Meera Gandhi, who founded the Giving Back Foundation in 2010, says that the non-profit has grown in the last few years in terms of its avowed objective to empower women and children through transformational Education.
In a brief interview with Desi Talk after the foundation’s annual benefit gala in New York last month, Gandhi said that she finds great joy in helping children get education from her St Michael’s Giving Back School in New Delhi which houses, boards and educates 110 orphaned girls a year. “The school has been successful and a playground and gardens have been added and the middle school classrooms completely refurbished. It is a great joy for me to see these children flourish each year,” Gandhi said.
She said that the foundation also serves as a platform for debate and dialog for social change and many young people have had a voice through the Giving Back Foundation. “So far we have reached out to a least 1 million lives across the globe. We are firm in our commitment and we are reaching out to many young people. I believe that even one life made better is a cause well served,” she said.
At the recent gala Gandhi also announced about adding another arm to the foundation which she called the ‘Mindfulness Platform’ because she believes that technology and the rapid pace in the world has left people’s minds stripped of peace and joy. To address this, the foundation will start holding mindfulness camps hopefully with gurus like Jon Kabat Zinn, Deepak Chopra, Jim Luce of the Huffington Post and Donna Karan.
Gandhi, who hosted the 61 birthday of Cherie Blair, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, at her home recently said that “Giving Back coffee table book” with its inspirational, philanthropic message are reaching people in the Americas, Europe and is even selling in India, China, Turkey ,Ireland. The entire proceeds from the $50-book go directly to the foundation which sends the money to St. Michaels for the food, text books, clothing, uniforms housing enabling them to receive the education from a safe hostel environment that will change their lives.
“Sometimes, people see the projects listed in the book and send a larger donation which goes again directly to serve the foundation’s projects, all involved in transforming lives. Sometimes, I think it’s a drop in the bucket but the many drops eventually do fill a bucket to the brim!” she said.
She did not say how much the foundation has been able to raise since its inception. “So far, about 99.9 per cent has been my own money that I have been using to do these projects.
Until last year we did not raise any money from outside. Very little money actually comes from outside to support my work. I hope with the message getting out this will change,” Gandhi said.
Going forward, she would like the foundation to help women and children spend a day in yoga and meditation and take a step in the direction of spiritual improvement. “I think this is a new aspect we are adding to the foundation’s goals,” she said.
How does she balance her social life with work for her foundation?
“I think it’s very useful speaking on panels and meeting enlightened women at conferences, or at the United Nations or even socially. One talks and collaborates and plenty of good is accomplished by uniting with other women or other organizations.
I think I am more organic in my thinking and approach,” she said.
“When I go out to be social that’s all I do – I talk to people, and enjoy their company. I do not think of business at all. It’s not my style. I think business and pleasure are separate entities. If they ever combine to result in a useful project for the good of the universe, then it was meant to be and I take it at that!”