It’s a well-known fact that the Indian American diaspora is deeply connected to their roots. Over the decades, even as the community got entrenched deeper in the American way of life, strived to reach higher corridors of power, became a wealthy, influential community, they didn’t forget to inculcate in the next generation love for India and its multifaceted traditions and culture.
While vacations to India are always welcome, it’s also an eye-opener for the younger generation who grew up in a developed country like the United States of America. The rampant poverty and sight of underprivileged people in India’s towns and cities often evoke strong reaction.
One way to nurture love for India amongst the next generation, and also is as important for those who were born and brought up in India, is to do philanthropic work.
This commitment to philanthropy, to help underprivileged in India, is not only deeply satisfying on a personal level, but more importantly, is the need of the hour. It helps countless lives in India. It’s perhaps the only hope for those who struggle to survive in the morass of poverty, give them hope for a better tomorrow.
There was a time when the Indian American community wanted to donate, but were not sure to which organizations to contribute to, wanted more transparency in operations. Today, that dilemma is not so acute anymore. There are several fine organizations like the American India Foundation and Pratham, among others, to choose from. Their zeal and commitment to India’s progress is unquestionable.
Many of us also want to do philanthropy in India on a regional basis, help the state that we come from. We also want to target certain communities and people that we feel more strongly about.
That too, is highly recommended. I think that one way to do it is to do personal research into what organizations are doing work in a particular state in India, and check their track record over the years.
Having contributed to a few non-profits in India, I can assure you that there is no dearth of commitment in those organizations. Some of these organizations not only accept cash donations, but also are interested to avail of your expertise in helping the underprivileged. For example, if you are a physician or teacher, some time you spend in these communities, trying to cure, teach, will help too immeasurably.
One organization I can recommend highly is the Gujarat-based ‘Life’, which does great service not only in that state, but other states in India as well.
Jaya Bachchan, the former actress and now Member of Parliament, is the Chairperson of ‘Life.’ Please see her letter advocating the work of the organization.
Project ‘Life’ which was founded in 1978 as a blood-bank in Gujarat, has today grown to cover a range of activities operating on a vision to support, sustain and enrich the lives of the poor and underprivileged in India. It is one of several Indian non-governmental organizations that Non-Resident Indians and Indian Americans believe to be doing good work to bring people out of poverty and ill-health.
‘Life’ was established by two brothers, successful businessmen from Rajkot, Shashikant and Chandrakant Koticha, in 1978, in an effort to give back to society. Brought up by a strong mother after they lost their father at an early age, the brothers have expanded from a state-of-the-NABH (National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers) and AABB (American Association of Blood Banks, USA) blood bank, to implementing women’s empowerment projects, tree-planting initiatives, yoga health and wellness centers, including in more than 20 jails.
The Koticha brothers are bridging the gap between the resident and the global Gujaratis, and helping people stay fit.
Numerous celebrities and humanitarians, including Mother Teresa, have praised the organization over the years and visited its various branches. Mother Teresa visited the center in 1982; spiritual leader Pramukh Swamimaharajshri in 1991; renowned cricketer Sachin Tendulkar with the Indian team in 1993; Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan and his wife, Jaya Bachchan, visited as well as performed puja at the center in 1994; then Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi in 2010. I had an opportunity to visit the center last year.
A “responsible charity organization,” Project ‘Life’ says, of itself: “Most of our efforts, energy and resources are directed towards breaking the vicious circle of poverty and preventing avoidable pain.”
I wish them all the best in their endeavor.
(Padma Shri Dr. Sudhir Parikh is founder and chairman, Parikh Worldwide Media.)