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 DIA Winner: Sajit Haridas, Ford Asia Pacific’s Regional Purchasing Director, Strives to Tap Society’s Goodness to Help Orphans in India

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​CHENNAI, India — It all started in February 2010. That’s when Sajit Haridas, director, Regional Purchasing, Asia Pacific, started waking up at the crack of dawn every day to visit the wholesale vegetable market in Chennai. He would solicit donations of fresh vegetables from the vendors in order to distribute them to orphanages in and around Chennai. This is how Haridas began to change the lives of these orphans and how the “Tap My Goodness” (TMG) initiative was born. 

In recognition of his selfless contributions to the community, Haridas was awarded the Ford Diversity and Inclusion Award for Strengthening External Partnerships. Because of his tireless efforts, more than 1,000 kg of fresh vegetables are delivered to these orphanages each and every week. This results in more than 1,000 orphans across 10 different orphanages being fed,  and provided the proper nutrients they need to grow and develop into healthy children. 

While Haridas says these donations are a major facet of the program, another core principle of TMG is “to tap the infinite and spare goodness in the larger society to try to fill the gaps in these orphan’s lives.” In this case, the “spare goodness” is the spare vegetables the wholesalers donate to support his efforts. And recently, they’ve also started sending small quantities of rice, lentils, flour, chickpeas and other hearty food to these orphanages.

But good nutrition is only one of the many gaps in their lives. Haridas says the real effort is finding ways to fill the other gaps (health care, education, mentoring, etc.). This brings us to the newest TMG initiatives.

“We are working on extending the initiative to include more health care and we also have a vision for a city-wide collaborative mentoring project, which is still under development,” said Haridas. “We’ve already held three health camps, each of which included a group of six to eight doctors, a mobile dental van and volunteers who all worked together to provide 200 to 250 orphans with basic medical services.” These efforts were led by doctors and TMG members from the Ford Purchasing team.

However, mentoring is a more difficult challenge for TMG as it deals with winning hearts and nurturing minds. Since there is no guide or formula as to how this should be addressed, it was decided to begin with a pilot mentoring program with one orphanage, Karunai Illam. This is a very unique collaborative initiative between teachers, volunteers, the orphanage and the children. 

Every Sunday, the team meets with the same five to six children with a focus on building relationships between the children and their mentors, thus attempting to fill yet another void in the lives of these underprivileged kids. “For a majority of these children, this is the first real relationship they have with the outside world,” said Haridas. “We cannot give these children parents, but as a society, we can attempt to fill as many gaps in the lives of these children in a sustained way.”

“We are what we are today because of our parents and the support system we have in our lives,” he said. “For no fault of their own, these orphans are consigned to a suboptimal future compared to the rest of the society. This is something we should not accept. So, the question here is: ‘How do we fill the gaps in the lives of these orphan children?’” And this is what TMG is all about.

As the program’s principle states: “Philanthropy doesn’t need money. Sustainable philanthropy is better achieved by the goodness of the collective efforts of society rather than one person’s millions.” 

“Tap My Goodness is a collaborative effort that would not and could not be successful without the help of everyone involved, from the vegetable vendors, doctors, pharma companies, printing presses, provision merchants, teachers, TMG members, the orphanages and most importantly, the children,” said Haridas. 

If you want to find out how you can get involved in TMG initiatives, please contact Haridas at sharidas@ford.com.
 
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4/29/2014 8:55 AM