Top names in philanthropy and social work spoke of the pleasures of selfless work and the need for more of it
Indians for Collective Action, which helps other non-profits, raised $175,000 at a day-long conference to celebrate its 50th anniversary.
More than 600 people, some coming over from India, attended the event, held at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, California, October 20.
Former co-president Abhay Bhushan told indica, “People donated to specific projects as well as ICA’s Golden Jubilee Fund to further our vision for the next decade. This includes encouraging social entrepreneurs, helping philanthropists put their ideas into action, and connecting Indian organizations with US groups, so they can learn from each other and benefit from the association.”
Bhushan said that more than 30 non-profits, both from India and the US, gained when people donated to specific projects.
During the gala ICA honored Dr Bharat Vatwani, a Mumbai-based psychiatrist who founded the Shraddha Rehabilitation Foundation, a non-profit that works with mentally ill homeless people.
The panels at the event covered such diverse topics as women’s issues, education, healthcare and the environment.
Dr Vatwani, the 2018 Ramon Magsaysay Award winner for his work, was the morning conference keynote speaker and described how his group served 7,000 destitute people and connected many with their families.
Dr Vatwani said he was overwhelmed when he got the Magsaysay award,
“I went through the list of awardees – Vinoba Bhave (1958), Baba Amte (1985) Prakash Amte (2008) and now me in August 2018,” he said. “A lot of social work happens purely at the internal, emotional level, wherein the social worker is not engaged in PR [public relations]… He doesn’t know how to gain attention. All my life I have believed there is no such thing a sung hero or an unsung hero; there is only commitment. At the end of the day I, my wife and entire team ask our conscience: Are we committed or not?”
He told indica his group worked with people that other non-governmental organizations had already picked up and sent over, and that he hoped that other NGOs would set up similar centers elsewhere in India.
Dr Vatwani pointed out that organizations like his get no funding from the government, which marks only 0.06 percent of its budget for mental health.
“There’s a long way to go, that is why we want to support for other NGOs since we have experts who can train them,” he said.
Ajay Shah, founder of AIF, who also received an award, lauded the ICA, saying, “W e are so fortunate that successful people in the US and elsewhere in the world recognize India’s ongoing needs.”
Lata Krishnan, AIF co-founder and another winner, in her speech also praised ICA and said what appealed to her about it is that it soldiers on, never seeking to be recognized but trying to make sure every individual gets the help he or she needs.
Krishnan told indica that AIF was started by people who felt that the diaspora needed a platform to ensure social and economic development in India for the most marginalized.
“We decided we would set up a team in India, and a team here to further that. I believe we are facilitators and a very important part of the transformation of the poor in India,” she said.
ICA also honored Girish Kulkarni, founder of the India-based Snehalya, which helps women, children-and LGBT communities affected by HIV, AIDS, poverty, violence and sex-trafficking.
Kulkarni is a recipient of the Dr Durgabai Deshmukh National award by the President of India Award in 2012 for his service to his country in social work.
“There are many non-profits working on this cause and I accept the award on behalf of those 1.3 crore -[13 million] people,” he said.
Naginchandra Jagada, president of the Arpan Foundation, started his humanitarian work in 2002 when he, with financial support from his family, distributed 2,000 sweaters and blankets and hosted camps in Rajkot for those seeking to get the prosthetic Jaipur foot.
Jagada said, “I began with small [efforts], such as donating a small amount to the homeless in Rajkot. I will go back to India with the goal of doing a little bit more for the community.”
Janak Palta McGilligan, a 2015 Padma Shri awardee, is founder-director of Jimmy McGilligan Centre for Sustainable Development, an Indore-based non-profit.
“I wanted to serve people without any sectarian feelings… It should be humanitarian,” she said. She went on to describe the challenges she faced when working in tribal regions, helping eradicate Guinea-worm disease with little to know knowledge how to go about it.
“But I learned ad taught and stayed in the homes of 302 people who were affected and worked very hard. It was a program of the Government of India and [tech entrepreneur] Sam Pitroda, But I slowly gained the confidence of the people because I was willing to sleep along with cows, goats, children, with toilet,” said McGilligan.
“Many people say I have empowered those tribal girls,” she said. “But the fact is those girls empowered me to be here and speak to you.”