Above and Beyond: A Coast Guardsman’s Charity Abroad

By Petty Officer 2nd Class Nick Ameen

MIAMI – Life for a Coast Guard machinery technician (MK) aboard an 87-foot patrol boat homeported in Miami Beach, Fla., is demanding enough.

But Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Vega, an MK stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Dolphin, is going above and beyond his already hectic schedule.

When he’s not underway catching drug runners and migrant smugglers, Vega spends his time helping those in need. He is the vice president and co-founder of the non-profit organization Qyyum Sisters Shine-A-Light.

Vega and his girlfriend Jasmin, both 21, along with her sisters Soraya, 18, and Sammie, 16, started the foundation to be of service to those who are less fortunate. Their first project: help a girls’ orphanage and a mental asylum in the Colombian capital of Bogota by collecting a variety of goods, including clothes, educational toys, school supplies and financial donations. The financial donations are crucial, since they will go toward shipping costs. They’re also accepting empty plastic bottles and aluminum cans, which recycling centers pay for.

“Everybody deserves a chance,” said Vega. “Everybody deserves to have some good luck in their life. Everybody deserves an opportunity to better themselves and to just be able to live happy.”

Vega and the Qyyum sisters are collecting goods until Nov. 15. From Nov. 24-28, they’ll travel to Colombia, a trip funded by donations and personal savings. Jasmin’s family in Colombia will help distribute the donations to the orphanage and the asylum.

Vega, a Miami Beach native, will use earned time off from work for the voyage. But they’re not stopping there; a charity drive focused on Bangladesh is already in the works for the future. In fact, the Qyyum Sisters Shine-A-Light organization is named for Jasmin’s father, Mohammed Qyyum, who was born in Bangladesh. He died from lymphoma cancer July 21, 2007, just two days after Vega left for boot camp at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J.

“He was always helping out everybody that he could,” said Vega. “He brought [his daughters] up to always do good and help out the less fortunate.”

Vega follows that tradition of helping others while remaining devoted to duty within the Coast Guard.

“He’s definitely a stand-up guy,” said Lt. j.g. Kenneth Franklin, commanding officer of the cutter Dolphin. “He’s always trying to do the right thing, and this is one of those instances.”

Franklin, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., took command of the Dolphin July 28 and has since gotten to know Vega.

“On the job, as an MK, he has to figure out what has to be done, what needs to be tightened, what pumps need replacing,” said Franklin. “But with this, it’s ingrained in him that the right thing is to get down there and help people in need and give back.”

The Qyyum Sisters Shine-A-Light organization may be in its infancy, but the idea is as old as humanity: do good, help others, try to make the world a better place.

To find out how to help, call 786-493-2450.

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