© Waring Abbott / Getty Images

A very worthwhile use for crowdfunding.

Mike Pomranz
April 21, 2017

For most chefs, seeing your photo on the front page of the New York Times Food section would be a dream come true. But even though that actually happened for Kabir Ahmed this week, he has a much humbler dream: taking his family on a Caribbean cruise. And thanks to some charitable strangers, that one looks like it’s going to come true too.

Despite his new NYT cred, Ahmed isn’t some celebrity chef or hip Brooklyn restauranteur. The 46-year-old who immigrated to New York from Bangladesh 23 years ago owns and runs a small halal food cart in downtown Manhattan near the World Trade Center. Times reporter Tejal Rao delved into Ahmed’s life for her piece “A Day in the Life of a Food Vendor,” which mostly focuses on just how tough running a food cart can be.

Still, even though his work is fraught with struggle, Ahmed’s tale comes across as heartwarming: a hard-working family man who makes good food and loves funny Internet videos. His positive portrayal makes the conclusion to Rao’s article that much more endearing. “Last week, [his wife] suggested that they plan a Caribbean cruise for the six of them instead” of their usual trip to visit relatives, Rao wrote. “Mr. Ahmed didn’t think they could afford that kind of vacation… [but] he’d been thinking about it all the same. What would it be like to go on a cruise, he wondered. To board a big ship with your family, to vacation as they do in the movies, to fall asleep at night without setting an alarm.”

Moved by his story, one reader decided to take matters into her own hands: Jennifer Joan Nelson launched a GoFundMe campaign, “A Caribbean Cruise for Kabir Ahmed.” “Everybody deserves a vacation, but especially the hard working folks who keep us fed,” Nelson wrote on its page. “Wouldn't it be awesome to help this family make some memories? Let's make this dream come true.” Sure enough, generous crowdfunders are coming through.  As of writing, the campaign has already seen donations from 189 people, raising over $4,000 in just two days – well past Nelson’s original $3,000 goal.

But just because the goal has already been reached doesn’t mean you can’t read Ahmed’s story and consider chipping in a few extra bucks yourself. Everyone knows a cruise isn’t a cruise unless you have a bit of extra spending money for souvenirs.