As we shuttle around in crowded transport vehicles to get to our exhausting nine-to-five jobs, only to barely scrape enough cash at the end of the month to pay our bills, it’s pretty easy to dream about winning the lottery.
The odds of winning the lottery are around one in 14 million, and statistically, you’re better off dreaming of becoming an Oscar winner or a successful Olympian. However, that doesn’t stop millions of people around the world trying their luck, with around 181 million people in the United States buying at least one lottery ticket per year.
Going from a modest salary to million-dollar riches in such a manner can be a strange experience, but going the other way must be surreal. Mazzi Dumato from Syria had an enviable fortune of $3.1 million and was living like a playboy, but some powerful life experiences helped to change Mazzi’s outlook on life, as he gave away his money for a very good reason.
Originally from Damascus in Syria, 38-year-old Mazzi Dumato made his money in web design, marketing and real estate in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai. Eventually, Mazzi accrued a fortune of over $3 million, and he admitted that everything he “wanted to achieve” was in his grasp. After falling asleep at the wheel, however, Mazzi was involved in a five-car pileup in Dubai, and after a night in jail, the accident forced him to reconsider his outlook on life.
Recounting the moment everything fell apart, he said: “I fell asleep and ended up under a pickup truck … That morning in jail the first person I met there was someone that I knew fifteen years ago. He was the father of one of my good friends in high school. I remember I always looked up to him as he had five cars and a was a big businessman in Dubai.
“This guy arranged for me to have a mattress and a pillow and I remember I sat on that and thought this is all I have right now. Taken away this freedom and all I had was this mattress and pillow and I was just like everyone else in here. I wasn’t that big shot Mazzi that I thought I was the whole time. It was an incredible realisation.”
Humbled after his car crash, Mazzi left jail, and travelled the world unsure of the next step in his life. One day, on a random night out in Brazil, Mazzi came across a woman named Milena, unaware at the time that she would become the love of his life:
“A year after I left Dubai I was in a club in Brazil one night and overheard this woman talking about Africa. She was volunteering in the Congo shortly after she had come out of hospital for leukaemia. She decided that she was going to go and help people. She volunteered at the UN and they sent her to the Congo where she spent a year and could have relapsed at any time. I met this woman just after she had come back and she’s now my wife Milena who has inspired me tremendously at the time. We moved in together and we started to think what we could do.”
Now a happy couple, Mazzi accompanied Milena on one of her humanitarian trips to the Dominican Republic, and that’s when he realised that while he had $3.1 million in the bank, Mazzi’s time was worth so much more:
“Just before we left that village [in the Dominican Republic] the whole village cried for her. This woman really touched so many people from the youngest babies to the oldest people in the village. Everybody loved her, not because of the money she gave them but because of her time. This is when I realised that charity is not about money. It’s about giving your time truly in service to others. We realised that we cannot give our money to charity and we should be doing our own charity.”
Mazzi had found a new life’s purpose, but disaster struck soon afterward. His beloved Milena was diagnosed with cancer, and Mazzi spent $700,000 as she bravely underwent a double mastectomy and a bone marrow transplant. Eventually, Mazzi began to search for alternative treatment, and came across a doctor in Brazil. Next to that doctor’s practice, a property was for sale, but when Mazzi bought the land, he did something quite amazing:
“The doctor treating Milena was setting up a cancer prevention centre and the adjacent property was available. I bought the land and my deal was that 50 per cent of the cancer prevention centre’s income would go to providing the service for free to people who couldn’t afford the treatments.”
Doing away with the playboy lifestyle, Mazzi spent a fortune to help cancer patients around Latin America to get the treatment they need. Nowadays, Mazzi sleeps in either his VW adventure wagon or in his shop Spice of My People, which sells herbs and medicinal products from around the world. He admits that most of his fortune is now gone:
“Basically, I gave away all my money. When I left Dubai I had about $3m. I spent around $1m on property and the last $2m went on hospital bills for my wife’s cancer and car accident and for her brother’s brain tumour which he’s still in hospital for. With that money, we set up an intensive care unit in Florianopolis where he is going to be moved to. He is the last living member of her family so when he needed the surgery there was no doubt I would help him.”
Mazzi Dumato’s inspiring story goes against the general perception of rich people being selfish or out of touch. If even we don’t have as much as Mazzi did, we can all do our part to give to others and help to make the world a better place.