After working with orphans and underprivileged kids at Navjeevana for over a decade, Vasavi has watched girls who, under the care of a few nuns, have educated themselves and become skilful independent women, working as nurses, medical transcriptionists and more. Their extraordinary determination in the face of adversity inspired and motivated Vasavi to start her own NGO, which is currently a work in progress.
Tell us about what you do.
I’m an interior designer/architect by profession, and also the business owner of Atelier V, a design house, and BlowBar, a spa/salon. I am passionate about fitness and health and am a certified Pilates instructor/trainee. I actively participate with a non-profit organisation for underprivileged kids and families called ‘Rosas Angels’ in the US. I love to travel and am inspired by different cultures and cuisines. I also love to paint, cook and entertain. In addition, I am also actively involved in volunteering my time and design skills to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
What does charity mean to you?
Charity is a commitment to becoming less of “me” and more of “us” as a community. It is purely a joy to give, and to give more than just things. It brings more meaning to your life when people engage in generous actions or donations to aid the poor, ill or helpless. You also create opportunities not only for the needy, but also to meet new people who believe in the same cause that inspires you.
You shuttle between America and India. Charity and philanthropy is huge in the States, and unfortunately not that ubiquitous in India. What are your thoughts on this, and how can we as a country be more charitable towards the unfortunate?
I have lived outside India for almost 17 years during my studies and work. I’ve learned lots of skills and wanted to make use of them for the people in our country. I have found that there are a number of complexities involved in the nature of charitable giving. While I understand the dilemma, as the next generation is more travelled, educated and accomplished, it is my hope that they are able to understand that giving is not just about writing a cheque once a year. Giving should be an active exercise. It is important to engage with the organisations that you support; know where they are spending the money; advise them on ways to do more; and volunteer your time and talent to help further the cause. Encourage smaller organisations – you don’t have to give only to big brand-name organisations to make a difference. What matters is giving to a cause you believe in personally, and playing an active role in that act of kindness.
Your primary focus is on empowering underprivileged women. How can Indian women make the most of their potential?
Women’s empowerment has to be a core part of any developing country. Apart from being denied equal status, women bear the brunt of poverty in poor societies that have less access to health and education facilities, and bear the major part of bringing up children and looking after families. Women across the world, especially in India, have an enormous capacity to do wonderful things with very few resources. Empowerment of women leads to better progress in reducing poverty, reducing female discrimination, creates a safer place, increases the age of marriage for girls, leads to higher levels of education, teaches job skills, and builds self esteem and confidence. All of this in turn enables women to take up more challenging jobs at par with men.
What can one do to incorporate charity in their everyday lives?
Charity doesn’t require giving away money or possessions. It starts in the heart and brain. Spread good deeds from home to the globe. If you have the time and the inclination, consider volunteering, give away unused possessions (clothing, toys, electronics) of a decent quality. Run, walk or bicycle for good causes; raise money and awareness. Make sure your money is actually going to help those in need.
What are your hopes for the future?
With the grace of God, and my father, and the support of my family and loved ones, one day I would like to see the underprivileged not as a subject of charity, but as independent people who fend for themselves and in turn help the community. --- as told to Suneela