Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charity. Show all posts

Monday, October 22, 2012

Overflowing.. [296/365]

Give and you will receive.

Luke 6:38

Your gift will return to you in full-pressed down, shaken together to make room, running over and poured into your lap. While some might argue that the amount you give will determine the amount you get back, I say, the attitude with which you give will determine how much you get back.

A decade ago, I met an incredibly resilient yet very poor lady. Shortly after she was born, she had juvenile diabetes and began to loose her vision. When she was 10 years old, a quack at a medical facility near her home botched up a surgery and he ended up snipping the nerves to her eyes. She has been blind ever since. Add to that, her family has tried exploiting her condition and when they had enough, they abandoned her. Now 67, she lived all these years on government welfare. When I met her, she had a PCO (Public Call Office aka Phone Booth) and that was sufficient for her hostel fees and food. A couple of years ago, she was allotted a land 19 kms outside Bangalore by the government and they told her to do the rest. It took her 6 years to build a house with one room, one toilet and one kitchen. They don't have running water but got electricity just a few months ago. Her benefactors have helped her in measures. Some by donating a couple of thousands and others by giving construction material.
In the past few months, her health has deteriorated to such a degree that she is unable to run the phone booth. Recently, she suffered a wound that became gangrenous. Unfortunately, the hospital that she visited wouldn't treat her for free. While there were hospitals that would treat her for free, she still needed money for a long-term medical care.
I had to help. We decided to raise Rs 15000/- (about $270). I put the cause forward to my tight-knit church prayer group and we decided to raise money through a fund-raiser.
After weeks of planning and campaigning, I had my first fund-raiser last week. We sold breakfast to hungry church-goers and we'd just made Rs 15000 !
I won't claim success or any form of victory but I can say this fund-raiser brought all of us together in a way that only goodness and kindness can. It was a huge testament to how caring people really are.

I learned a valuable lesson too. I have been ignoring my obligation to the lesser fortunate for way too long now. While we were earning 7 figure salaries, we thought less of giving and passing on His blessings and more on how we could increase our standard of living. We all do. We have been ignoring that silent voice asking for our help and this instance taught us the importance of giving. 

Often when we think of generosity we usually think of giving money. This isn't always the case, and we can be more generous with so much more. We can donate our possessions, time or relationships.

We often thought we would not be able to buy what we wanted if we gave away. We'd always procrastinate but it would never happen. Our wants and needs were endless. Try ignoring that feeling inside you that says you will lose too much when you give too much. It's incredible what comes back to you in return when you freely give.

Three weeks ago, when we wanted to raise Rs 15000, we thought it was a huge amount. But when people came together for the cause, God enabled us to raise that money. How many times have you thought you won't get anything in return? If you've thought that, take heart. You will - Pressed down, running over, shaken together and poured into your lap.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cycle Ahoy!

So what does a cyclist in the Sub-Continent do around December every year?

No, not do the carol. 
But do the Tour Of Nilgiris.

I've been associated with TfN for 3 out of the 4 years it's been around. As a 'newb', a volunteer, as part of the Support staff, and as the editor for a tour that is widely touted as India's answer to the Tour de France, I've been able to experience and marvel how so many people come together to pull off a logistical trick up their sleeve. Some of them barely rest as the dates approach.

As a cyclist, TfN has come to symbolize what you must be a part of. 
It may not have a Lance Armstrong or an ESPN trailing it's every rider, but it has definitely built up a reputation, much of it word of mouth, of being the only day tour in Asia that is as well planned with even the tiniest detail looked into and fine tuned until the last minute. 

Though participation isn't free , what is impressive is how all of the proceeds go towards the cause of the organizing NGO- RideACycle Foundation, a not for profit organisation that advocates use of cycles as a viable and nature friendly mode of daily transportation, apart from the many many benefits cycling on a daily basis has on the human body.

Supported by cycle manufacturer- TI Cycles (makers of the BSA brand of cycles), TfN has grown by leaps and bounds and is a brand of itself. Like long lost sons and daughters, cyclists across the world converge to to the southern city of Bangalore. Judging by the many 'centuries' of prep rides, camaraderie and the frenzied conversations that happen within the official google group, all the riders begin to know each other so well even before the first mile has been pedalled. 

The 'kick-off' is a thoroughly intoxicating event. 
So here's 70 odd cyclists, with many hundred miles on their cyclo computer, who have lived and breathed nothing but TfN for the better part of this year, some of whom would have flown half way across the world to ride through idyllic villages and nature reserves and forests.
Some of them are excited just being a part of the tour, some of them are here because they want to prove they can do this but most of them are here simply because TfN gives them something that most other tours can only wish - Nature so pristine, memories that will last a lifetime, experience that will you'll brag about for life and friends that will outlast your cycle. 

While a tour this size cannot expect to have riders coming back every year and while some of them may not come back, as 'alumni', every rider, participant and organiser take pride in being a part of the greatest tour in India. 

The BSA TfN. I did it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

10% Extortion

How important is God to you?
Do you deem it important to honor Him with the first fruits of your increase/income? Or do you just think tithing is a one way to keep the church off your back?
Do you have a pastor who pesters you to part with more of your money so that the overheads of the church is met?

While Christianity in India has a long history of evangelism and has roots that can be traced back to the Apostles, the past decade or so have seen an explosion of missionaries visiting India to spread The Good News.

I know churches that works with the lowest of the low and strives to make a truly wonderful change amongst the community it works with. Thatched roofs Churches where the faithful gather to hear the Word of God and the pastor does not have a mic but the congregation still picks up every word he says. 

I recently met a pastor, an American, who has been nagging his church members to give 'generously'.
So what's wrong with the picture here?
Here's what-
- The pastor, sponsored by the mother church in the US, earns in a month, probably the equivalent of what a middle class family would earn in an year.
- He stays with his Wife plus 4 kids in a very expensive home in an exclusive neighborhood, besides all the other material trappings that a upper middle class family should possess.
- He insists that his church members pay for the electricity and other overheads of the church. Generously.
- While he quotes scriptures to prove his point and urge his church members to fork out the extra rupee, I remember the famously quoted line: 'Even the devil can quote scriptures'.
His ruse is that true Christians need to support the church financially so that the church can spread. Image that comes to my mind: Like the tentacles of an Octopus.
Now, I don't have anything against missionaries who have put their western way of life on hold for the Indian toilet, but I do find it a huge insult when we have missionaries who come, start churches in a air-conditioned hall of a building and expect us to meet their electricity and living expenses.
While none of the members have voiced out their concerns and their reservations, what I need to understand is why the dear pastor cannot forgo his so generous salary if is truly concerned about the rising overheads.
While much of the US has already been invaded by televangelists, the many wolves in sheep clothing have now turned their sights on India. An emerging market.

Do we really have the right attitude towards God?
When we insist church members to tithe generously, isn't it against the true spirit of giving out of free will?
Why do we let church leaders manipulate the scriptures for their own will?
Does giving money absolve you and complete your duties towards God?

A good family friend of mine, 'donates' a certain portion of their time every week towards bible study. Although they cannot afford to give 'generously', they consider this as their way of offering their talents to the Almighty.

After growing for nearly 2000 years, Christianity has now taken a beating in the past decade because of it's dubious practitioners.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Able and Willing.. Part 1

Community Service to many of us is a farce. An event where we get a paid day off.
While many who volunteer their time think they are doing a favor to those who are underprivileged, I think it's the other way round. They are doing us a favor by letting us be a part of their special life.

The ThomsonReuters Foundation, tied up with 25 NGOs, each a pioneer in their field. Unprecedented in scale and involvement, we'll have 2500 employees taking part in 250 projects across 4 months.

In a series of posts, I'll attempt to pen down my experiences with the 19 projects that I will be a part of this year.

Sept 17th, 2011.
'Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day....teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime'
Unnati works on empowering those sections of the society that is underprivileged and undermined in more ways than one.
With 12 enthusiastic volunteers, we were overwhelmed at the sight of over 200 candidates at the Centre on a bright and balmy Saturday morning.
A quick briefing and a short slideshow of the program cleared any doubts that my team had.

But what really impressed many of us was how streamlined the entire process was.
Interview on such a massive scale is always a logistical nightmare. However in Unnati, fully completed applications are screened for authenticity and tagged for any one of the 12 vocations taught at the NGO.

The kind of candidates that we saw impressed us too. Guys and girls who you'd otherwise not bat an eyelid if you passed them on the street were there, wanting to learn, work and be able to stand on their own feet. Nearly all of them reached Unnati because they had friends/relatives who were taught at the NGO.
Most of them were humble and open to instruction, criticism and feedback. Some were hell bent on working in a particular vocation, even though they lacked the skills. We had to persuade them and explain to them why they would not suit a vocation.
But all of them had an amazing attitude about life, smiling even though in abject poverty.
For the 150 odd candidates that did crack the interview, Sept 19th is just the beginning.
The team at Unnati that made a difference!

Towards the end of the day, we all had a wonderful time. Many of us saw ourselves in the candidates we interviewed.
And on our way back, we promised ourselves that we would want to be there when the 70 day course at Unnati finishes on the 3rd of December.

Karunashraya - Hospice
Sept 18th, 2011.
'All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.'
The hospice for patients with cancer in it's advanced stages struck a very personal chord with me.
Having seen what cancer can do with a person and his/her family, the work that Karunashraya made me pause and ponder. Pain is an incredible thing. Something that you need to experience to know how much it pains, cancer is a painful death sentence.
Having seen my dad and his sisters loose their battles of cancer was painful. Scary even.
At Karunashreya, I saw death. Apparently the mortality rate at the hospice is as high as two deaths a day.

The history of the NGO is inspiring. Having gone through a corrupt bureaucracy, the NGO does manage to strike a delicate balance between altruism and sound policies.
We got to learn how the hospice functioned. What I noticed was how almost everything in the hospice was designed and done in such a way that death looses it's sting. 
Each of the 'guest' is allowed to wear their own clothes provided it is comfortable and easy to wear/remove, every guest is allowed to walk freely around the facility, every guest is given their choice of meal three times a day. And when the time comes that the guest has to 'depart', he/she is given a dignified way through doors that open directly into the veranda and wheeled to the 'Prayer room' where the relatives can accept the mortal remains.
All this is done so to make sure that none of the inmates see the bodies going out, even though all of them are quite sure that their turn to leave is not too far away.

Our project was to provide succor to the staff and nurses and relief even if it was just a day, from the gory reality of death around them.
Ranging from ages 18 to 25, you'd hardly notice anything different about the staff here and any other hospital. Dig deeper and you'll find that they all have a passion for selflessness. Polite yet steely resolved, working with terminally ill people require nerves of steel.
Would I want to work with Karunashraya again? Definitely Yes.

Sept 21st, 2011.
"For me, inclusion is about a community where everyone is recognized for their differences and everyone is recognized as belonging – not only in our schools, but in our communities."
As part of my third project, we had to plan and execute a gathering of 25 different NGOs that work for differently abled individuals. 
The first picture that comes to our minds when we talk about social service are images of individuals who are anemic, unintelligible and unscrupulous.
Having met 25 different NGOs involved in healthcare, employment and among specially abled individuals, my perception has improved. 
With over 2000 registered NGOs in the city of Bangalore alone, it is anybody's guess on why we need to pool in our collective resources. The need is certainly there. Being 'challenged' (or the more politically incorrect term 'disabled') does no longer mean that you should be begging for your living. With the wealth of resources that many of these NGOs have, getting a good job/living a respectable life is only a matter of connecting to the right organization.

With the NGOs promising to network and connect in a better way in the future, I believe we were able to hit all the right notes with our project.

Next Stop:
The Freedom Foundation

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Give! Get Rich

A survey that studies trends of charity in India showed that the wealthier you got, the lesser you gave to charity.
The reason why the rich don't give to the poor is because of that section of the society that the poor depend on.
Its not always been this way though..

Charity in India has long been a milch cow.
Widespread corruption and the general unwillingness to punish the people who misappropriate charity has led to a general scepticism of Charity as a concept.

How can you blame the poor for remaining poor.

Every time we have a natural calamity, the Prime Minister's Fund open up and so does a dozen other 'Relief and Donation funds'. Good Samaritans donate out of the generosity of their hearts or because of the personal grief of the tragedy. However just a small fraction of all this will eventually reach the benefactors, if any. That all the money will end up lining the pockets of the 'Trustees' is India's shame.

'Let the left hand not know what the right hand gives' is a saying that transcends many religions.

However in a ritual that is repeated every at Mass every Sunday, I still see 'members' of wealthier churches flaunting their Gucci and Valentino purses when it is 'Offertory time', and when the Alter boys/volunteers start collecting the tiths, that's when the well heeled Ladies and Gentlemen dig deep into their bags and wallets for the smallest available denomination they can spare.
Some of them will even do a quick math to think if they need might need the money for parking on that day. Suddenly it becomes a battle of whether I 'pass' the bag or sacrifice the 'parking charge'.
And when the alter boy nudges the bag, you take a quick look with your peripheral vision to make sure you don't have any one staring down at your purse/wallet, you fish real quick pick the smallest coin dispensable and in a maneuver that will make a pick pocket blush dispose off the Rs 2 coin in the bag, while making sure that you put the hand deep inside the bag so as to give the illusion of pious offertory but actually to make sure no one sees your pittance.

Well, I've got news for all of you!
God does not need your Rs 2.
He created you. He created everything else. And 'He owns all the sheep in all the hills of the world'. Though this is just a metaphor, this is the Truth.

I find it absurd that we think we are paying/bribing Him (depending on what your need/reason is)
Doesn't He own the air we breathe. Not all the wealth in all the world can build another Earth, yet we try to save and hoard.

We hate the words 'Give' and 'Charity' in the same sentence.

'Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down and shaken together, and running over, shall men give unto you. For with the same measure that you give shall be measured to you again..'
Luke 6:38

When we have been promised abundance in return for generosity, why are we so reluctant? Is it because no matter how wealthy we get, our soul remains poor?
Lets learn to give out of our heart. True Charity begins in your heart. Lets get rich

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