Insight Into Parsi Philanthropy During The Pandemic

With the world at large battling the COVID-19 Pandemic over the last eight months and more, the need for relief and rescue operations is at an all-time-high. A number of generous individuals and institutions have come to the fore as the much-needed saviours, helping those in need. Parsi Times has a tete-a-tete with Dinshaw Tamboly, Chairman – WZO Trusts, about how the community has been affected by the pandemic, the manner in which the situation is being addressed and for providing an insights into the dynamics of raising funds and distributing these optimally.

PT: The WZO Trusts have, for years, been at the forefront of providing rescue and relief to innumerable community members in need, even more so, during the Pandemic. Could you tell us the various ways in which you have provided your crucial services to community members affected adversely during these challenging times?

Dinshaw Tamboly: Our strategy to provide relief and rehabilitation to Zoroastrians affected by the Pandemic has been multi pronged. During the initial phase of the Pandemic, we decided to launch a public appeal for funds. Our first act was to supply food grains and related items to those affected. We were fortunate to have received rapid response from Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao, who donated a large amount. Other donors too sent us their contributions – big and modest.

Between April and mid-November, 2020, WZO Trusts, have:

  1. a) Provided food grains to 2,967 families.
  2. b) Extended financial support to 850 families across India, who have been financially affected by way of jobs lost, salaries reduced, businesses of self-employed individuals suffering losses, Mobeds and agrarians residing in rural areas facing loss of income.
  3. c) Extended financial support to two hospitals, one in Mumbai and the other Navsari, to set up Covid-Care facilities.

PT: Which segment of our community has been most affected? How have WZO Trusts provided succour for the same?

Dinshaw Tamboly: Rank and file of the community have been adversely affected. Many have lost jobs, salaries have been reduced, those who are self employed have been affected with their businesses having collapsed or turnover and profitably greatly reduced. Many Mobeds have been affected due to closure of places of worship. Community members residing in rural areas have been affected with farmers being unable to transport their produce to the market place; similar situations have affected those having poultry farms as they are unable to sell their fowls, dairy farms have been severely affected as milk processing dairies have been unable to collect the milk which goes sour within a few hours if not processed; And as if these setbacks were not enough the poor Zoroastrians have had to continue spending on providing feed to their poultry and cattle. Those having brick kilns too have taken a tremendous hit as construction activity has been at a standstill for many months now. From the funds raised, WZO Trusts have undertaken relief and rehabilitation measures as highlighted above.

PT: Could you share the philosophy, criteria and functionality, as to how WZO Trusts allocates it funds?

Dinshaw Tamboly: The philosophy is to help those in need, to treat applicants with respect always keeping in mind that their self-respect and dignity are inviolable. The criteria and functionality are to listen to and understand problems, consider each case on merits, and thereafter, move with alacrity to address and resolve problems of beneficiaries.

Over 27 years now, WZO Trusts have been fortunate to enjoy the support of donors who have reposed confidence in us mainly because we operate with full transparency and accountability. Our successes are thanks to our committed team of volunteers or our Resource People, not only in Mumbai and Navsari, the two places from where we plan and execute our activities, but also places including Pune, Valsad, Surat, Ankleshwar, Ahmedabad, Secunderabad, etc.

Trustees, Administration and Staff remain occupied in all aspects of our work which they carry out with the same degree of efficiency. Mere words would not be adequate to express gratitude to my colleague Trustees, Administration, Staff and Resource People for their wholehearted support and cooperation. It has been my good fortune and a pleasure to lead such an outstanding team.

PT: Would you like to share any aspects of your funding efforts with the community?

Dinshaw Tamboly: Any project that requires funding can only be undertaken if support is forthcoming from donors. Donors contribute only when convinced that their hard-earned funds are put to optimum use, in a transparent manner, with full accountability provided at all times. While we receive donations from India and overseas, there is no denying the fact that the bulk of donations received over the last 27 years have been from Hong Kong. The Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao have been, by far, the biggest donors who have been extending support for a plethora of community centric causes.

In normal times, they have been supporting the community through WZO Trusts in cases where medical support is required in times of illness and hospitalisation, educational support for post graduate studies in India and abroad, quarterly support to 500 odd beneficiaries who are senior citizens, or the differently abled, elderly Mobeds, pall bearers, replace huts of Zoroastrians living in rural areas into cottages and so on.

PT: Could you tell us about the donors who have made a great difference during the pandemic in the lives of the under-privileged of our community, with their generous donations?

Dinshaw Tamboly: As far as our initiative to support Zoroastrians affected by the pandemic is concerned, Hong Kong, who have been our main donors during normal welfare activities, and also been by far, our largest donor for the community. Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong Canton & Macao have sent us till mid-November, 2020, donations valued at Rs. 23,075,000, which amounts to 46% of total donations received so far (Rs. 50,214,968) for the Pandemic relief and rehabilitation.

In addition, three individuals from Hong Kong have collectively remitted Rs.21,369,000 for the Pandemic which amounts to 42.5% of total donations received so far. Thus, Hong Kong, through their association and individuals, has contributed 88.5% of total donations received for the Pandemic effort.

The President of Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao is very keen, hoping that other organisations will also assist WZO Trusts with significant funding to alleviate the extreme poverty and distress during these unprecedented times of the Pandemic. The community in general and beneficiaries in particular, owe great gratitude for their largesse. Had it not been for the inflow of funds from Hong Kong, the plight of community members affected by the Pandemic would have been very different. The charities of Hong Kong for the community in India have been legendary and are undoubtedly the true ‘Champions of Philanthropy’.

PT: What has been the most gratifying part about your experience in coordinating the Pandemic welfare exercise?

Dinshaw Tamboly: With educational institutions having remained shut during the Pandemic, virtual online education became the present norm, resulting in many children from economically challenged families being unable to pursue their education, as their families could not afford to buy them tablets or laptops. Some could afford only basic mobile phones from which it is very difficult to follow online education, and there have been quite a few families who could not afford even these mobile phones. It is to the everlasting credit of Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao who, upon our requested, readily sanctioned Rs.5,000,000 for the purchase of 125 lap tops for children from economically challenged Zoroastrian families, enabling them to continue their education.

The best possible gift any child can receive is the gift of education and children from economically challenged families are truly fortunate that the Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton & Macao have supported them with such a marvellous gift.

 PT: What message would you like to share with the community?

Dinshaw Tamboly: Humanity has never been as vulnerable as it is at present, on account of the Pandemic, which has shown no signs of receding or a guaranteed vaccine or antidote having been found. Our community is no different from others, passing through the most difficult phase ever. The community is blessed to have High Net Worth individuals, charitable Trusts in India and abroad, all of who may consider extending support like Hong Kong does to WZO Trusts in their efforts to alleviate the suffering of our brethren, or should they so wish, themselves undertake to provide succour to those affected by the Pandemic. A lot has been done, but much more remains to be done.

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