For too long humanitarian organisations have been seen as merely avenues for ‘hand outs’, a concept that must be swiftly discarded. This is the conviction of Pandit Suresh Sugrim, who currently heads the New Jersey Arya Samaj Humanitarian Mission Inc. (NJAS).
Born and raised in the County of Berbice, Pandit Sugrim migrated to the United States a few years ago and has been giving back considerably to Guyana. This he has been doing with support through his humanitarian entity, which has as its mission to help children, the elderly, victims of gender-based violence and other individuals in dire poverty.
Moreover, the aim of the entity has been to help individuals grow into healthy, educated and self-reliant individuals.
But according to Pandit Sugrim, it has long been recognised that persons can’t be helped simply by giving them ‘hand outs’. During a recent interview with this publication, he said that since delving into the local humanitarian arena in 2005, several million dollars have been spent towards achieving the mission of his organisation. He his however not elated at all the resulting outcomes. “I have come to realise that many things remain the same or they get worse with the passing of time…Right now I have walked away from giving hand outs at a national level in Guyana,” said Pandit Sugrim as he lamented over the fact that “everybody just want to collect and collect.”
According to him, he has met a number of people in the past, who are living in dire poverty but from all indications they seem to appreciate their poverty-stricken status.
Some, he disclosed, are owners of land and are therefore encouraged to grow their own food but instead “they cry poverty…they just glorify being in poverty and refuse to do anything about it.”
“I do not subscribe to poverty at any level,” continued Pandit Surgrim as he maintained that offering ‘hands out’ cannot be the solution to the prevailing problem.
He is of the firm belief that tackling poverty requires a strategic education drive geared at transforming the minds of citizens who comfortably embrace poverty. “We can lessen human suffering by educating human minds…the only way we can break the cycle is if we start to educate these individuals now,” asserted Pandit Sugrim.
The NJAS Mission currently has an office at Babu John and according to Pandit Sugrim, emphasis is being given to education and empowerment and no longer the customary ‘hand outs’. “There is no more room, at any level, for ‘hand outs’, unless it is for somebody who is bedridden or a sick child,” he categorically informed.
“As long as you have health and strength and you are ready to be motivated, I will help to motivate you…if you are not interested in that, I have no interest in working with you,” stressed Pandit Sugrim as he insisted that the key to moving away from the ‘hand outs’ mindset is education.
“That is the direction in which I’m heading; if I can’t accomplish that in Guyana I’m gone…I will go to another country because I am tired of the ‘hand out’ phenomenon, everybody wants to collect but nobody wants to get up and go to work.” This development is particularly disturbing, Pandit Sugrim said, in light of the reports that many business owners in the Berbice area alone have vacancies that are not being filled by the able-body people who claim they are in dire poverty. “The jobs are very much there but people just don’t want to work,” Pandit Sugrim noted even as he theorised that “once people are educated they are bound to change their way of life and possibly even help to make a meaningful impact on someone else’s life too.”
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