“I believe that good giving is divine and before I leave this planet I have to give back something. I have been personally blessed with more than what I need and there are a lot of people who have less than what they need; so I am simply giving back.”
By Sharmain Grainger
He has been called a lot of things over the years, but being simply referred to as a philanthropist with a passion for helping the vulnerable in his homeland aptly describes the person that George Subraj has become.
Although he migrated to the United States close to four decades ago, his heart has always remained in Guyana. As such it is no surprise that he has been continually contributing to the development of his homeland with particular focus on health and education.
According to Subraj, during an interview, his giving back has been premised on his belief that “I believe that good giving is divine and before I leave this planet I have to give back something. I have been personally blessed with more than what I need and there are a lot of people who have less than what they need; so I am simply giving back…”
But exactly who is this man who has earned so much over the years that he now has the capacity to be a selfless humanitarian.
Subraj was born on February 27, 1945 and was raised in Bel Air, Greater Georgetown. The fourth of 10 children born to his parents, Tatri and Subhraj, Subraj said that his family managed to exist quite well in a one-bedroom domicile. It was a rather difficult upbringing but they somehow survived, he recalled.
He attended the St Mary’s Lutheran School and participated in several correspondence courses. As he became older he delved into the field of rice and cattle farming and even worked as a miller and mechanic.
He however migrated to the United States by 1971 in hopes of finding a better life. According to him, when he left these shores he had a mere US$850 to his name. That sum he’d in fact borrowed to help sustain him until he found a means of steady income. His intent was to realize the so called “American dream.”
Soon after arriving in the US he enrolled in the Midtown School of Business in New York and simultaneously worked as a supermarket packer and later a merchandise assistant.
Upon graduation he became an electronic salesman with Frostee’s Friendly Store and relocated to Queens, New York.
By 1981 he was an ambitious businessman ready to purchase his first apartment complex at 144 Street Jamaica, Queens.
This was perhaps the lucky break he was waiting for all his life because since then he never looked back. Since then he has worked tirelessly to elevate to auspicious recognition perhaps the most prominent rental name. He is the brain and the current President of Zara Luxury Apartments and Homes that are situated across Queens and Long Island in New York and Orlando, Florida.
His Zara brand name is one that offers his clients luxurious living which has evolved over the years that boast qualities such as cleanliness, security, comfort and affordability. It has been said that his success as an apartment owner is truly astonishing.
Some of his tenants have offered testimonials that they have lived in his buildings since he possessed them and have raised their families in an atmosphere that they’ve described as very conducive to a meaningful and memorable lifestyle.
But even before landing it big business-wise, Subraj was able to hit the romantic jackpot. His life partner would come in the person of a young woman name Nowatee called Gloria and from the first day be saw her it was love at first sight.
Life in America was no bed of roses for either of them at the time. In fact the “lovebirds” would have to settle for meeting as they travelled to work daily.
They eventually decided to tie the blissful wedding knot. It was nothing exciting as it was done quietly at City Hall one day before they each headed off to work. They planned no celebration afterwards as they both had to put in usual hard hours of work before they could, for the first time, enter as husband and wife into a modest apartment.
For Subraj life was just about to get a little bit more difficult as he was overwhelmed with thoughts of raising a family. He was soon considering the possibility of buying a home of his own.
Being the focused and passionate man he is, by 1975 he had moved his young wife into a home of their own.
By 1981, the father of three – Jasmine, Tony and Sandy – was well on his way to becoming the thriving businessman he is today.
Of course this was not without the support of his brothers, Ken and Jay Subraj. The two also helped him to accomplish his first entrepreneurial venture in the US – owning a 44-unit apartment complex. Together they have over the years been able to provide housing for thousands of families and developed many apartment complexes creating jobs for hundreds in the process.
But being at the helm of a thriving business was simply not enough for Subraj. Moreover, in 1992 he joined the Guyana Watch Medical Outreach Team. The mission is one that was founded by renowned local business man, Tony Yassin, of Guyana Stores Limited. Guyana Watch has for a number of years been facilitating the travel of medical volunteers to Guyana to offer medical care across the country with a focus on helping the less fortunate.
Subraj however wanted to do more than just be a part of this medical mission. He dared to do even more for his homeland by paving the way for Guyana’s firs kidney transplant to be conducted at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in 2008.
This service delivered by reputable Kidney Surgeon, Rahul Jindal of the Walter Reed Medical Centre in Washington D. C., continued for a number of years at the GPHC before it was taken to the privately operated Dr. Balwant Singh Hospital.
As part of his philanthropy to his homeland, Subraj has also donated wheelchairs to not only the GPHC but also to several handicapped individuals.
Added to this, he has donated an elevator to a prominent community mandir – Prem Bhakti. This donation was strategically organized to assists the elderly worshippers there who are physically incapable of moving from one floor to another.
Subraj has also been instrumental in donating a modern, state-of-the-art, computer training centre to the Saraswati Vidya Niketan Hindu Secondary School at Cornelia Ida on the West Coast of Demerara.
But giving in the area of health has been chief among his philanthropic passions. In 2010, Subraj took upon himself the selfless initiative of sponsoring a team of surgeons and paediatric specialists to perform an inaugural bout of paediatric heart surgery in Guyana.
But his support in health has not ended there as he has since been sponsoring the visit of a team of eye specialists to perform corneal transplants at the GPHC. Just recently another bout of successful corneal transplants was completed.
Subraj’s dedication to helping to improve the lives of the vulnerable in his homeland has undoubtedly qualified him to be named our ‘Special Person’ today.
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