She was loved and followed by hundreds of thousands of people after she shared a video asking for help to save her brother's life.
Afra Rafeeq was a 16-year-old Indian girl. Very few people in America or Europe will be familiar with her name. However, in her country she was a very popular face on social networks. She was loved and followed by hundreds of thousands of people, but her fame wasn’t due to wealth, beauty, or controversy: she became famous after posting a video on YouTube asking for help to save her brother’s life.
Afra suffered from a degenerative and often fatal disease called spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Treatment was inaccessible for her, since a single dose of the drug she would need, Zolgensma, costs $2.2 million. Yes, you read that right: a single dose (which is the full course of treatment). Moreover, it had to be imported from the United States to India.
But everything changed in Afra’s life last year when doctors diagnosed her little brother Muhammed with the same disease in 2021. She was 15 years old and the disease had progressed beyond treatment. However, she wasn’t about to sit idly by and let little Muhammed suffer. So, she decided to record a video on YouTube to ask for help. And she got it! She was even called “India’s star” because of how famous and loved she was.
Afra’s video raised more than $4.5 million. The amount was so high that Afra’s sister was forced to thank the donors and explain that no more money was needed. In the end, the proceeds provided medicine for her little brother and two other children with the same disease. The rest of the money was given to the Kerala government.
Afra died this past August 1. “She got every possible joy out of life,” her father, PK Rafeeq, told the BBC, one of the international news outlets to report her death.
A wise saying sometimes incorrectly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi (but wise indeed) reminds us that when we die we do not take with us what we have kept but what we have given. Afra gave everything for her brother, and that is what she will take to the gates of heaven: a YouTube video and all the love.