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31 Mar 2010
A Kindly Encouraging Light that guided Share and Care Foundation’s journey…

By Arun Bhansali

Arun Bhansali is the Chairman, Share and Care Foundation.

My connection with India changed dramatically after I moved to London in 1962. Suddenly, India was no longer on the other side of the globe. The nostalgia for the motherland was undiminishing and had some effect on me. Having settled comfortably in USA after the first flood of migration in early 1960s, Indian organizations started mushrooming to create cultural awareness among Americans. The obvious reason was to fight for their rightful place in larger American society and to network effectively at a professional level. Many of them came to America with a dream but hardly any resources and made it on their own. No doubt, the excellent education and good grounding in India were the solid foundation. Most of us realized that we were fortunate to do so because most of those institutions were subsidized or funded by philanthropists. The legacy they left behind represents a highest form of love between God and man. They certainly made this world a better place to live. That triggered us to think about “Giving Back” to society and as a result Share and Care Foundation was born.

Today, Share and Care Foundation (SCF) is a leading humanitarian organization in U.S.A. empowering Youth and Women to come out of the vicious cycle of poverty in rural India. It was started back in 1982 by six couples of which two were Palanpuris, well established in the diamond industry in USA. In 1983-84 the Bhopal Gas Tragedy occurred. That challenged SCF’s conscience to rise to the call of duty. It related to the unfolding sad story with a sense of responsibility, connecting between the faceless people who ran the corporations and the victims. SCF assisted with over a million dollars worth of medical equipment, eye sutures, critical medicines and an emergency eye care clinic. Since then the Foundation has never looked back.

Having invested over $60million in grants, it has made a remarkable mark in enhancing quality of lives. Women and children being the focus of the Foundation it aimed to improve education, basic healthcare and create economic opportunities. During this journey, many a time it was heart breaking to see some struggling to survive in Mumbai or Bhavnagar’s slums that lacked basic necessities like clean drinking water or sanitation. Or witness poor parents at the risk of losing their children to exploitation, child labor or to the underworld. SCF supports them to get a healthy, secure and nourishing environment. Those challenges and solutions are always enriching and emotional experiences for us. 

My notion is shaped by the spirit of innovation with the intent of benefiting society. This humanitarian perspective I have inherited from my uncle Kanubhai and aunt Shashiben. I have yet not met many souls like them who have forever made an impact on someone’s life by their kind and beyond-the–call acts. No-strings attached. That was important and that mattered! They became the role model for many of us and compelled us to reach out to others.

Currently the Foundation has over 60 dedicated and active volunteers serving the community round the year. That helps to keep the expenses within the bare necessity. Most of volunteers travel to India every year at their own expense visit the projects and make an assessment. For us it is a journey of identity and self-definition through listening and learning.  On this journey, SCF was fortunate to have had mentors like Mafatkaka who inspired, nurtured, and connected us with many NGOs in India. It was interesting to see the forces that shaped SCF during the Gujarat earthquake while truly mending the broken lives by providing homes, clinics and schools. In first few days of the emergency we airlifted tents, medicines, milk powder and nutritional food to help those victims to sustain.

We believe that each human being, no matter how disadvantaged, is adorned with the capacity to learn skills and earn, if opportunity is provided to do so. SCF supports such projects so the beneficiaries have an opportunity to emerge out of miseries of poverty and live with dignity. The Foundation draws its strength from our professional diversity, resources and experience. We select innovative solutions that create a lasting impact and fit in the local environment.

Recently I visited one such initiative funded by SCF and implemented by Vidyamandir seven years ago, called “Science on the Wheels”. The van is equipped with lab equipment, audio visual, books and other tools, and goes regularly to more than 11 municipal schools in various villages where there is no such facility. Its impact and success is phenomenal. In addition, Vidyamandir provided its own facility on their premises to enhance this experience by coaching those students in Sunday classes. Last January, during my visit, I visited some of these village schools and talked to those students and parents. They impressed upon me that how much they are enjoying it and looking forward to this van coming by every week. I could feel deep down in me the joy of learning. My overwhelming emotional experience tells me that the power to change somebody’s destiny is within us. With such enriching results, SCF has decided to expand this program and fund another “Science on the wheels” this year.

In Gujarat alone, over 2,000,000 street kids do not have work, in and out of school and all but out of hope. Some end up in jail. Their crime: POVERTY and NEGLECT. This army of uneducated, jobless youth disconnected in most instances from society’s mainstream are restless, unhappy and pose a severe long term threat to the society. In many cities of Gujarat and other states, you see the young, jobless, hanging out on frigid and dark street corners, hustling for money so that they can buy some food for themselves and their families. The lack of it, in some cases, makes them drift into devastating clutches of crime, drug-selling, prostitution and worse.

Have you ever looked back on such a situation and wished you had helped someone in need? Perhaps you felt too overwhelmed with your own life or you did not know what you could do that would matter!

Think of what Mother Teresa said: “To keep the lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it.

There is lot more to be done. It is our intent to do whatever we can for the cause of India and the profile of India. We are immensely grateful to the Foundation giving us the platform and opportunity to serve our motherland and her underprivileged women and children. It is truly said: You can take an Indian out of India but not India out of an Indian.

We are proud to acknowledge that Palanpuri diamond merchants in USA are strong supporters of the Foundation and its mission. Many of them are also active volunteers. We also take note of many successful Palanpuris and diamond merchants of India around the globe who have creatively increased their philanthropic contributions and continue to be guided by the maxims: TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED. That is not to suggest that philanthropy is the only way to serve to our community, our country or our motherland. Scientists, artistes, authors, actors, teachers, businessmen, industrialists or CEOs all do commendable contributions to the well being of the society. We are proud of all such citizens who have got global prominence through their commercial genius as well as compassionate hearts. 

I am glad that “Palanpur Online” has undertaken a mission to unearth the past, current and future stars and heroes from the most unlikely places. While cherishing that thought, I should not fail to salute to those who had the courage, wisdom and vision to make it happen.



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