Two Rihanna fans inspired to fundraise for COVID-19 relief

In times of crisis, people from all kinds of walks of life come together to help out those who are less fortunate than they are.

That’s the case with Arizona State University student Wissam Melhem and incoming college freshman Kareem El Manawhly.

Both of them were inspired by Rihanna, who has been donating to organizations around the world with her “Clara Lionel Foundation,” which was started by the singer in 2012 in honor of her grandparents.

Motivated by the singer’s efforts, Manawhly and Melhem took to social media to encourage fellow fans of Rihanna to come together and raise money for the Clara Lionel Foundation with the #NavyPullUp and a GoFundMe link that would later be donated to directly to the CLF website.

So far, the fundraiser has gathered $4,574 and was noticed on social media by the CLF Twitter account, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and rapper Cardi B.

Q: How did the fundraiser get started?

Wissam Melhem: Kareem is one of my best friends on Twitter and he reached out and asked if I’d like to help him organize some type of fundraiser to help Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation. Both of us are huge fans of her and we were all pretty impressed with how quick and responsive the Foundation has been in helping organizations combat the coronavirus. We started working on the fundraiser and decided to do it through GoFundMe Charity, which would allow people to directly donate to her foundation, while allowing us to track how much we raised. We came up with a hashtag #FundCLFParty to increase visibility to the fundraiser and made sure to collaborate with some of her fan pages to make sure the fundraiser is seen by as many people as possible.

Kareem El Manawhly: I’ve always been inspired by the foundation’s efforts to help those in need, and how they’re always at the forefront of almost every humanitarian crisis in recent years. It instilled a strong trust within me that they’re always doing the right things at the right times, so starting this fundraiser with Wissam was really a no brainer for me. It had to be done. Especially since there really isn’t any other time where they needed support the most. Every dollar really does help right now.

Q: Did you expect the fundraiser to get noticed by people like Jack and Cardi B?

WM: Our intentions for the fundraiser was not to get noticed or acknowledged by celebrities or influencers. We worked really hard on the fundraiser because we really wanted to help others in a time when they needed it the most. And we’ve seen the Clara Lionel Foundation doing that work actively. So we wanted to give a chance to the Navy to donate to her foundation as a token of appreciation and to show her that we acknowledge what you’re doing and we want to continue supporting your efforts. But, as soon as we launched the fundraiser, we hit our initial $1,000 goal in 19 minutes and $2,000 in 40 minutes so we realized that this could be much bigger than just the Navy. And that’s when we tried spreading and sharing the fundraiser even more to see how much we can end up raising for a good cause. That’s when the Foundation itself thanked us for our efforts and the tweet was then retweeted by Jack Dorsey. Soon after, Cardi B liked a tweet of someone promoting the fundraiser. And so, we never in a million years expected it to get noticed it on that level. I personally never thought we would reach almost $5,000 when we first started doing this. I was convinced we would reach our initial $1,000 but I thought that would be the maximum number we could reach.

KEM: I didn’t expect that to happen at all. Just like how I didn’t expect us to even reach our goal of $1000, because it did seem impossible considering how we’re all collectively suffering financially right now in our own ways. Cardi B and Jack have both helped CLF with their missions in the past so it wasn’t that much of a surprise to me that they showed support for this. It was only a pleasant shock. A grateful shock. The fact that we we able to surpass our goal and reach a solid $4500, has by far been the most shocking to me. The power of our unity shocked me more than any of our celebrity acknowledgements. The Navy’s unity overshadowed everything for me, and it’s what I’m most grateful for at the end of the day.

Q: if you got to choose where the money would go, what organization would you guys pick and why?

WM: I like the fact that the Clara Lionel Foundation spreads the money among many organizations in the U.S. and globally. But, if I had to choose one organization it would be Give Directly because I like the fact that it directly sends money to low-income families in need – especially in a time when a lot of people are in need of any assistance. But that’s just my personal opinion.

KEM: I don’t think it matters to me that much where the money goes. As long as the money is in CLF’s hands I know it will be put to good use. I know it’s going to save lives. Any help is good help. That’s how much I trust the foundation and how much I trust Rihanna.

Q: What other ways do you think college-aged people can help with the COVID-19 Pandemic relief effort?

WM: I know that a lot of college students did not receive a stimulus check from the government and I know a lot of us are struggling financially amidst a global pandemic. It’s why this fundraiser was so special to me because people came together, a lot of them college-aged, and donated money when we’re in such unprecedented times. I’d like to follow a quote Rihanna said when she was receiving her Humanitarian Award at Harvard University. She said that her grandma used to tell her, ‘if you got a dollar, there’s plenty to share’ and that quote has always rung in my head. Sometimes, we believe donating such small amounts doesn’t make a difference but in a pandemic – every single dollar is necessary and is helpful. I understand donating money is not an option for some, but there are always other ways to help out. Choose a local food bank you can send that dollar to or volunteer at, help out domestic violence shelters or even volunteer to shop for the elderly who are an at-risk population.

KEM: I urge college aged people to take this pandemic opportunity to dive into their own potential humanitarianism a little bit more. To get more in touch with who they are on a deeper level. To be more compassionate, to be more sympathetic. To think of others more. To give. To urge others to give. I didn’t know how easy it was to make my friends and family donate to a charity until I tried it out myself. I’m pretty sure everyone has at least 5 people in their lives who would be willing to contribute anything to a charity. If every one of us could do this, and we did this often, we would truly change the world.

The GoFundMe page can be found here.