In these COVID times when one estimate is that a hundred million of our countrymen may be pushed into poverty with forty million of those into abject poverty, there is a clarion call for all right thinking philanthropists to come forward and do our bit for our society and our country. Keep Moving Movement (KMM) and Living my Promise (LMP) are sterling examples
The school where I studied – Bishop Westcott in Ranchi had a motto in Latin that read “Non Nascor Mihi Solum” Live not for self alone. I may not have realized it then but this motto was ingrained subliminally in my psyche for ten years and strong parental influence towards participation in social service has lit a flame that stayed bright through decades of corporate life and entrepreneurship. And in these COVID times, when one estimate is that a hundred million of our countrymen may be pushed into poverty with forty million of those into abject poverty, there is a clarion call for all right thinking philanthropists to come forward and do our bit for our society and our country!
Many of us believe we care for the underprivileged and are willing to pontificate to our friends and of course on social media what the Government should do and what’s wrong with all the NGOs who try so hard and yet, to our minds achieve so little. My own father through his efforts to set up a Ramakrishna Mission Seva Kendra for the children of a village called Tatisilwai, where we lived in Jharkhand, taught me the value of looking at each life as precious. For him, scope and depth of social change were as important as scale and the village friends my sister and I made in the process of participating every day in that effort stay our well-wishers and have surely made us better human beings.
Closer home, one inspiring human for me in Pune apart from the bigger names we all admire like Anu Aga and Rahul Bajaj, is Narendra Goidani. I first met Naren and his wife Bharati when they joined Social Venture Partners, Pune when Shumita Mahajan and I were just setting it up. As my father did, Naren plunged himself wholeheartedly into Jagruti, the superb NGO for training slum women to be nursing assistants that Mrs Jaya Kale and Mangala tai had set up in the city.
Inspired by him, the entity continues to do yeoman work and SVP Lead partners who succeeded Naren can all take pride in an entity which has scaled ten times in just a few years. Naren and I have also been partners in an excellent initiative to provide counselling and meaning in life to juvenile delinquents currently in captivity in Pune. Even if ten per cent of the lives we have touched are set on a path to reform it would be a mission accomplished. Says Naren “We inspired 782 juveniles to leave the world of crime. It was one of the most fulfilling work we have ever done. It was dangerous work too as we were taking away foot soldiers from crime lords but we were determined to do it and we did it.”
Even if ten per cent of the lives we have touched are set on a path to reform it would be a mission accomplished
One of Naren’s most inspiring work areas apart from Life School and Wow Parenting is the Keep Moving Movement (KMM). KMM started in 2001 with eighty volunteers, training students in eight schools in Pune. It has taken many “leaps of faith” with the presence expanding in fifteen years to eight cities and over three hundred volunteer trainers from all walks of life providing inspiring interventions to fifteen thousand students. Today KMM has spread to 55 cities with over a 1000 volunteers impacting 40,000 students and the sessions are being conducted in eight languages.
With the spread of COVID, KMM has gone entirely digital, with all training conducted online and schools offering synchronous and asynchronous sessions. For rural schools where the much anticipated BharatNet is yet to reach and connectivity remains an issue, micro-training is offered through ten-minute sessions transmitted through WhatsApp. Various Governments are approaching the organisation to beam these sessions to lakhs of students. One of the most endearing aspects of KMM is that they have very young volunteers like Naren’s own daughter and also three volunteers above 70 years of age. KMM is one exemplar that truly demonstrates that there is no age or other barrier for a philanthropist who wants to spread love and goodness. And inspiring leaders like Naren actually lurk within each of us, if only we give them a chance to emerge.
With all this and the stellar work done during COVID relief times by Social Venture Partners India and Pune entities like NES, CYDA, the Pune Platform and Pune City Connect, a tipping point came when in a panel discussion I moderated with three philanthropy leaders, Amit Chandra, Luis Miranda and Govind Iyer; we realized that all three of them had signed the “Living My Promise”, and last week I followed in their footsteps. This is a commitment that during and after our lifetime, half of our wealth will go towards charitable causes.
Today, it’s a small movement with the number of signatories in double digits but with the growing realization that what Gandhiji said is eminently true, that the world has enough for everybody’s needs but not for everybody’s greed, it is a hope that all those who have earned beyond their own need will generously donate towards society’s overall need. May the flame of philanthropy burn bright in all of us.