The Gift of Giving by Shri Devi Mandir Global Humanitarian Foundation, Inc.

Pandit Seerattan serving food to seniors

By Colleen Chattergoon

Giving is the greatest act of humanity. As a humanitarian, we all have a responsibility to give back. Life is not about pleasing yourself, nor is it about self-aggrandizement. I’d like to believe that all humanitarians, not one particular person have what is known as the NIGEL affect.

The NIGEL affect is the name for a person who is unbelievably fantastic AND can win against anyone at anything. This is humanitarian at its best. It’s not one person, but it’s a group of fantastic people who volunteer their time by GIVING. The groups of people are the members of Shir Devi Mandir Global Humanitarian Foundation, Inc. (SDMGHF).

While many are busy with their last minute holiday shopping looking for a bargain or a special gift for loved ones, the members of SDMGHF continues to work tirelessly to spread joy by putting smiles on the faces of the underprivileged in Trinidad and in providing a warm meal to seniors in New York.

Like many humanitarian missions the trip to Trinidad in November of this year was a cry for emergency relief. Residents in south, north east and in central Trinidad were hit with heavy rainfall that lasted for several days. The streets were flooded with water gushing into the homes of poor residents who were trapped in their residence with no food to eat. The flooding destroyed many basic necessities pertinent to daily survival. Social media was inundated with families pleading for immediate aid from the international community. The news of the flooding in Trinidad was heart wrenching to watch.

Having visited Trinidad in August 2016 with members of SDMGHF for the organizations first humanitarian mission Pandit Tillackdharry Seerattan, President of SDMGHF worked with a group of individuals who assisted with the distribution of food hampers in the towns of Woodland, Bellevue, Orupouche, Seelall Trace, Orupouche, Mac Bean, Couva, Freeport and Debe. It is these same individuals who offered to help SDMGHF organize their second mission in Trinidad. On his second mission to Trinidad Pandit Seerattan and the extended family of SDMGHF visited residents in the towns of Woodland, Laromain, Barrackpore and Chaguanas.

At each site visited, residents received food hampers and water, stoves, mattresses, linens for their beds. A total of 100 food hampers were distributed along with 20 mattresses, 20 stoves, 50 bed linens and 100 cases of bottle waters. Pandit Seerattan and his team also visited Kavina Singh a special needs child. Kavina is 12 years of age and lives with her father and grandparents in south Trinidad. She was born with a neurological brain disorder which has altered her speech and immune system. Kavina’s home was severely damaged during the flooding. The Hope for Life Foundation publicized Kavina’s plight requesting food, clothing, pampers, wipes, nutritional drinks and a bed for her to sleep in. All of these items were donated by supporters of SDMGHF.

The second act of giving by the supporters of SDMGHF is the Thanksgiving Day Senior holiday luncheon held on November 27, 2017 at United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center (UHCCS), located at 1809 Sutter Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. This is SDMGHF third year in providing a warm meal, entertainment and gifts to senior’s at the center. The holiday luncheon has now become an annual tradition thanks to the positive feedback from the community and from the Executive Director Ms. Chan Jamoona.

Pandit Seerattan with Ms. Chan Jamoona, Executive Director of the United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center

UHCCS is a permanent fixture in the community and is very well known. Seniors visit the center daily to participate in the scheduled recreational activities and to connect with their friends. The menu for the holiday luncheon consisted of a variety of traditional Indo-Caribbean and vegetarian foods. There was live karaoke by the singing sensations Anand Mahadeo, Seeta Pooran Panday and Son Son Sonipersaud. The seniors were also treated to a dancing performance by International Dancer Zaman. The international dancer whose name is Zaman Mohamed Amin is famous in the Indo-Caribbean community. Zaman has a passion for dancing and theatre. Zaman is a trained Kathak, Orissi, Bollywood, Bhangra and Chutney dancer and a proud member of the Caribbean Equality Project and the LGBTQ community. He has used his performing arts to represent the Caribbean culture throughout New York and the tri-state areas. What was very touching about Zaman’s performance was his humility towards the seniors? He went to each table and asked the seniors to participate and they all accepted gleefully. Zaman a flamboyant person with an infectious enthusiasm opened the dance floor for the seniors by creating an uplifting atmosphere. At that moment, the seniors’ faces lit up and they were all alive with energy dancing.

What’s next for SDMGHF? Next year the organization plans to build a home either in the British Virgin Islands or in St. Maarten. The two countries along with other countries in the Caribbean experienced the wrath of hurricane Irma in September. Many families lost their homes and loved ones. The once popular vacation destination sites are in urgent need of assistance. Pandit Seerattan and I have created a GO Fund Me page for the hurricane relief victims on our Facebook page. Please visit the sites and make donation. It does not matter how much you give. What matters is that you have opened your hearts to let people who are suffering know that they are not alone?

Tis the season of giving! It’s that time of year where everyone will be gathering with their loved ones and friends to have good laugh and to eat a delicious meal. It is also a time to reflect on your accomplishments for the year. As you sit by the fireplace opening presents please take a moment to think how blessed and fortunate you are? I along with Pandit Seerattan and the members of SDMGHF will continue to strive to alleviate the sufferings of mankind. A heartfelt thank you to our Trinidadian family who volunteered their services! You know who you are. And to Lori and Kenny Narine of Shea Foundation and to all of those who donated items for the luncheon. With all said and done, I leave you with a famous quote from the Lebanese writer and poet, who happen to be my favorite. “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.” ― Kahlil Gibran