WZO Trusts: Update On Covid Relief And Rehabilitation Programme

Our last update was shared on May 10, 2020 with donors, well-wishers and community members to apprise them of efforts undertaken by WZO Trusts to extend support poor Zoroastrians affected financially due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. Our initial focus was on providing food grains to Zoroastrian families in cities, towns and villages predominantly in Gujarat, supporting Masina Hospital to set up a Porta Cabin that would be helpful in treating patients affected by the Pandemic and distributing food grains and essential items to migrants and slum dwellers at Mumbai through Pehchaan Programme of KurNiv Foundation. 

On a Pan-India basis, we requested Zoroastrians, employed in commercial institutions and elsewhere or those who are self-employed and affected financially by the Covid-19 Pandemic to send before May 24, 2020, details of losses suffered by them, backed up by documentary evidence to enable us to consider their requests for support. 

Donations Received: The response to our request, has as always, been met with generous support. We have till May 31, 2020, received by way of donations, Rs.14,134,565 and have received some donations that will be sent to us during June / July 2020. Whilst we thank all our donors, we express our very sincere gratitude Mrs. Pervin & Mr. Jal Shroff of Hong Kong, Trustees of Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao, FEZANA and Trustees of Bai Maneckbai P. B. Jeejeebhoy Deed of Settlement Funds, Mumbai – the principal donors. 

Food Grains: have been distributed to 715 families for which Rs. 3,767,390/- has been expended.

Applications Received: We have received, as of May 24, 2020, 703 applications from across India, from families affected by the Pandemic. These are being scrutinized and financial disbursements will start this week onwards to those whose requests are found to be within the laid parameters (loss of income vis-a-vis total income, number of family members in each applicant’s household, and any other relevant factors). 

 I am very grateful to my colleagues Trustees, the Trust Administration & Staff, Resource Personnel located at various centres in India who have worked extremely hard in this epic humanitarian exercise during the lockdown when offices were closed and transportation was extremely difficult. Though much has been done, we recognise that much more is still required to be done for which we request donors and community members to extend support. 

Parsi Times catches up with WZO Trust Funds Chairman, Dinshaw Tamboly…

PT: How has WZO Trusts been managing to carry out this stupendous exercise across the nation? 

Mr. Tamboly: WZO Trusts are fortunate to have a vast network of volunteers or our ‘Resource Personnel’, at various locations, with each one extremely committed and dedicated carrying out due diligence before making recommendations, supported by documentary support, that we pass on to donors for various causes. 

My colleague Trustees at Navsari have successfully conducted food grains distribution to over 700 families coordinating with local authorities directly as well as through our resource personnel, arranging bulk purchase and packaging of food grains, obtaining travel permits and so on. The Trusts Admin team at Mumbai and Navsari, though working from their residences, have been on call 24X7 since the lockdown began, receiving requests for support, sifting through them, passing them on to Trustees and Resource Personnel at various locations, and thereafter collating information received.

Hats off to the entire team at all locations for their outstanding effort.

PT: It was heartening to learn that WZO Trust has managed to collect donations worth Rs. 14,134,565/-. You have mentioned the names of principal Parsi donors from India and abroad, who have contributed to the Covid war-chest for welfare of Parsis of India. Tell us about the largesse of these donors, which will inspire others to also contribute, alongside the amounts donated by the principal donors.

Mr. Tamboly: Over the last many decades, the highest quantum of funds for any community cause have always been remitted by Hong Kong, individuals as well as the Incorporated Trustees of Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao. Donations for the Covid Pandemic, received from the four principal donors between April and up to June 04, 2020 have been:

(I) Rs. 43,75,000/- from Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao has been received up to May 31. On June 03 we have received an additional amount of Rs. 37,00,000/- bringing the total amount received thus far to Rs.80,75,000/-.

(II) Rs. 75,90,000/- (equivalent to US$1,00,000) from Mrs. Pervin & Jal Shroff, Hong Kong has been received up to May 31. On June 04, we have received an additional amount of Rs.75,29,000/-) (equivalent to US$1,00,000) bringing the total amount received thus far to Rs.1,51,19,000/-).

(III) Rs. 5,65,875/- from FEZANA (equivalent to US$7,500) has been received up to May 31. On June 03, we have received an additional amount of Rs.7,11,000/-) equivalent (equivalent to US$9,500) has been received bringing the total amount received thus far to Rs.12,76,875/-)

(IV) Rs.10,00,000/- from Trustees of Bai Maneckbai P B Jeejeebhoy Deed of Settlement Fund.

With the first phase having been completed (food grains distribution) we have begun the phase of making remittances directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries all over India, whose requests have been scrutinized and approved. What needs to be understood is that with offices remaining shut on account of the lockdown, it was a major challenge for the WZO Trusts Administration Team, at both Mumbai and Navsari, sitting at home, collecting and collating bank details of over 700 applicants, feeding them into the system, and thereafter making electronic remittances into the bank accounts of beneficiaries.

PT: Tell us about your immediate and short-term plans as regards the procedure of acquiring and reaching the supplies/support to the families/individuals in need. For how long do you think assistance will need to be given?

Mr. Tamboly: As already conveyed, food grains were delivered door to door in cities and towns of Gujarat, and in villages at a central location, from where beneficiaries collected them. Financial disbursements to those who have suffered economic hardships because of the Pandemic have now begun, by remitting funds directly into the bank accounts of beneficiaries. As to how long assistance will need to be given, would depend on the situation as it evolves post lockdown and how industries and commercial enterprises emerge out of the crisis. One thing certain is that support is being given to assist those affected in their hour of need and not for making them in any circumstances ‘charity dependent’.

PT: What message would you like to share with our community, in keeping with your experiences, where you have seen first-hand the sufferings of our lesser fortunate brethren, and participated in bringing them relief.

Mr. Tamboly: Whenever calamites have arisen, Team WZO Trusts have always been at the forefront of providing relief and rehabilitation. To illustrate, our team played a stellar role in the relief and rehabilitation of stranded Zoroastrians during the 2001/2002 earthquake in North Gujarat (Ahmedabad, Bhuj etc) and the floods in 2004 that ravaged Surat and neighbouring places. During these calamities too, donors from all over the world, including the four principal donors, had supported generously our efforts at ‘ground zero’. Without their support it would not have been possible for WZO Trusts to do anything to alleviate the suffering of those affected. 

In the current Pandemic, we have successfully done what we could, only due to the magnanimity of donors who have reposed faith and confidence in our abilities and trusted us to make optimum use of their hard earned funds, for which we are once again humbled and very grateful.  Team WZO Trusts believe in and practise the wise words of Robert Green Ingersoll, American writer and orator, “Those who refuse to stoop, who cannot be bribed by the promise of success or the fear of failure, who walk on the highway of the right, and in disaster stand erect, are the only victors.”

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