A36 Support a Cause Response Feature India Abroad November 29, 2013
One group that particularly works in rural areas is the Share and Care Foundation. Its
areas of concern are eduation at the school and college level, empowerment of women
and youth, and improved healthcare.
ChildFund focuses on children who are mired in poverty - and fights to ensure them
their rights and needs, often connecting sponsors to these children and funding locally
run programs that benefit the child’s community.
Often non-Indians help NGOs after hearing about them from Indian friends or reading about them in a magazine or newspaper.
Akshaya Patra supporter Chikashi Miyamoto, for instance, recently cycled through the
Italian Alps and raised money across three continents. Of his efforts he says,
"Supporting the Akshaya Patra Foundation is very important to me because no child
should be forced to choose between income and basic education."
The Cricket Club of Lexington Kentucky held its annual Indian Charity Cricket
Tournament a few months ago and raised more than $1,000 for Akshaya Patra. Ganesh
‘Ganny’ Sundaresan recruited friends and family to sponsor him as he ran the Chicago
Marathon October 13 to support Akshaya Patra and raise a few thousand dollars.
Three years ago, Toorjo Ghose, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania, began
looking for half-a-dozen intrepid students to work with NGOs in Kolkata where they
empower women prostitutes by getting them to look after their health, protect them-
selves from moneylenders and ensure their children got a proper education. He found
nearly double the number willing to spend several weeks in India, mostly in the red light
district of Kolkata. He took seven in the first batch.
During the six-week course in Kolkata, his students complete a placement in a sex-workers’ collective in Sonagachi, one of Asia’s largest red-light districts. They discovered
that because of the NGO work, sex diseases in the Kolkata red light district was manageable. While the rate of HIV infection among sex workers in Mumbai, Delhi, and
Chennai ranges from 50 to 90 percent, in Kolkata it is just 11 percent.
He started Sonagachi Project, a very different kind of NGO compared to Pratham or
Akshaya Patra, as a graduate student at UCLA eight or nine years ago. It is now a very
‘A lot of people were looking at it as a medical intervention,’ Ghose told a University of
Pennsylvania publication. ‘But the social-worker perspective really examines the cul-
tural, ecological, social determinants of health. It wasn’t just about HIV. It was collective
identity; it was working around the stigma of sex work; it was negotiating politically with
the outside world.’
Some South Asian students have also joined him in his work in the last few years.
To many young people working with a NGO India has meant paying a tribute to their
parents, by giving back to a country that helped their parents become high achievers.
Some college students such as Hari Prabhakar, currently a medical student at Harvard,
have started NGOs, with the help of
American institutions and Indian entrepreneurs. Prabhakar, a Marshall Scholar who
studied the impact of tropical diseases,
while on a scholarship in the UK, began
looking at the lack of good medical service
in tribal areas in India while he was studying at Johns Hopkins over six years ago.
Prabhakar decided to help one such area
in Tamil Nadu where his parents had been
educated before they moved to America. He
became an advocate of efforts to improve
access to care for sickle cell anemia, and
established the Tribal India Health
Foundation and the Sickle Cell Disease
Center. He has also focused on improving
care for sickle cell patients in America States
through publications and development of
action plans, guidebooks, and primers for
public and private agencies.
Many volunteers with NGOs in India (as
well as in other countries) say that their
work at times is hindered by NGOs that
are self-serving and are run by those who
do not have the welfare of the people at
heart. And yet the idealists, the well-meaning and resourceful keep pegging
away, in the face of skepticism and doubt.
One person who fought hard for change
- and succeeded - is Rajeev Goyal a lawyer and activist with degrees from Brown
University and New York University whose work has been featured in The New Yorker by
Peter Heseller, a former fellow Peace Corps volunteer. Goyal himself chronicled his
efforts to create water resources for several villages in Nepal and his successful fight to
increse congressional allocation for Peace Corps in the book The Springs of Namje published over two years ago.
Visiting Namje, a remote village in the eastern hills of Nepal, 12 years ago. he organized the villagers to build a water-pumping system in the midst of the Maoist war that
had gripped much of the country.
‘In the part of eastern Nepal where Rajeev served as a Peace Corps volunteer from
2001 to 2003,’ Hessler wrote in The New Yorker, ‘people sometimes weep when his name
is mentioned. Locals refer to him as Shiva, the god who is also the source of the Ganges
River. Old folks turn on a tap and say, "This is what he gave us."’
Years after this experience, Goyal applied the lessons he learned in Namje to his work
on Capitol Hill. Approaching Congress as if it were a Nepalese caste system, Goyal says
he led a grassroots campaign to double the size of the Peace Corps. At times he waited
outside the men’s room of the Capitol building to catch lawmakers. Thanks to his
efforts, the Peace Corps was granted a $60-million increase in funding, the largest dol-
lar-amount increase in the organizations history. Since 2008, he has served as the
national coordinator for the Push for Peace Corps Campaign.
With socially aware people like Goyal Prabhakar and others leading the way, non-government organizations have a solid future to look forward to.
A tribal girl who is gaining her education thanks to
the Share and Care Foundation, shows off her
A village community in Kerla, Rajasthan, makes for a colorful poster for the Share and Care Foundation.