Indians play the Good
Samaritan in US!
in America, especially those who can afford to, generally
rally around to help others though they do not have a formal
tradition of donating to charities, says Mohan Babu
my prior columns, I talked about the financial habits of Indians
in the US, how we make and invest money in the US. While there
is little doubt that most of us who leave our homeland are
here to further our own goals and enrich ourselves — by experience
and in terms of amassing wealth — we do not forget our roots.
Making money may be the means but not the end. Many Indians
in US and elsewhere in the world also tend to periodically
revisit their altruistic side by giving back to the society.
seem to be generous when it comes to their involvement with
charities and foundations; they gave $175 billion to charity
in 1999. A bulk of this money went to universities, hospitals,
churches and the arts. Charities in America work like fine-tuned
machines and they can afford to be so — for example, Bill
and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest charity
has an endowment of $22 billion. All the hype over charities
is contagious and even Indians tend to catch the “charity
in America, especially those who can afford to, generally
rally around to help others although we do not have a formal
tradition of donating to charities. Many of us in the US consider
ourselves fortunate to be working towards a position of financial
security and do not tend to easily forget where we come from.
Some like to volunteer their time to manage local chapters
of charities or organising events. Others like to be more
hands-off, preferring to donate a set amount of money every
with all the social and economic problems that it faces, needs
all the help it can get. There are millions of enthusiastic,
energetic young people, who, given an opportunity would be
more than willing to find a niche for themselves. In a nation
where a good percentage of population is below the poverty
line, even the grind of daily existence becomes a chore. The
government can only do so much and this is where NGOs (non-government
organisations) and other charities need to step up to the
plate. Many social problems stem from the tremendous inequality
of wealth in the world today. Charitable organisations are
intended to rectify these social problems, partly by a voluntary
redistribution of the wealth.
Indian charities have started looking outside for assistance.
They are realising that Indian expatriates form a good source
that they can tap into. Some of them have found the support
of volunteers in the US who manage local chapters and branches.
Of course, due to the nature of amount collected, most charities
in the US are highly regulated. Charities operating in the
US also have a tax-deductible status under IRS (Internal Revenue
Service) codes. Contributions are generally acknowledged with
a receipt including tax-ID number along with the amount of
donation. This way, people donating to these charities can
also claim a tax break, making for a win-win proposition.
charities in the US also conduct regular charitable events
and fund raisers. Of course, the Web and e-mail have been
a very powerful tool in generating awareness. For example,
during January and February I received dozens of e-mails from
friends and associates about charities raising money for the
money for charity need not be a dry and monotonous affair.
As volunteers of Asha- Colorado recently set out to prove,
it can also be a lot of fun. Asha-Colorado, founded in spring
of 1995, is an action group formed by professionals and students
in the Denver-Boulder-Ft. Collins area. They recently organised
“Geetanjali”, an ethnic cultural festival in Denver that attracted
nearly six hundred people. Local talent volunteered their
time to organise and co-ordinate the event, netting over 5,700
dollars, which is a good amount considering that Asha-Colorado
is a small chapter and the Indian community here is very small.
This program also helped increase awareness about Asha and
charitable organisations in the Indian community.
in 1991 at the University of California at Berkeley, Asha
aims to bring hope to underprivileged children through educational
opportunities. Asha works with organisations in the Indian
states of Bihar, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, West Bengal,
and Tamil Nadu.
corporations in the US, especially those with a sizeable Indian
population, sometimes rally around special causes. Case in
point, immediately after the earthquake in Gujarat, employees
of Microsoft Worldwide pooled about $150,000 for the victims
and talked the company into matching the sum, raising a total
of over $400,000. Many large corporations also have a policy
of donating a part of their profits to local charities and
Indians working in the higher echelons of some of the Fortune
500 companies have been instrumental in channelling some of
the corporate donations towards their favourite charities
in India. Many US corporations also have a matching donations
program whereby they donate an equal amount towards their
employees preferred charities.
the Indian context, the word ‘Charity’ is generally looked
upon with suspicion and disdain. There are innumerable horror
stories about misuse of distribution channels, and ways in
which the money that is donated to India is misappropriated.
On hearing and reading about these stories, many who want
to do their part towards helping others also feel disillusioned.
Of course, for every black sheep there are dozens who are
trying to do their bit.
the population of Indians in the US continues to grow, working
with charities and foundations may become a noble outlet for
Script: Let me point out that neither myself, nor my fellow
software engineers in the US are millionaire philanthropists
looking for ways to spend money. I have added this caveat
just to thwart readers from shooting off e-mails asking me
for a donation for some obscure fund or charity.