Beyond Money
Helping Those who have nobody

Near Vasant Kunj’s ‘Green Avenue’, shielding residences of Delhi’s super elite, Veeresh Malik discovers one man’s mission to save the destitute

The people at the tea stall, where I stopped to ask for directions, give me an indication—everybody knows where The Earth Saviour’s Foundation (TESF) is located.

As I park my car next to brilliantly manicured green lawns, I notice some temporary shelters housing about four dozen elderly people and a couple of hundred young children in school uniforms, on the other side under tents—it is all about the circle of life. Suddenly it strikes you—the balance between the young and evolving next to the old and fading away. These are abandoned, destitute, mentally-challenged elderly people rescued from the mean streets of life who will, in all probability, leave the premises only on their final journey. The young children, some of them also rescued from the same mean streets, will hopefully move on to make something of their lives. Both sets are bound by an important element they find at the shelter—respect. And that is what makes TESF different.

There is something so natural about this simple balance of the young and the old that TESF’s other activities, more on the ‘environmental’ side, also fit into a natural whole. In a brief four years of operations, TESF has grown phenomenally; its website lists a series of activities—from rescuing destitute women, to anti-noise pollution to working towards controlling fire-crackers to responding to the needs of providing decent funerals to unclaimed dead to promoting electric cremations, TESF seems to have taken multi-tasking forward in a sector which often gets stuck on one specific function.

Ravi Kalra, the man behind this pro-humanity drive, has certainly had a chequered life. Son of a police officer, he cut his own path, teaching martial arts to the uniformed forces. He then dabbled in a variety of businesses in which he reportedly did well, but a major turning point came when it all collapsed. Recovering from this setback, he revived his martial arts into a successful venture, but again, decided to hand it over to his brother and focus on trying to give something back to society.

Initially, he worked on rescuing the elderly abandoned in and around Delhi. Some of the stories he relates—of elderly parents being thrown into the streets, of unwell siblings abandoned outside hospitals, of people incapable of looking after themselves, of handling funerals—are simply mind-boggling. Soon he realised that there was a major problem with street children too and started working on that as well.

Essentially, TESF, set up in 2008, rescues the young and the old from the streets, cleans them up, provides basic medical assistance, gives them food and shelter for the rest of their lives and, eventually, ensures they get a dignified funeral (Mr Kalra also helps cremate hundreds of unclaimed bodies). The children are a mix of street and impoverished neighbourhood children, who are provided day-school facilities till about pre-puberty.

TESF has four ambulances, plenty of computers to put order into their activities and I watched bags full of old clothes being sorted out. TESF was started with Mr Kalra’s personal funds; your donations to it will be eligible for tax exemption under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act. However, what Mr Kalra would really want from people is more volunteering. He wishes that people would just come to meet the abandoned elderly since many of them still crave for their family.

Getting like-minded people on board is a challenge, and it is his hope to some time build a ‘pukka’ construction. The basic philosophy is simple—‘do what you can, don't expect to change or improve matters too much, and certainly concentrate on the effort, the results will follow’. If you like the thought, do go out and volunteer. All that is asked of you is friendship and empathy!

The Earth Saviour’s Foundation
34, Green Avenue Road,
(near D Block Church) Vasant Kunj,
New Delhi - 110070
Ravi Kalra: Founder & President 91-9818171695
svearth@yahoo.com  |  www.earthsaviours.in

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Grassroots Vikas: Is the Way Forward for India

Financial inclusion in its true sense is about knowledge and empowerment leading to ‘vikas’ or progress. Harjot Kaur writes about how Vadodara-based Zoher Doctor is changing lives of the underprivileged

 
That Vikas Trust would have been set up by a financial planner is clear from its very objective—not merely to make people self-sufficient through livelihoods, but to empower through every tool of financial planning available to the more educated and privileged people—access to credit, a savings plan, insurance, access to medical benefits and guidance in finding markets for products. Vadodara-based Zoher Doctor, a financial planner for over a decade, he decided that the best way to give back to society would be to provide ‘real upliftment’ to the underprivileged through a ‘self-sustainable plan’. 
 
And, in two years since 2010, his effort is attracting support from a cross-section of people and donors. The concept is deceptively simple—Vikas Trust provides financial and social resources to those who want to transform their lives. It provides self-employment through gruh udyog (home-based industry), upliftment through microfinance, medical aid and specific help for women and children. Gruh Udyog offers products like candles, pickles, bags, handicraft items and artificial jewellery. Vikas Trust helps to source raw material at competitive prices and help in marketing the final product through the internet and a display-cum-sales centre (inaugurated on 4th September). 
 
For starters, Vikas Trust provides interest-free loans to avoid a debt-trap. Field workers visit localities of the underprivileged, talk to local leaders, meet families and assess credit needs as well as willingness to become self-empowered. Zoher Doctor says, “I need to understand the mindset of these people to help them come out of the vicious circle of poverty. If I want to help them, I need to know what work they would be interested in doing. Then I talk to government agencies and other NGOs, to generate financial and intellectual resources for them.” 
 
The original loan has to be repaid to recycle money for others’ benefit. People are also taught about savings, investment and insurance to make them financially independent. The recovery rate so far has been 100%.  
 
Since the concept was new, the founders made an initial contribution of their own funds; they also had a tough time convincing potential beneficiaries to understand their concept of empowerment. Shaiyar and Sahaj, two Vadodara-based NGOs, helped Vikas Trust in its outreach effort. Changing the mindset of people, used to government subsidies or doles from NGOs and religious trusts, was a challenge, says Zoher Doctor. But now that it has proven the concept, donations are flowing in from individuals, corporates and other well-wishers. 
 
Another innovation of Vikas Trust is the ‘Medicard’ provided free of cost to beneficiaries. The card has been structured with the support of like-minded doctors and hospitals; it entitles a person to a significant discount in treatment. The Trust is also working on preventive healthcare. For instance, Wockhardt has supported a free eye-check-up initiative.
 
Other activities of Vikas Trust include, distribution of medicines and vitamin supplements under medical advice as well as clothes and foodgrains to the needy and counselling for education and family problems. Vikas Trust also runs a free library at its office premises for poor children. Mr Doctor plans to take the Trust’s activities forward by adding businesses such as garment-manufacturing, jewellery-making, developing parks, distribution of foodgrains to disabled singles and a building a call centre. 
 
If you want to extend financial or social support to Vikas Trust, contact the members at the address given alongside.

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COMMENTS

Zoher Doctor

5 years ago

Thanks.
The Contact details is:
Vikas Trust
402, Bholesai Apt., Bh. Emperor, Parsi Street, Fatehgunj, Vadodara 390002 GUJARAT
(O) +91 265 6553344
(M) +91 9824063400
E-mail: vikastrust1@gmail.com
zoherdoctor@gmail.com
web site: http://www.vikastrust.org

Vision beyond life

Dr Nita Mukherjee finds a unique community eye bank in Jaipur

It was a seminar organised in 2001 by the Eye Bank Association (Delhi) and LV Prasad Eye Institute (LVPEI, Hyderabad) in Jaipur that triggered the foundation of the Eye Bank Society of Rajasthan (EBSR). The seminar sought to promote eye donation in India to combat the scourge of blindness.


Among those who attended was one of the current members of EBSR, Bhavna Jagwani, who temporarily lost her eyesight and realised how cruel life could be without vision. She persuaded others to contribute to the setting up of ESBR. Unlike most eye banks set up at hospitals, EBSR was unique from inception—it was founded by social activists; there was no doctor involved. It was registered under the Societies Registration Act on 6 February 2002 with 10 founder members. Today, EBSR has 100 members; some 25-30 of them are active volunteers. ML Mehta is currently the president. The objective of EBSR is to promote eye donation in Rajasthan and run a community eye bank. Its success can be gauged from the fact that in its first year, it harvested 76 corneas; in its 10th year, this number has reached 1,000.

What distinguishes EBSR from other eye banks is that it does not depend only on pledging of eyes; it concentrates on hospital cornea retrieval programme as well. Explains Ashok Bhandari, honorary secretary of EBSR: “The process of cornea harvesting has to be completed within six to eight hours of death and takes just 15 minutes so there is no delay in funeral rites. For this, effective coordination is necessary between EBSR’s volunteers and technicians and the medical, nursing and para-medical staff of hospitals. Training volunteers and sustained counselling is crucial.”

Mr Bhandari explains passionately the need to popularise cornea donation. For each person that donates eyes, vision can be restored for two people as only one cornea is grafted on one person. ‘Grief counsellors’ play the delicate and crucial role of speaking to the critically ill patients admitted to hospitals to assuage their fears, and often, irrational anxieties. The six-week training of grief counsellors at LVPEI costs Rs20,000. “Our technicians are well-trained to remove only the cornea, not the complete eyeball; so there is no disfigurement of the body.”

EBSR is a fine blend of volunteerism and professional management. Far from taking any kind of honorarium from the organisation, volunteers not only contribute their time but also don’t take reimbursement of expenses. “More than funding, we need younger volunteers so that outreach can be enhanced. Currently, most of our volunteers are retired people looking to do meaningful social work,” says Shirish Mody, honorary joint secretary EBSR in charge of awareness programmes. While the ‘medical’ part of the work is handled by technicians, the most time- and energy-consuming part of the eye bank is extension and communication work.

EBSR conducts some 50-60 awareness camps in a year—the maximum during the World Cornea Donation fortnight celebrated annually between 25th August and 8th September. Until now, some 500 awareness camps have been held. Volunteers are armed with a CD containing a PowerPoint presentation on all the frequently asked questions by potential eye donors.

EBSR has so far harvested 4,500 corneas; 3,000 have been implanted. All harvested corneas are first tested at the EBSR laboratory for all health parameters; they are used only if found 100% fit. Those not used for implanting are donated to medical colleges for teaching and demonstration purposes. Initially, LVPEI gave the necessary technical guidance and set up the standard operating procedures. So impressed was Orbis International (USA), a partner of EBSR, that it financed the entire world-class equipment for EBSR’s laboratory. Today, EBSR is among the first 10 Indian eye banks to get an affiliation with the SightLife Society of Seattle (USA) which sets  world standards in eye donation.


Donations to EBSR are tax-exempt under Section 80G; the organisation welcomes young
volunteers.

Eye Bank Society of Rajasthan

429, Adarsh Nagar, Bees Dukan,
Near Geeta Bhawan,
Jaipur 302004
Phone: +91 41- 2604117,
Email: ebsr_jp@hotmail.com
Website: eyebanksocietyofrajasthan.org

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