Philanthropy - Embracing the Spirit of Diwali
By Lord Dolar Popat & Rohan Radia
The recent rally around community organisations, charities and private enterprises providing meals to children going hungry this half term has been quite amazing. So, too, has Marcus Rashford’s work on raising awareness of child hunger in the UK through his own story.
Amidst clear divisions in society on many lines at the moment, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight the importance of philanthropy in our community with some inspirational examples. This goes for other communities, too, just one example being the British Jewish community with whom we share many commonalities. With Diwali approaching, this is an apt time to be discussing this. The essence of this festival is the power of good over bad, light over dark, togetherness over division.
Almost 20% of children in the UK are unsure if they will have a proper meal on a given day – a startling statistic in one of the most developed countries in the world. The economic fallout from Covid-19 will only exacerbate the vulnerability many families and children will face. In light of this, the GMSP Foundation, set up by Pratibha and Ramesh Sachdev in 2006, have partnered with Akshaya Patra to bring a cutting edge, tried and tested kitchen model from India to feed children in the UK. Their first kitchen has just opened in Watford, providing 5,000 hot and wholesome meals per day for children in a cost-effective way.
Akshaya Patra serve 1.8 million meals to children in India every day. In the UK, we largely rely on schools and holiday clubs to organise meals independently. This unfortunately can be costly and often does not fulfil the nutritional requirements our children need. Akshaya Patra’s model is therefore exactly what we need in this country, supplying meals which balance micro- and macro- nutrients to ensure children are receiving optimal nutrition, and doing this within a highly efficient and scalable structure.
Others in our community similarly serve as role models in this space. The Lady Popat Charitable Foundation recently built a maternity ward in Busolwe, Lord Popat’s hometown in Uganda. On a visit back home as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Uganda, Lord Popat was shaken by the poor conditions women were facing when giving birth, prompting him to fund the 36-bed maternity facility. With his mother having been a midwife, this matter was very close to his heart. A baby was born in the ward shortly after the opening ceremony and to commemorate the occasion the mother named the baby “Lord Popat”.
There are numerous more examples. Anant Shah, recently awarded an OBE, has followed up a glistening business career to make philanthropy his vocation. His inspiration was his father, Meghji Pethraj Shah, who was a prolific philanthropist who built more than 120 schools, hospitals, colleges and clinics in Gujarat, Kenya and the UK. Anant Shah OBE is now actively involved with more than a dozen organisations in multiple countries, contributing his experience and skills in addition to resources. Among the causes he supports are multiple animal welfare charities.
Dr Nik Kotecha OBE has made it his life-long ambition to help those who are disadvantaged in developing countries, both in business and philanthropy. His business, Morningside, was set up in 1991 to supply affordable and high quality medicine to developing countries. Kotecha also recently established the Randal Charitable Foundation, a non-profit which has been active in improving health, education and social disadvantage around the world, particularly in response to Covid-19.
Other notable philanthropic figures include: Meenal Sachdev, founder and supporter of charities such as Shiva foundation, addressing a host of issues such as human trafficking and child sexual abuse; Bharat Shah CBE, founder of one of the UK’s leading pharmacy wholesaler and donor to a range of causes; and Anita Goyal, CEO of Hemraj Goyal Foundation which partners with a range of charities in areas such as FGM, human trafficking and education.
There are several other philanthropic role models in our community who could be mentioned here. They are all inspiring. It is our hope that we will seize the opportunity to expand our leadership and support for philanthropic causes at this most pressing of times. There is no better way to embrace the spirit of Diwali.
Rohan Radia has recently graduated from the University of Oxford and beginning a career in business with a leading management consulting firm. He has a strong interest in philanthropy and related topics.