Naz Rayani lives and breathes putting others before himself.
Even as he lay fighting for his life in a hospital bed last year, the longtime Victoria resident and Cadboro Bay pharmacist made phone call after phone call and raised $20,000 for the annual World Partnership Walk to help the world’s poorest people.
“I’m sure his (hospital) roommates were a little tired of all the phone calls he was making,” said Yasmine, his wife of 40 years.
Rayani has participated in the May 29 walk since its inception in 1988, and organized the event for 15 years until this year – a sampling of his volunteerism for which he was awarded the Order of Canada in 2006.
Rayani was too ill to walk in the event last year, though he cheered on participants at Beacon Hill Park. Little did he know he would soon suffer two near-fatal strokes and receive a heart valve replacement.
“(Doctors) are amazed at what he’s survived,” Yasmine said.
Since leaving hospital last October and undergoing months of physiotherapy, Rayani has defied the odds by training for the round trip between Beacon Hill Park and Clover Point.
“I feel fit,” Rayani said. “I’ve been walking 40 minutes a day. I can’t wait for it.”
Last year’s event drew nearly 3,000 people and raised more than $260,000 – the most ever – for the Ottawa-based non-profit Aga Khan Foundation, which supports social development programs that tackle poverty in Asian and African countries, such as Kenya where Rayani is from.
This year, he has already sent out 2,000 emails asking for support, and has raised about $15,000.
“The fact that he wanted to do this is a no-brainer,” said Yasmine. “It’s his first love.”
The World Partnership Walk happens May 29. Free registration begins at 10 a.m. at the Cameron bandshell at Beacon Hill Park. The walk is from 11 a.m. to noon, followed by lunch. For information or a pledge book, please visit www.worldpartnershipwalk.com/victoria.