By Lord Dolar Popat, with Rohan Radia
THE recent rallying around community organisations, charities and private enterprises providing meals to children going hungry this half term has been quite amazing.
So, too, is footballer Marcus Rashford’s work on raising awareness of child hunger in the UK through his own story.
Amid clear divisions in society along many lines at the moment, we would like to highlight the importance of philanthropy in the Asian community with some inspirational examples. With Diwali approaching, this is an apt time. The essence of this festival is the power of good over bad, light over dark, togetherness over division.
Almost 20 per cent 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, has 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 serves 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. Unfortunately, this can be costly and often does not fulfil the nutritional requirements our children’s needs. 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.
The Lady Popat Charitable Foundation recently built a maternity ward in Busolwe, Uganda. On my visit back home as the prime minister’s trade envoy to Uganda, I was shaken by the poor conditions women faced when giving birth, and this inspired me to fund a 36-bed maternity facility. My mother was a midwife, so it is an issue very close to my heart.
A baby was born there shortly after the opening ceremony and to commemorate the occasion, the infant was named ‘Lord Popat’ by its mother.
There are numerous other examples. Anant Shah, recently awarded an OBE, has followed his glistening business career with philanthropy as his next vocation. His inspiration was his father, Meghji Pethraj Shah, a prolific philanthropist who built more than 120 schools, hospitals, colleges and clinics in Gujarat, Kenya and the UK. Anant 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 lifelong ambition to help the 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 and education opportunities globally, particularly in response to Covid-19.
Other notable philanthropic figures include Meenal Sachdev, founder and supporter of charities such as Shiva foundation, that 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 wholesalers and a 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.