The Opportunities for Selfless Service are Limitless
– NJASM Leads the Way in Charitable Giving in Guyana
All major religious systems place great emphasis on the notion of charitable giving (humanitarianism).The institution of “zakat” (compulsory charity) is one of the five pillars of Islam. For Christianity, charity and evangelising go hand in hand. The Bhagavad Gita makes numerous references to the importance of charitable giving, but cautions, “it must be given to the right person(s) and for the right purpose(s), without any expectation of reward.”
While members of our community have historically donated generously to Mandirs, Mosques, and Churches, it was only recently (about two decades ago) that we have begun to embrace a wider universe of charitable giving. We have gone beyond the walls of houses of worship and into the streets of neighbourhoods. While we still have a long way to travel on this noble path, we must commend those NGOs that have worked tirelessly to accomplish many significant feats in humanitarianism. Here, we focus on the mission and work of one such NGO that operates out of New Jersey.
The New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission (NJASM) was established in 2005 as an arm of the New Jersey Arya Samaj Mandir to carry out important humanitarian work in Guyana and elsewhere. Its dynamic president, Pt Suresh Sugrim, is a well known figure within our community for his tremendous contribution towards the enhancement of the welfare of the needy in Guyana. Not to be discouraged by negatives, he and the NJASM persevere with their goal of helping the disadvantaged.
Over this Summer, Pt Suresh Sugrim and the NJASM carried out a 4-week outreach humanitarian project in Guyana that consisted of the distribution of school uniforms and food vouchers, and used clothing (20 barrels) across Guyana from the Corentyne, Berbice, to the Pomeroon, Essequibo, to the needy in poor and sometimes blithe areas. The cost of this and other NJASM projects for 2009 amount to approximately US$30,000 with most of the funds coming from fund-raising activities held in the USA.
Pt Sugrim expresses his profound debt of gratitude to all those who have generously supported his mission and work in Guyana, and hopes that they will never turn the other way. Equally loud in his praise for various NGOs that operate in Guyana, he nevertheless believes that enough emphasis is not given by these (NGOs) on rural poverty and disorganisation. It is within those neighbourhoods that the NJASM concentrates. For example, it has just constructed 2 homes (20’ x 26’) with 2-bedrooms each for the needy in Canje, Berbice, at an approx cost of US$6,000. And there was counterpart funding from local donors.
Tony Ameralli of AMCO Inc provided housing materials, while Food for the Poor and Guyana Women in Development helped to furnish those homes. NJASM plans to extend the housing initiative to other areas, but notes that areas identified must have the requisite infrastructure in place. One suitable area is a 20-acre plot in Babu John, Port Mourant. Pt Sugrim is quick to point out that his organisation does not discriminate in the distribution of food, clothing, or any other charitable service. He cites, for example, their humanitarian work in New Amsterdam, Liverpool, Buxton, and Nurney Village. Charitable giving is colour blind. NJASM also left barrels of clothing for the Amerindian community.
Although the mission headquarters is in New Jersey, a branch was set up in Guyana under the Friendly Society Act. The Guyana branch works throughout the year to provide services to the needy. Its local president is Dr Ramesh Sugrim, while its Secretary is Kamal Dhanesar, and the PRO is Magistrate Chandra Sohan. In the U.S., Pt Sugrim is assisted by Kamal Etwaru (Secretary), and Nanwatie Roopraman (Treasurer). They, along with others, constitute the Executive Board that runs the day-to-day operations of the NJASM.
The main policymaking body of the NJASM is its Board of Directors (Pt Suresh Sugrim, S Jagassar, V Harnandan, Nanwattie Roopraman, and P Ramnauth) that meets once every three months. The Executive Board (or Committee) meets every month to implement the decisions of the Board of Directors. Elections for the Executive Committee takes place every two years, while those for the Board of Directors are elected every three or five years.
Pt Sugrim says that transparency and accountability are observed at every juncture of their operations and invites the public to visit their website for further information on these and other matters. Prabha Gossai spent two weeks in Guyana, as part of the mission, and was moved greatly by that experience. “What a joy to serve the needy” she beholds. She notes further: “Overseas Guyanese are not doing enough for their country. They should come forward and help. They can work directly with affected communities or through existing NGOs.”
Commenting on other areas of social disorganisation (family breakdown and high incidence of suicides) and their possible causes (e.g., excessive drinking, domestic abuse, etc.) Pt Sugrim says that these have been neglected areas of both local and national policy. He vows that the NJASM will work with other NGOs to address this problem. He also cites local efforts to draw attention to this problem. For example, a Walkathon was held that spanned the villages of Port Mourant and Albion, on “Alcohol and Domestic Violence.” Special guests were Bishop Edghill, ERC (Ethnic Relations Commission) Chair and MP, Philomena – Shaoye.
“I consider that our most significant achievement is to give families a chance for tomorrow.” Our community is better off because of the work and mission of the NJASM. They have brought hope and joy to thousands of the needy. And we are confident that their altruistic efforts will reach the hearts of others, so that they, too, can come to the rescue of the disadvantaged. The opportunities for selfless service are endless. We urge everyone to join this path towards enlightenment. Congratulations to Pt Suresh Sugrim and the NJASM!