Social Work enthusiast Ms Neena Sood writes about her charity work that has been doing for last few years..
When Mohan requested me to write a page to describe our Diwali Charity Fund Raising Drive for our first ever Newsletter, he received a half-hearted response from me, as I perceived it as an unwanted bit of limelight. Being the “Gentleman” that he is, he forwarded a set of questions -about my background about when/how/why regarding this charity work, my vision, achievements so far and advice to readers etc – just to make it easier for me to write something.
SO SORRY , I’ve ignored all that- since you have described this space as a platform to ‘showcase’ and ‘share’ I decided instead to use this as an opportunity to acknowledge how special we are as a group of Expat Indians ….without mentioning anymore names.
Indians 4 Africa is a shining example of how people can create something wonderful by taking the time, making an effort, hopefully with the confidence that we are part of a very supportive and appreciative community. Congratulations to the team that have launched our first newsletter.
A few years ago some enterprising expats achieved something truly admirable too. They took the initiative to bring us all together as a community not only to enjoy ‘get-togethers’ and ‘picnics’ but also to celebrate special occasions like Diwali and Holi as one large extended family. Your efforts have helped unite us and integrate us as expats, respecting our own identity within the broader unique culture of South Africa.
Here we are – The Expat Indians - who have aptly been described in the first editorial of Indians 4 Africa as a ‘circle of family and friends ‘ – a’ cultural group ‘ – ‘ defining our territory ‘ – ‘ Hoisting our Flag ‘ !!! I am sure every Expat joins me in thanking you all – you know who you are…. I would also like to thank everyone for supporting my Diwali Fund Raising Drive in 2010 and 2011.
Words cannot convey the depth of my gratitude for your kindness and generosity. Asking for money is very difficult – however my requests have been reciprocated with the trust of so many fellow expats (some of whom hadn’t even met me) that my hesitation in asking has been proved unimportant. For most part, I am the face that receives first hand the gratitude and appreciation of everyone I have been meeting during this period of giving – may I just say all that positive energy is meant for each and every one of you and it’s no small honour to receive that thanks on your behalf.
We’ve all had the luxury of Freedom which allowed us all to move to this Continent from our own Incredible India – We have the special privilege of having 2 cultures to embrace- our Motherland and our Host Country which has been extremely hospitable to us all. Every expat has been ‘giving back’ by sponsoring some cause in their own way. Now we are able to achieve this ‘giving’ together as well. Among the many friends I have made locally, in the last 18 years some are dedicated to working with many underprivileged and disadvantaged communities in and around Durban. Over the years my personal contributions towards charity shifted directly towards helping their projects- details of which I knew of first hand.
In 2010 one of these was an appeal for 200 food hampers for Diwali for impoverished families in Chatsworth- the cost of each estimated @ R 200/-. I decided to forward this appeal on e-mail to all the fellow expats known to me. A dear friend helped me to spread the word by presenting my idea to the committee that was formed to organise our annual Diwali function. Within a few weeks i received an overwhelming response and the target was easily achieved. Once I completed the ground work of shopping around for prices, ordering the goods buying packaging and delivering- 3 lovely ladies (Thank You) accompanied me to the Witteklip Secondary School to meet the principal and teachers. I had specifically requested no coverage from members of the media who were present and no acknowledgement of any political affiliation by the Centre that works tirelessly in that area.
The extent of good works done by the school principal in helping desperate community members is remarkable. The principal and staff provide support to battered and abandoned women- suicidal teens – young drug addicts- scholarships for deserving children and more. They rely solely on the goodwill of people who are aware of their needs. Most importantly the dignity of every family they help is respected. We were able to provide 16 basic food items in each hamper i.e.: 1600 kgs of dry staples and 1800 bottles/tins of food – enough to feed 200 families for a month we were told.
This year we achieved much more. Over and above providing the food hampers to Witteklip Secondary School we were able to give 100 hampers to Isnembe Secondary School in Tongaat, 50 hampers to Eyuthu crèche in Welbedacht and 20 hampers to a Women’s group in Chatsworth. After all the logistics of providing the hampers to different locations were done, some more lovely ladies (Thank You) accompanied me to meet with the people we trust to distribute the hampers. That is a total of 320 food hampers. The remainder of the funds will provide basic amenities for a crèche that is being set up in Tongaat and basic stationery for some of these schools. There’s more- I have received pledges to provide up to 200 school jerseys and source blankets, another one to provide teaching aids for matric students in schools like Witteklip Secondary. Indian musical Instruments and classical singing lessons have been pledged to the school as well. Providing school shoes and basic uniforms for some learners would be very useful too.
One of the many suggestions I have received, is to begin this fundraising effort much earlier than just a month before Diwali – I will try to follow that advice next year and I hope it will not be construed as a form of pressure or obligation. I would like to continue doing this in my own informal way with your help – we can do this with pleasure and as a sustained effort on behalf of every person in our group. Whether it’s just passing on the word or contributing in cash or kind – every bit has value – so I hope everyone will look forward to hearing from me next year.
Winston Churchill wisely said- We make a living by what we get. We make a LIFE by what we give.
I wish all readers HAPPY HOLIDAYS!