DEAR READERS: I just got back from an eye-opening humanitarian trip to India. I went on behalf of a philanthropic organization, The PRASAD Project (theprasadproject.org), for which I serve on the board. What I witnessed changed my perspective on life.
Like many of you, I pride myself on being conscientious about the way that others live. I do not presume that everyone has the tangible blessings that I have. Being grateful for the plenty in my life and knowing the importance of the Biblical notion "to whom much is given, much is expected," I visited this amazing country with my eyes open. The small international group with whom I traveled came together to visit the various projects that we have developed and funded. The work of The PRASAD Project (which stands for Philanthropic Relief, Altruistic Service And Development) is intended to uplift and empower children and families in need -- to help them help themselves.
The breadth of need gave me pause. As we traveled to different destinations largely on dirt roads in the forest of the Tansa Valley, about two hours outside of Mumbai, we saw many people walking: women with strong backs and bare feet balancing aluminum bowls of water on their heads; girls and boys laughing and talking wearing crisp uniforms, nearly half of them shoeless on the rock-filled road; dry land as far as you could see with no water for drinking or bathing for miles.
Life for these people, known as Adivasis, the tribal people of India, is harder than anything I can imagine experiencing firsthand, let alone on a daily basis. And yet there was a tremendous sense of dignity, hope and conviction in each of their faces; for many we engaged, there was a heartfelt expression of gratitude. We visited one village of 25 families that had just finished building, with our support, a toilet for each home. Up until 2016, they had no formal sanitation. Another village showed us the water pump that we helped them install. It sits a few hundred feet away from the water hole that they have used for generations to feed their families. The water in that hole was yellow and murky, sure to harbor disease.
I could share endless stories of the transformation we witnessed thanks to the generosity of people who want to help those in need -- even when they may be experiencing struggles themselves. The effect of a small donation -- to restore eyesight, to feed a starving child, to empower women -- was palpable for all to see.
What I want to say to you is that whether it is my charity of choice or another, please seriously consider giving to those who are struggling to survive. Recognizing that we live in a global community where some people literally cannot find clean water or a place to go to the bathroom is a powerful reminder that we must be our brother’s keeper. It cannot be OK for some of us to enjoy luxuries ad infinitum if we do not also support our brothers and sisters and children who would benefit enormously from even a tiny gift from us.
I left India with the smiles of children, who had just received milk from our nutrition program, emblazoned on my heart. I dream of a world where all of our children are well-fed and healthy, where all of our families are connected and strong and where all of our communities feel supported on their journey to live honorable, sustainable lives. Don’t you?
(Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)