Driven to raise money for girls’ home

13 May 2017

With a deteriorating 15-year-old car that required constant, expensive maintenance, Victor Bansiwar – co-founder of the Sanjivani Girls Home on the outskirts of Mumbai – was in desperate need of a new vehicle to help drive the girls in his care to appointments.

Saving for one proved difficult as there were many other obligations to pay for, such as mending leaky rooves during monsoons, and educational resources such as teaching support.

Two Macquarie employees in Mumbai, Alex Johnson and Rohit Shah, recognised that investing in a new car could help save the orphanage a large amount of money each month in fuel and repair, and free up resources for the 30 girls who live there.

They presented their ‘Buy A Ride’ cause to various NGOs and, with a combination of sponsorship and cash, helped purchase a brand new Bolero SUV, raising more than INR945,000 (around $A20,000). It was donated to VOICE (Voluntary Organisation In Community Enterprise), which manages the home.

“They were very pleased,” Rohit says. “Just imagine all those little girls who have rarely, if ever, had anything brand new in their lives, see that car drive through the gate.”

“They definitely treat it with pride,” Alex adds, saying that he’s noticed the car is always covered in a tarpaulin when not in use.

VOICE was started in 1991 to respond to the needs of more than two million street children in Mumbai. Victor and Rajashri Bansiwar began teaching children begging at Mumbai’s busiest railway stations the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Their network continued to grow and they subsequently opened a day care centre for 150 disadvantaged children. 

However, they recognised that for some of the children, especially the more vulnerable girls, the day centre was only a partial solution, which inspired the idea of Sanjivani Girls' Home.

As an American, Alex became aware of VOICE through his partner’s involvement with the American Women’s Club of Mumbai which raised money for it. When he mentioned the home to his colleague Rohit, momentum increased. They have now been involved with VOICE for over two years, visiting the home more than a dozen times each and establishing a strong bond with the girls living there.

“Once Rohit visited the home, he jumped straight in and dedicated a lot of time and interest,” Alex says. “He brought in lots of local connections, doing things like changing the lightbulbs from incandescent to LED and so reducing the power bills, plus getting computers donated.

“He also helped provide advice on India’s change in tax laws, and the home’s financial statements, making them more presentable to other donors. He even asked members of his family to cross-check things like their grocery bills to vouch that they were spending what would be expected for a home that size.”

As well as arranging for the car, Alex and Rohit also raised INR251,000 ($A5,000) through a charity cricket event, with more than 60 Macquarie staff paying to participate, and organised ‘Chugs for Children’, an industry drinks fundraiser raising more than INR256,000 ($A5,500).

“The home doesn’t have any solid source of support, with only one regular donor - so we’re really pleased that we’ve been able to take some of the financial strain off them in recent times,” Alex says. 

Image caption: Rohit Shah, second from left, and Alex Johnson at right at the Sanjivani Girls Home with the new car they helped purchase.