She reached out to the tribes ignored for decades!
The history of the ‘Untouchables’ now called the ‘Adivasis’, ‘Dalits’, ‘Schedule class’ or ‘Tribe’ is unending and ignored for many decades. Mahatma Gandhi, who brought awareness of this social discrimination in India, could not successfully complete the task he started, of eliminating this system from the Indian society. When the pictures of Indian Globalization flashed on my TV screen one day in 2004, I could not have felt more proud of being an Indian. My pride however was short lived, when the scenes of rural India changed my whole composure to that of shame and guilt! I could not stop thinking of Gandhiji; I could not grasp the concept of any human being treated even lower than a domestic animal. My heart has never felt so much pain or hurt, even when I have gone through the usual teenage pains of growing up, or at the loss of my dearest loved ones!
I sat in endless silence and meditation, asking God to show me why I was so disturbed and whether I have any role to play in this. That is when all my answers came flooding through; friends started supporting me, and giving me ideas of how I should go back home and initiate projects that will make a difference, to at least a handful of people. In a country where half of its children are deprived of their basic fundamental right to education, every small step is a promise for the betterment of their future. My father, who has been a social worker for as long as I can remember, was above himself! He could not believe that all his dreams of working with these villages and people were about to be fulfilled. His compassion for the underprivileged, his sincerity, total dedication, and passion for these projects (at his ripe young age) makes me feel privileged and proud to be his daughter.
I understand why I am so obsessed with trying to provide clean water for villagers in the area of Vyara in Mandvi, Gujarat my place of birth. My great grandfather and grandfather both died of thirst. My grandfather used to travel from one village to another on a charity mission. The trips used to be long and passed through tough routes. During one such trip the water reserves ran out and he died of dehydration. I was a child when it happened in 1947. Today my father and I are working towards setting up hand pumps and getting wells dug in areas where villagers have no access to clean drinking water.
I was just two years old when her mother passed away and this incident changed my life. To ensure that I would get a good education, my father enrolled me and my sister into a charitable boarding school in Mumbai as our financial condition was not good. This exposure shaped me for my future journey.
When I turned 18, I accepted a marriage proposal from a Nepali national introduced to me by a friend. After marriage, I moved with my husband to Nepal. Life in a new country was not easy but I did my best to adjust to my new home and the country’s customs and traditions. My husband was not doing too well financially and to make matters worse, he would disappear for extended periods of time without notice or explanation. To make things worse, one day I got caught in a stampede in local festival celebration. I suffered from serious injuries and was in coma for five days. When I regained consciousness I saw myself stricken by partial paralysis. I was totally broken and did not know what to do as I had two children. One day I came across an advertisement in a newspaper that spoke of the healing benefits of Reiki. I managed to get free sessions of Reiki for myself after explaining my condition to them. This experience touched me and I decided to become a Reiki practitioner. Just as I was recovering, my husband abandoned me and my children after 7 years of marriage. I was left with no choice but to take charge of my life. I got myself a job at a local tourist company in Nepal and worked my way up through time.
In 1993, I got my career break with a Pakistani company in Dubai. A few years later I met Nick Hawksley, a simulator engineer. In Nick I found my life partner and in 1996 we were married. Nick adopted my sons and enrolled them in a residential school in the UK. His gesture was full of respect and love and he also helped me realize my dream.
I decided to set up a charity organization called Angel Group India with my father Dadu Mandviwalla and my two siblings. I chose the tribes in mandvi area as they did not have basic sanitation, drinking water, education or housing facilities. My father was a civil engineer and had worked with the Public Works Department helping construct roads, highways and bridges in the region. He is well-versed with the problems of the people in the region and knew what they really needed.
We drew up a plan jointly and worked out the logistics. We actively help Primary Schools in the area by building more classrooms, providing hand pumps, digging wells, providing books and stationery to students and ensuring they have playgrounds and running water supplies. We also provide scholarships for tribal students who are doing well to pursue higher studies to be able to move on to university studies.
Initially, funds came in mainly through word of mouth and through friends. Many of my friends and their friends know about my work and they come forward to help in so many different ways. Every first Saturday of the month, we have a stall booked at the Flea Market at Safa Park. Whatever people donate to the Angel Group Fund is put up for sale here and the proceeds go towards improving the living condition of the tribal people in the villages near Mandvi. I am touched with the compassion in people to help the cause.
I thank my ex-husband who abandoned us. If that had not happened, perhaps I would be on this path. Many people are out of touch with their inner selves. I help them gather their scattered thoughts and identify the actual problem so they can enjoy peace of mind and an acceptance of what cannot always be controlled in life. They in turn often volunteer to do some of the work.
Angel Group has come a long way – from serving one village in Gujarat in 2004 to 12 villages today. It began by sponsoring 36 children to attend university. It also helped set up three water pumps in three villages that same year. The volunteers work directly with local people and in partnership with local bodies and support systems to provide quick relief and assistance. It has so far provided clean drinking water facilities for ten local schools and five remote areas in small villages of Gujarat. The funds that have been collected have also gone towards rebuilding and repairing huts and sheds destroyed by floods. However, the major portion of the funds have gone towards the education of young adults. The Angel Group encourages and helps children to finish their university degrees or pursue vocational training.
My vision is that we, each one of us, make this our project, our responsibility, our duty, to bring peace, togetherness and godliness in these challenging and trying times on earth. We can all chain together and make this our mission and purpose, to touch at least one other life and uplift our spiritual world! Come, join us angels; and if you can’t, then we thank you for your prayers.