By Laetitia Lemin
In this new series, Shanghai Mamas features some of the amazing people within our community. You may have seen their names in WeChat and now you can learn a bit more about them and what makes them thrive in Shanghai.
Our first feature is of the one and only, Nikki Malek. Nikki has been in the Shanghai Mamas community for 4 years and has always been willing to help out from our Family Day events to monthly spa days at Subconscious Spa. She is the organizer of the infamous Puxi Mamas Night Out Group (but all Mamas are welcome, of course) and she, along with her husband, recently spearheaded the highly successful Lebanon Relief Event. Her insatiable enthusiasm, love of a good party, and her ability to be such a present mom is why we love her so much!
I am Lebanese / American and grew up in the US. My husband, who is also Lebanese, and I moved to Shanghai almost 4 years ago from Germany. We were so excited to embark on a new adventure and our girls were about 2 ½ years and 7 months old at the time.
Before moving to Shanghai I did a Google search and the Shanghai Mamas community and website popped up. I posted that I’d be in Shanghai for our look and see and received a message inviting me over for a play date. This meeting would forever imprint the expat vibe of welcome and help that makes up Shanghai mamas. I met with a real expat mama who advised on where to live, how to get groceries, the coffee meetups with Shanghai mamas, etc. So when I did end up moving to Shanghai, I went to those coffee meetups and made my first friends. It was such a lifesaver in those first few months when I didn’t know anyone.
There’s a saying that there’s a Wechat group for everything and in the last couple of years I’ve embraced this! I like to help people find their Shanghai way by adding them into groups they might be interested in. Along the way a friend and I started an Arrivals and QuaranTEAM group which snowballed due to so many people requiring up to date information as to how to return to China as well as how to quarantine after they’ve returned. I often tell my girls to “be a helper” and making these groups and connecting people is what makes me happy while helping others is my goal.
When the explosions happened in the port of Beirut on the 4th of August my husband Jalil and I watched the news and were horrified by the stories we were hearing of family members, friends, and friends of friends who were pulled from collapsed buildings, losing their homes and businesses. Lebanon had already been in dire straits, due to an economic depression for a number of reasons and their tourist-dependent economy was obliterated by COVID-19. So when the explosion occurred, we kept asking ourselves “who will help them”? And how?” It’s such a complex country and so immediately we knew two things: 1. We had to do something 2. It must go towards apolitical means.
I contacted Shanghai Mamas as they have always been, and continue to be, my first go to. I also contacted a friend who works in the media world of Shanghai, business owners and friends who have held fundraisers, admins of key Wechat groups that could help get the word out, and a friend who is an absolute wizard at putting together functions and can snazzy an amazing presentation in a mere hour or two. Then I set out to secure a venue!
My husband and I often go to Tacolicious for our date nights. It’s our thing! They have amazing tacos, delicious margaritas, and the staff is always super fun, so we have become friends with the Tacolicious team. They were on board with the idea from day ONE and didn’t hesitate when I asked them if they were interested in hosting a “little” fundraiser.
Can I just say how generous, supportive, and amazing our local Shanghai businesses are?! Not one vendor declined my request! Their generosity will never be forgotten, and people were amazed at the event as we continued calling out prize after prize.
The relief event was a gathering of new and old friends. It was amazing to see everyone coming together, sitting together (even if they didn’t know each other) chatting and laughing. I love that it brought people together. We had a band, Sarah and Ismael, who were magical and played pro bono. The ever-amazing Ned Kelley from That’s Shanghai was our MC, and he rocked it from start to finish. We also couldn’t have done the event without the creative skills of SHAHLA, who designed our beautiful flyers and Laura Gagea (Sweetshop) who donated funds for our photographer.
We ended up raising 105,251.41 RMB! Three weeks ago we had no idea we would raise this much!!! Our personal goal was one or two thousand USD, but we had assured ourselves that even if we didn’t reach this goal, it would be okay because the effort was from our hearts. So we were quite awestruck when we were doing the calculations that equalled about 15,000 USD!!!
The funds will go to three apolitical NGOs who are long standing pillars in the Lebanese communities. Some of the funds will go towards helping the elderly with housing, medical care, and meals. They are helping to rebuild houses, assisting with relocation, and providing nutritious meals. The NGOs also provide psychological support to Lebanese people, which can be a huge taboo in the Middle East. Now since the explosions, the need is much more amplified.
Hope and solidarity are what make us different. This is what makes us human. As long as we have the support of wonderful and generous friends in Shanghai, we believe we can truly make a difference in the lives of people around the world.