Muni Seva Ashram Seeks Donor Support for Expansion of Cancer Hospital

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Muni Seva Ashram, Goraj, Campus entrance. With a 200 acre organic farm, schools, college, hostels, residential quarters, kitchen and canteen, hospitals, senior homes and a guest house, the campus resembles a small village in the lap of nature. Photo Credit: Muni Seva Ashram website. http://www.munisevaashram.org/

Dr. Vikram Patel, the Chairperson of Muni Seva Ashram, Goraj, India, was recently at ITV Gold Studios, and spoke to Priya Jyoti Kachroo about the Ashram, its activities and its expansion plans. Patel is on a 3-week fundraising tour of the U.S. cities. He said he found that people are always helpful.

A huge facility in natural surroundings near Vadodara, the Muni Seva Ashram is a non-governmental organization. It is also a charitable non-profit foundation with a chapter in the U.S.. Patel said the Muni Charitable Foundation was created 15 years ago by one of his senior college fellow, Dr. Y. Shah. The U.S. chapter began at the suggestion of many of his classmates from the Vadodara Medical College in the U.S. who have been helpful in raising funds for the Ashram projects, he said. At present the Foundation has 9 directors on its board. “All are volunteers who do not charge even out of pocket expenses. One hundred percent of all donations go to Muni Seva Ashram,” Patel said. He said even the fundraising event expenses are personally borne by the Foundation Directors.

The U.S. chapter has proved to be a very big help, especially during the harsh 2 years of Covid. “During Covid, the American share of the donations went up to 80 percent of the total,” Patel said.

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Goraj village where the Ashram is situated, is located in Vaghodia taluka of Vadodara district in Gujarat, India. Spread over 1429 hectares, Goraj has a total population of 5,093 peoples – 2,526 males and 2,567 females, according to the 2011 census. The literacy rate is 69.98% with 78.50% males and 61.59% females. There are about 1,073 houses in Goraj village.

Founded by the late Anuben Thakkar in 1980 under the direction of Guru Muni Das Maharaj, the Ashram has added many divisions and many new services over the years. Today, the Ashram has 4 major divisions: Education, Healthcare, Social Support and Sustainable Life, Patel said.

Dr. Yogendra Patel, President of the U.S. Chapter of Muni Charitable Foundation, speaking to the gathering at ITV Gold Studios. Photo Credit: Still from ITV Gold video.

Patel said the Ashram operates 16 daycare centers in the surrounding villages taking care of 25 to 30 children ages 6 months to 6 years at each center for 6-7 hours a day. The Ashram takes care of their healthcare, medical needs, vaccination etc. The Ashram has 3 residential schools, from primary school to high school, a nursing school and a vocational training school.

The Ashram has a general hospital and a Cancer treatment hospital considered one of the top 10 cancer hospitals in India. There is a home for mentally challenged women, senior citizen homes, and a home for abandoned children.

Class of the Nursing College, part of Muni Seva Ashram’s Education division. Photo Credit:
Muni Seva Ashram website. munisevaashram.org

The Ashram has a ‘Gaushala’, a guest house for patient’s family to stay during treatment, hostels for students and over 200 acres of organic farms and orchards. With a solar energy and a heat generating system which provides air-conditioning and hot water, the Ashram also has bio gas plant for its kitchens and Ashram’s vehicles.

The Ashram’s founder, Anuben Thakkar, a teacher, was guided by her Guru. He said Thakkar began with the children of the farm laborers who were left unattended, and started a kindergarten school for them. “She was a devotee of Ramkrishna Mission and Vivekananda who inspired her to do some social service and give her life to society,” Patel said.

Dr. Vikram Patel, the Chairperson of Muni Seva Ashram, Goraj, India. Photo credit: Still from ITV Gold video

Patel himself joined the Ashram when Thakkar approached the medical college in Vadodara where he was doing internship after his medical degree. When the adults began coming to him, Thakkar made him an offer to stay on as a full time doctor. He said his father also encouraged him to take up the work of providing medical services to the needy. Patel has been with the Ashram for over 40 years, taking it to bigger and better expansions. He said, “It has been 40 years and I have enjoyed it.” “My needs are very simple. I am happy as long as I have two square meals a day, clothes to wear and a place to sleep. What else do you need?”

Expansion of services and facilities in every field has been a major mission of the Ashram in the recent years, according to Patel. Some of the key expansion projects are in the field of education and healthcare, he said. The primary school’s capacity is expanded to 500 from 250, the secondary school’s capacity is increased to 700 from 270 students, and the vocational training school’s capacity is increased to 500 students per batch from 180-200 students per batch. The general hospital capacity is  increased to 400 beds from 170 beds. The Bhagini Mandir is being expanded to service 200 women from current 100 beds. The Cancer hospital has been an ongoing project adding new technology and equipment on yearly basis, Patel said.

These main projects of expansion and addition were crucial, according to Patel. “We are also trying to solidify them in such a manner that, at the end of the day, I am not needed there,” he said.

All the services of the Ashram are affordable. It has been the Ashram’s policy from the beginning that a person would get full medical services first and would pay whatever he or she can afford. The doctors are employed by the Ashram and are like-minded and SEVA oriented, Patel said. “That is why they are there in such a small place instead of a big city where they can earn many fold of what we pay them,” he said.

Besides heading the management of the many divisions of the Ashram, Patel is also involved in farming which is his main hobby. He generally spends about 3 hours every morning in the farm. The Ashram has about 600 acres of farming land which produces cereals, vegetables, pulses and fruits. “We have 2,200 people to feed everyday,” Patel said. “We grow our own food and have our own dairy products.”

His next pet project would be helping the village people live sustainably and self dependently. “A village has a potential of being a self sustained society,” Patel said. Patel is of the opinion that one must not be deterred by doubts when one takes up some work. “If your ideology is clear, if you are honest by heart, some divine force would lead you,” Patel said. There will always be a way out, he said.

Patel invited people to visit the Ashram when they come to India. He said he was sure people would feel motivated.

Please visit Muni Seva Ashram web site (www.munisevaashram.org) for more details of Ashram’s activities & for donation. You may Contact Dr. Yogendra Patel at 718 877 8774 for further information.

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