Fariha Quraishi is making ripples, after she had her hair shaved and dyed in rainbow pride colours to raise awareness of refugees in Greece fleeing persecution because they are gay.
Fariha has not only had her hair shaved off and coloured, she has set herself a year of personal challenges to raise as much money as possible for The Ripple Effect, a charity set up by three women who have tirelessly raised cash for goods, medicines and toiletries, which they take out to refugee camps in Greece and Serbia from Lancaster and Liverpool.
She also wants to raise money for the children in refugee camps. She says: “No child should live in a camp. I would like to help by raising money that can be used to buy toys and books for the children who through no fault of their own are forced to live in refugee camps.
“They specifically need nit medication for children, as that is rife in the camps. Also inflatable footballs – the kids are so bored, there is not much equipment, so they can have a game of football.”
Fariha says: “I’m not very good at asking for money. This is a local charity I got involved with. I gave myself a year but I didn’t know what to do.
“My challenge is to raise the money but you can challenge me to do something and I will try and fulfil that.
“People came up with not having alcohol for six months. I set one for myself to have no crisps and to learn the cyrillic alphabet.
“Getting my hair shaved and dyed in the rainbow pride colours was another.
“We take things for granted, for instance we can have a pride march and nothing will happen.
“My hair took five hours and I had it done by Natalie Hamilton at Hamilton Hair in Lancaster.
“She put me at ease. She used special sponges to put the hearts on the back of my hair. Natalie got the maximum amount of hair together.
“I’ve donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust, I did a little bundle of hair and popped it in the post.”
Fariha, 43, from Caton, who manages the witness service at Lancaster and Blackpool Magistrates’ Courts, was worried turning up in court with rainbow shaven hair would be a problem.
She says: “I just thought ‘how are the judges going to react when they see my hair like this?
“What are they going to say? It was a big fear for me and how people would react as well. I asked my employers for advice and I thought they would say no. They said ‘we believe in diversity’.”
She has also had positive reactions from members of the public.
She says: “I went into town today and people were smiling and saying ‘your hair looks so awesome.’
“I could walk up Ben Nevis, but that wouldn’t be as open or visual.
“I want that conversation about the refugees and telling them what people are going through. and what they have to suffer.”
“It is so cold without hair, I’m having to wear a hat because its freezing.
“I’m amazed at people generosity. People are on minimum wage but still give.
“People I know have been so supportive emotionally and financially.
“It has reinforced to me how wonderful the people of Morecambe and Lancaster are, they have been so kindhearted and generous.”
As well as shaving and dyeing her hair, Fariha has also set herself other challenges.
She said: “My year long challenge, for those people who know me is a true feat of willpower, is not to eat crisps for an entire year.
“My other challenges to date, set by friends, are: shave my hair to a stubble and get it dyed Rainbow Pride colours; (which I’ve already done), no alcohol for six months, cycle 120 miles, learn the cyrillic alphabet and read Plainsong by Kent Haruf.
“I’m asking for different challenges, slightly more personal to me.
“I have ME so I can’t do a lot of exercise in one go. I could do 120 miles on my bike over a period of time.
“No matter how small, you can challenge me.
“I know people don’t have a lot of money so they should be able to have a say in what I do.
“I crocheted bookmarks and made bath bombs which I sold at Halton fun day.My evenings are spent in the kitchen making bath bombs and bath salts and crocheting.
“It’s amazing when you can find something you really want to do. I can fit five minutes slots in through the day.
“Even though I feel tired the positive comments are good and every little bit helps. I’ve got to keep going.”
Fariha was moved to raise money for the charity The Ripple Effect after she met the founder Carole Roberts, a property agent whose son lives in Greece. Ripple Effect was eventually founded just over three years ago, when Carole was first made aware of the harrowing situation by her son Ian.
While working in Greece he witnessed the shocking scenes of Syrian families arriving on overcrowded boats with no warm clothing or food and soaking wet and cold after a nine-hour journey from Turkey. Carole was moved after hearing about the desperation of these refugees and knew she just had to do something to help.
She said: “We were completely devastated by the way they were being treated. We can’t do everything to improve our world, but this is something we knew we could achieve”
Carole, Julie and Maria Ward, along with the help of people from Lancaster and Liverpool, have been travelling to the Greek islands and Serbia where many refugees are unable to leave due to the closure of borders to them.
The three ladies first started collecting clothing in December 2015, along with the help of family and friends who rallied around both in Lancaster and Liverpool and collected aid, which was then sent on to Greece. The support and assistance they have given, has helped the Ripple Effect to become such a success.
The meeting with Carole was the catalyst for Fariha to try and raise money for the refugees.
Fariha says: “There are so many people seeking refuge in other countries because of the persecution because they are gay.
“I live in a country where I have the option, I can be who I am, I don’t have to live a lie because the penalty is death.
“Being gay isn’t a choice. As a human we are so used to having a choice.
“I keep reminding myself how lucky I am. People in the camps in Greece have nothing, food, clothes, etc. There are so many people still in the camps in Greece. I cannot imagine having to flee for my life. I can only try and raise a little money to try and help those who have suffered unbelievable hardship.
“If there is something you would pay to see me do (within reason) then set me a challenge and I will try to do it for a donation.” The challenges will continue until July 15, 2019.
Fariha has set up a facebook fundraising page so people can contact her with a challenge and she can post updates of her progress.
She says: “That way people don’t have to give me the money until they know I have completed the challenge.”
n Set Fariha a challenge at https://www.facebook.com/Farihachallenge.
For more information about The Ripple Effect, which is a registered charity, visit www.therippleeffect.info. The charity always welcomes volunteers to collect and sort aid.