Tree of Life has always believed in giving back to the countries that nourish and sustain our business. From the nineties on, we have sought out effective and sensitive ways to contribute. This is no easy task. Charity is notoriously challenging to do well we have had our share of difficulties along the way. But we have persevered, always keeping in mind our main goal: for funds and support to go directly to the people who need it, not on fancy overheads and self promotion.
Funds for our charity projects are raised through the sale of particular items earmarked for the purpose in our stores, and more generally are taken from a proportion of our company profits.
We have been fortunate to have the help of a small, non-profit NGO, A Touch of Love. This charity has a hands-on, down to earth approach and we collaborate closely with them, meeting in India on a regular basis and visiting our various projects there. This charity works closely with local teachers, doctors, and nutrition experts to ensure a high standard is maintained.
Our current projects are based in India and Nepal.
Our main focus has always been children. We sponsor more than 100 children in desert areas of Maharashtra state in India. These children come from extremely poor families and are some are disadvantaged in other ways as well through disabilities or being orphaned. The children receive primary school education in Dhablepuri village and Rahuri. We supply books and other teaching aids to the schools and each child receives a new school uniform each year.
We have felt particularly happy to sponsor a music program at the Gadge Maharaj School in Rahuri, which mainly caters to orphans. Harmonium and tabla lessons are given to a group of girls and boys each week, plus they have regular practice sessions.
All the children are given a free hot lunch, usually consisting of dahl, rice, vegetables and chappattis. A cook prepares this nourishing food in a simple kitchen on site each school day. The children receive regular medical check ups and necessary medicines and treatments, and they also attend a dental camp each year.
Initially we sponsored individual children but as time has gone on, we have understood that it is better to leave the distribution of support to our trusted experts on the ground. This is because we often really need to add in an extra child (for example, one suddenly orphaned), and also because we don’t want to assist just one child in a family, or even selected children in a community and leave out others in need. Instead, we spread the funds to help all in a particular area, and add extra funds when needed to accomplish this. This is in line with our chief goal of actually giving help, rather than window-dressing the situation to look appealing to a western audience.
VILLAGE HEARTLAND INDIA
Located in a remote rural area, Dhablepuri is a barren place with few facilities and a spread out sprawl of makeshift houses and huts. The people of this village are mainly goat herders and they struggle to eke out a living for themselves. Some years back, the elders of the village walked about 50 kilometers to the Meher Baba Trust in Ahmednagar for help. Their children were suffering from malnourishment and disease and the drought stricken villagers were desperate. Their dire situation was referred to A Touch of Love charity and we happily came on board as chief sponsor.
The first task was to dig a well so the villagers could have an adequate and safe water supply. Our ties with the village have continued with ongoing support given for education, food, medicine and the planting of a mango tree orchard. The mango tree orchard is a project dear to our hearts. As you know, we love trees and wanted to contribute this addition to relieve the barren landscape and bring a cash crop that would benefit the village. The mango trees are now almost four years old and we are hopeful for a mango crop of around 1000 mangoes in 2016. Fingers crossed!
NEPAL WILL RISE AGAIN
Nepal is our major new charity focus. We love and admire the Nepalese people and have seen first hand the effects of the earthquake in 2015, which have been devastating and far-reaching. We will be raising funds over the coming months to fund the re-building of two schools in February/March 2016. We are working on this project with our Nepalese suppliers and A Touch of Love charity. This will be a collaboration that is lead by local Nepalese to ensure the result is good and meets the needs of the community.
In addition to the school projects we currently provide sponsorship for two orphanages for Nepalese children. One of these, the Patan Orphanage located in Kathmandu, was badly damaged in the earthquake. Rebuilding work due to the damage is urgently needed and we plan to visit in February to review how best to progress this and our other Nepalese projects.
We send a heartfelt thank you to all of our wonderful staff and customers. These are your projects as much as ours. We are humbled and grateful for the generous and ongoing support we have received with these endeavors, so close to all of our hearts.