The North California-based Bihar Foundation USA celebrated Bihar Diwas, the day the state of Bihar has formed from the erstwhile Bengal presidency 110 years ago Mar 22.
The event, held March 23 at the Sakoon restaurant in Santa Clara, was attended by elected officials, community leaders, officials from India’s consulate in San Francisco, and foundation members.
In a video message, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister Tarkishore Prasad conveyed his greetings and recalled the state’s glorious past and culture. He described Bihar as the land of Sita, the Buddha, Vatsyayan, Chanakya, Chandragupta Maurya, Guru Gobind Singh and India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad, and recalled that it was the land where the Nalanda university once flourished.
Rajiv Sinha, the co-founder and chairman of the Bihar Foundation USA, welcomed the attendees and urged them to support their mission to help the underserved community by donating $1,000 toward the ‘adopt-a-village’ mission.
Sinha told indica that the foundation is a nonprofit working to help the poorest in India through various projects. ‘Adopt a village’ is one such project under the foundation’s ‘Vision Bihar’ plan.
He said the foundation had adopted six villages in Bihar and sponsored more than 500 eye surgeries and distributed more than 1,000 ‘eye glasses’ in association with Sri Sai Lions Netralaya based in Patna, the capital of Bihar.
“We started the ‘adopt-a-village’ program in 2018-19 and before the pandemic began adopted six villages,” he said. “Now that the pandemic is waning, we are restarting our activities to reach our goal of adopting 25 villages this year.”
Sinha pinpointed “logistics and coordination” as the biggest challenge of working in Bihar. Deepak Sharma, secretary of the Bihar Foundation USA, echoed this view.
Sharma, a native of Uttar Pradesh, said he joined the foundation in 2015 but had been working as a volunteer before that.
On village adoption, he said the foundation had initially thought of setting up an eye hospital but found the task too big and so decided to collaborate with an established hospital. “We give money and manage but do not go into micromanagement as that is not possible sitting in the US,” he said.
The Sri Sai Lions Netralaya conducts the eye camps in the adopted villages and people who need surgery are driven to the hospital and transported back after treatment. A week later, doctors from the hospital visit the village for follow-ups.
The hospital covers a radius of 100 km around Patna. An eye surgery at a private hospital could cost between Rs10,000 and Rs20,000. “What we do is take $1,000 to adopt a village,” Sharma said, “then it doesn’t matter whether 50 or 100 people show up; we contribute from the foundation fund.”
During the pandemic, the foundation raised $20,000 in the US and sent oximeters and oxygen concentrators, masks and nasal sprays to Bihar.
Praveen Kumar, who has adopted the village Nawada in Bihar, spoke of the touching moment when he visited the village and was treated like a messenger of God by the villagers who had regained their sight after cataract surgery.
Sinha also revealed that the foundation early this year in January has launched a chapter on the East Coast.