Sunday, December 18, 2011

[ZESTCaste] My donation for 2011 drive


Dear donors and friends,
If I ask others for money and do not contribute from my pocket, that isn't good. I try my best to contribute whenever I can during the course of year and whenever there is a need in FFEI apart from my other efforts at personal level.
My humble donation for 2011 is a modest $500. I wish I could donate more.
We have raised less than Rs. 3 lakhs (excluding the donations received before this drive started). We need a minimum of Rs. 8 Lakhs to meet our commitments for 2011.
I request others as well to come forward and help us with whatever they can, however small it may be. Don't think that some others will help.

My mails reach 1000s of people. If everyone can contribute a small amount (like a student from India sent $10 by google checkout), we can reach our goal.
In this festive season, may I request everyone to consider donating to the cause of the most oppressed but invisible people of the world – Dalits?
I hope, you respond.
With regards
Benjamin P Kaila
An educated man without character and humility was more dangerous than a beast. If his education was detrimental to the welfare of poor, he was a curse to society.
-Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar

From: Benjamin Kaila <>
To: AmbedkarScholarshipGroup <>; OfficersForum <>; Dalit Group <>; Dalit-international <>; DalitCOnference <>; Human Horizons <>; ZestCaste <>; SakyaGroup <>; Anadswarup <>
Sent: Sunday, December 18, 2011 4:02 PM
Subject: [ambedkarscholarship] FFEI 's 9th year of operation - some thoughts

Dear donors and friends,
Last night I was watching CNN Heroes, 2011. I was thrilled to see how a single person see a need in the community or somewhere faraway in the world; started his/her work like a small spark that spread like a wild-fire in a year or two. A single person's dedication coupled with other considerate people helping thousands and even millions of people in US and across the world. I couldn't resist myself but saluting every individual that featured in the program. I saw ultimate meaning in what they do and the purpose of life on earth.
While watching it, I ponder about FFEI. FFEI is in its 9th year of operation. Started with just 2 scholarships in AP in 2003, in these 9 years FFEI helped hundreds of students from AP, Tamilnadu, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Orissa. Our wish is to expand it to other states, but financial and human resources in those places preventing it to become an all India organization.
In addition to helping students, FFEI helped a few Caste atrocity victims in Punjab (Mr Bant Singh), Uttar Pradesh (little girl raped and a little girl burnt), Kerala (Ms Chitralekha), and honored a few Dalits who made a mark in the society despite their humble background– Ms Baby Kamble and a karate world champion from Maharasthtra; Dr Endluri Chinnaiah from AP, Dalit journalists from UP etc. We also helped several Dalits on individual basis – to study Nursing, to pay fee for a professional course, to buy a computer, a sewing machine, a wheelchair etc that helps them to study and do something to be independent. We started helping colleges and schools (that cater mainly Dalit children) to buy necessary books.
Our microloan project called Ambedkar Microloans in AP is going on well, thanks mainly to Prof Anand Swarup of Australia (major contributor) and others like Hope for Humanity in US, Ohia University Indian student Association, and me. Through this project, so far, we helped hundreds of Dalits and non-Dalits to start a grocery store, to buy a buffalo, to set up a tea stall, to buy a rickshaw to transport water and students, to sell vegetables in villages  - to name a few.
One may wonder what criteria we apply while giving aid. We use help from various sources to indentify a beneficiary. In some cases we act on a newspaper story and urge for help to help the individual. In some other cases, we get request for help from the volunteers/friends working for FFEI in India. In all cases, I personally verify the need by asking for documentation and talking to the individuals. I say no, when I don't satisfy with the information or the need.
Through emails, I communicate as much information as possible to everyone.
I don't say everything is perfect. I know we need improvement in many areas of our operation – especially monitoring of the aid we give. Though I know what to do and how to do perfectly well, I am helpless due to lack to financial resources. Monitoring needs a few full time employees and an office space – for both we lack, financial resources. Unless we start a separate fund for salaries and office space (is it possible?), monitoring is not possible with the donations we receive that are tied to a specific need.

I try my best to keep the operating costs minimum, sometimes at the displeasure of the organizers due to my stinginess. Our overhead expenses are just 2-3% of the disbursements we made each year.

As I always say, we are open for new ideas and discussion to improve the project. My only request is that the suggestion should be viable within our resources.
I urge donors and friends in the email groups to come forward and help FFEI with ideas and money.
I assure you that every viable idea will be considered and every penny donated will be used in the most efficient way possible.

Note: So far, I failed to attract any corporate donor. May be, I am inefficient or less dexterous to attract them. All our donors are individuals and they come to us through a word of mouth. Most of them are non-Dalits (thanks to Prof Shiva Shankar's efforts to rope in his academic friends), baring one or two. 

It is sad that an Organization that was born out of debates from Dalit electronic groups do not have Dalits as patrons. After the success of FFEI (or Ambedkar Scholarships, as it was formally known), many started their own organizations (spending valuable resources for registrations, exemptions etc), operated a year or two, and disappeared. Don't misunderstand; I acknowledge every good work some individuals and organizations are doing. My grudge is only with just talkers. When I read grandeur talks in Dalit forums without actions, I can't help but feel pity. 

Do the Dalits in these forums and NRIs do not have money? No, their priorities and aims are different. Who cares if you spend for a Dalit cause when other alluring offers are available elsewhere? One can imagine if Babasaheb (who did so much for every Dalit) grieving or happy in his grave? Dalits (especially the well-to-dos) has a lot to learn from the African-Americans in US. They transformed their lives (from worse to better and best) by helping each other and the less privileges among them. But, Dalit help stops at their own kith and kin. I and sure, that is not what Babasaheb wants from them.  

In my view, worshiping Babasaheb (as many Dalits do) is not what is needed, following his footsteps.

I am extremely sorry, if someone think that I am criticizing. All I say is, that is not my intention, whatever the way one can take my words.

With gratitude and regards
Benjamin P Kaila
An educated man without character and humility was more dangerous than a beast. If his education was detrimental to the welfare of poor, he was a curse to society.
-Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar

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