Asghar F. Vasanwala
I am from Dahod, Gujarat. I am having a degree in civil structural Engineering and have worked in this field all my life. I also had passion for literature and human behavior, so I went to collage for B.A. in Psychology and M.A. in Sociology. Urdu is not my mother tongue; but, I loved it from my childhood and kept learning it throughout. I have also learned Farsi and some Arabic. I speak Marathi and Hindi well; I speak little Spanish too. Because love of Urdu literature, each month once or twice I write and email explanation of Ghalib’s verses to folks on my mailing list.
In 1996 I went to India and saw plight of poor people and I thought to do some thing. When I came back, our Company Southern California Edison (Electric Power) Company offered a package to encourage employees to leave the company and reduce the staff. I did; and, then never went back to work for sake of my involvement in social work. Urdu and Social work, both are my passion.
I love fun in life and want to enjoy it. I also want everyone else also to enjoy life and have fun.
About My Project
When I went to India in 1996, and saw the condition of poor people in my hometown Dohad and other towns around it, I decided to help them achieve dignity in their lives. Dahod belongs to a backward and poor district called Panchmahals, which is in Gujarat. Especially Muslims of this area are without economic resources and have little economic and educational opportunities. When I came back to US that year, I started this program with $700. Since then, I am able to reach many donors and have achieved a great success. For the last few years I collect donations from my friends and send it to my cousin Abid Vasanwala who is an Asst. Manager of State Bank of India. He distributes these donations among needy people who need to pay their small medical bills, Collage/school tuition fees, or school uniforms. We limit our selves to small needs only so that the donation amounts are widely distributed. We spend lot of time scrutinizing applicants and their needs before distributing the donations to them. We also ask applicants to write a letter of thanks, addressed to the donors, stating his/her circumstances and predicaments. We get a receipt from the recipient in form of a letter where in he or she writes the purpose for which the donation amount would be used along with “Thanks-Dua” and appreciation for getting donation.
When I receive these letters, I mail them to each donor, so that he/she may know how his/her donation was used..
In 2001 I received such encouraging support from donors that with help of Batul Kamal I started a new help center in Nagpur. Batul Kamal is from an influential family of Nagpur and has retired from her teaching job in Nagpur College. Not only she is well equipped and well connected, she also has right fire for uplift of poor, especially Muslim children. Nagpur center has just taken off! In a short time of four months we have started embroidery and other classes in a Nagpur slum area. For this purpose we have secured a rent-free space from a local philanthropist and have also bought several embroidery machines at a discounted price. This effort would open up financial resources for poor women as embroidery skill is in a great demand. In addition, we are partners in a nurse-training program for a Nagpur hospital, which serves poor Muslim neighborhood. We are also planning to employ poor women in small businesses such as preparing snacks that then would be marketed in schools’ and collages’. Unfortunately at this time the Nagpur project has become inactive as Batul Kamal is not keeping good health.
In Dahod, last year, we have formed a Trust called “Talim Trust” and also formed a brand new committee of committed people. Its president is a young lady Tabassum Shaikh, who just finished her B. Com. This committee has done excellent job. They have distributed School Uniforms, school fees, school books, and school bags to about 1,000 needy children. We will provide shoes to needy children. They have helped small business, sick, widows, poor and orphans for their daily and medical needs. Committee members go door to door to door in poor neighborhood to assess their needs.
So far this is an all-volunteer work, and therefore, we do not incur any overheads except, some postage expenses. However our work is expanding so we are in process of renting a place with class, playground, library, computer room and an office. We will be hiring a small staff to run our trust under the direction of trust members.
I collect more than 12-lac Rs. to help the poor and the needy mostly during Ramadan when I approach managements and worshippers in different mosques during Juma and Taravi prayers. To get tax befits from US Government I have joined hands with IMRC (Indian Muslim Relief Committee) and AFMI (American Federation of Muslims from India) I am an IMRC Volunteer since 1997 and AFMI since 2003. Both are US registered charities and have Indian Government permission to collect donations from foreign nations, for charitable works in India.
My Donation campaign is During Ramadan we distributed Fitra money, by way of food and clothing to many needy Muslim families. During last Eid-al-Adha 46 US families offered 61 goat Qurbani at $50 each for Goat Qurbani. Meat was distributed among poor people in Dahod and its villages. I collected about $14,000 for Tsunami victims in India. This fund was given to IMRC for distribution.
We have two other programs:
1. Recognizing bright children in poor neighborhoods and train them for IAS officer position.
2. Start some sports activity for children in poor neighbor hood along with a library type reading room.
During Gujarat riot we helped riot-refugees. We gave ad-hoc sums of Rs.500 to each refugee family. We also received help from some philanthropists in India. There was a total loss of Rs. 72 Crore upwards in villages and towns around Dahod. There is still a great need to resettle the above refugees so that they can earn their livelihood and their children can go to school.