A family female-only boating team took to Fairlop Waters in Essex, to compete in the third annual Al-Noor Dragon Boat Race to raise money for the Imran Khan Cancer Appeal in memory of their beloved elder.

Muhammed Mehboob Ahmed was a proud father, son, husband, brother, uncle, and friend to so many people in his life. He was also a soon-to-be grandfather to his first grandchild before he died on 13 March 2021 after a courageous and short battle to cancer.

Diagnosed on the first night of Ramadan 2020, Mr Mehboob Ahmed contracted a rare form of heart cancer and passed away at barely over fifty years of age.

Three generations of Mr Mehboob Ahmed’s family joined in on the race to raise money for charity,

During his fight with cancer, his wife, two children and daughter in law, took care of him. Due to the pandemic, his extended family including siblings, nieces and nephews could only watch him from distance due to Covid restrictions and his vulnerability due to his cancer. They stopped outside the home while he waved from his window, watching him fade away and unable to do anything except pray for him.

Mehboob Ahmed came to the UK from Pakistan at a young age like many to work, study and support a family back home in Pakistan. He eventually settled down and lived a happy and fulfilling but relatively short life with his wife and children in the UK.

He was an extremely hard-working young man like so many from his generation. He happily strived for a good life for his family. He was always there for anyone who needed help.

During this time, he was blessed to attend the first cricket match held in the UK by Imran Khan to launch and support the Imran Khan Cancer Hospital which has been providing free cancer treatment to people in Pakistan since 1994.

Dragon race boating is becoming increasingly popular in Britain. Image by Akshay Chauhan

Although his family could do little to assist during his illness, they recalled his passion for the cause and decided to raise funds to finance a new treatment room for the hospital in Lahore – as Sadaqa Jaariya for Mehboob Ahmed.

The family members jumped at the chance to launch the fundraising initiative by participating in the Annual Al-Noor Dragon Boat Race. They excitedly put together a team of female family members ranging in age from 11 to over 50 years. The team was named by his wife, AMI’s Dragons.

The annual Al-Noor Boat Race is an event which has been established by the Al-Noor Foundation in the Summer of 2018, at Fairlop Waters in the London Borough of Redbridge.

The event is open to all schools, faith groups, charities, and corporate organisations. The event aims to unite the community whereby individuals, families and organisations can raise money for charitable causes which are close to their hearts, by simply registering for a boat and participating in the race.

Dragon Boat racing is something that is growing in popularity in the UK. A dragon boat is a human-powered watercraft originating from the Pearl River Delta region of China’s southern Guangdong Province. The boats used in the raced accommodated up to 17 riders and were provided by a specialist dragon boat company for competitors to use.

On Saturday 20 August 2021, AMI’s Dragons competed in the annual boat race which consisted of over 120 teams with over 50 charities registered, raising more than £350,000 for charity.

AMI’s Dragons, were the only family team at the event, made up of three generations of Mehboob Ahmed’s family, including his wife, sisters, nieces, and grandnieces. Half of the team were under 19-years-old, passionate to compete for their late great uncle.

The family team did very well, placing in the qualifying races. Image by Rolf Lindstrom.

His newborn grandson was also there to witness the event and his smile encouraged his recently widowed and grieving grandmother to participate in the race.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the team of ambitious youngsters and novices achieved 2nd place, 1st place, and 2nd place again in the qualifying races. They amazingly qualified as the 3rd fastest team to reach the women’s final.

Although they did not win the final race, AMI’s Dragons won many hearts that day rowing as the only family team consisting of three generations of a family, only motivated to raise Sadaqa Jaariya for the late Mehboob Ahmed.

They had a target of £15,000 of which approximately £11,000 was raised through people who supported them in the boat race.

However, the fundraising is still ongoing to achieve the final target of £15,000 to complete the construction of the new treatment room where so many underprivileged people, many of them children, will continue to be treated in Pakistan.

To donate to the cause, you can visit here.