from a personal security company called Concept. The company trains and offers the services of personal bodyguards to the public, the only company of its kind in Iran. Its director is Mehdi Safaei, a world-class kickboxing champion. After consulting with Mahdis’ father and doctor, Concept decided to surprise Mahdis and make her wish come true. 

On the last Friday in December — Christmas Day — Mahdis’ family told her they were all going to a party. She reluctantly got into the car. The bodyguards and a silver Mercedes were waiting for her at a prearranged location. Her father stopped the car and pretended to inquire about an address. Two well-dressed and tall men approached the car and acted as if they were extremely excited to meet Mahdis. They asked her to come with them. Mahdis had not idea what was going on and looked at her mother and sister with a look of surprise. When her mother gave her an approving smile, she got out of the car and went with the two men dressed in black. They give her a purple and pink half-mask to protect her identity.

The bodyguards were careful to keep photographers and cameramen at a safe distance from Mahdis. The men in black opened the door of the silver Mercedes for her. Mahdis was too surprised to talk. Perhaps she couldn't believe that her wish was being granted. Photographers snapped photos, trying to their best to record every movement of the little lady. Passing cars slowed down, and passengers peeked through the windows in the hope of spotting a celebrity.

The first stop for Mahdis and her bodyguards was a shopping center, where she was told she could select a full wardrobe. Shoppers approached her and asked the bodyguards questions like “is she the president’s granddaughter?” or “Is she related to the Supreme Leader?” This was only part of Mahdis’ dream day.

 

The Four Types of Wishes

I asked Hadi how possible it was that all the wishes of these children could be granted. “Primarily, the group tries to fulfil wishes that are not about material things,” Hadi said. “We are in constant contact with psychologists and social workers to decide which wishes can be granted, and in what way, to make sure that no harm can come to the sick children.

He classifies the wishes into four groups. “Children in the first group wish to be someone — a pilot, a policeman or a doctor,” Hadi explained. “The second group wish to meet a celebrity such as a footballer or a movie star. The third group hope to visit a place, like the seashore or Mashhad. The last group are for those children who have wishes for other people — for example: ‘I wish my father could find a job.’”

The Little Rascals site is filled with little beautiful wishes — from asking for painting supplies to travelling to Mashhad, going to school or even owning a heater.

Now Mahdis’ photographs are everywhere online — a young, famous little girl standing next to her bodyguards with a huge smile on her face that can be seen even though she wears a mask.

 

Some other examples of wishes on the voroojaka.org site are below: 

1) Little Rascal’s Name: Kian

Age: 14

Wish: I wish one day I could be a good policeman! I have had leukemia for the past few months. But I know that hard days are not going to last. ☺

2) Little Rascal’s Name: Hana

Age: 3

Wish: I wish I had painting supplies. I have had leukemia for some time but I also have God ☺. I love to paint.

3) Little Rascal’s Name: Aida

Age: 12

Wish: I wish to go with my mother to the shrine of Imam Reza. I have leukemia but I know good days are coming ☺. I miss Mashhad

 

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