Lady WITH A GOLDEN heart
She is the personification of the word ‘beautiful’—both from outside and within, and her uplifting work is most definitely the cherry on top. The gorgeous Kulsum Shadab Wahab spearheads the Hothur Foundation, which aids the underprivileged, the differentl
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’ve been brought up in Bangalore and grew up with a strong sense of giving back. I make sure I repeat this to my kids. I always tell my little daughter, ‘You are beautiful because you have a beautiful heart. God is watching you, so make sure you are kind and giving and you will get back a bounty.’ I count my blessings every single day and make a list of things to be grateful for. I keep adding to my list and have my children make one too. I’m also a sucker for adventure. I love the thrill of visiting new places and the excitement of doing new things. I love exercising and strongly believe it is the key to everything. Also, baking and reading are like therapy for me.
What inspired you to become a philanthropist and what keeps you motivated to continue on the path?
Helping the disabled and underprivileged is something that I always wanted to do. While walking past a park near my home some years ago, I came upon a group of young disabled children playing in a small playcentre created for them there. I had read a book, Exceptional Children Exceptional Art, by Davis and it really touched my heart. I
knew then that I wanted to do something more to help such young disabled children with a medium through which I could boost their confidence and give them a purpose to life, that’s how the ‘ Colours of Hope’ initiative was born under the Hothur Foundation. After this, I have done many such initiatives. Like ‘empowHER’ for differently abled women and now ‘SAROJ’, which takes care of acid attack survivors in India. This journey is a part of life for me and the joy I find with this is unparalleled.
Throw some light on Hothur Foundation, ‘Colours of Hope’ and ‘SAROJ’.
Our head of the family, my father–in–law Hothur Abdul Wahab, always taught us to give back to society. He encourages philanthropic work and taught us the importance to serve society. He has been instrumental in establishing the foundation and the work it does today. Hothur Foundation is spearheaded by me and works towards uplifting and addressing the economically backward and the underprivileged. We do a lot of initiatives for the differently abled community as well. ‘Colours of Hope’ is an initiative which has been very successful with differently abled kids where they do art therapy under the supervision of psychiatrists, who later address their issues. After employing a full-time psychiatrist and roping in volunteers and helpers, we now work with more than 320 children. These children draw and paint and we convert their work into greeting cards, tea coasters, book marks, calendars and other such stationery and sell them through
various exhibitions held in Bengaluru. The proceeds from these sales go towards betterment of the children. ‘SAROJ’ is a project of the Hothur Foundation which is an initiative to give voice to acid attack survivors and the problems they face while being reintegrated into society. I have been vociferous in advocating skin banking, a concept still new and uncommon in India, but one that needs to be popularised immediately. The process is similar to that of blood banking and comes as a life saver for those suffering from burns or acid attacks. With this, to a large extent, the survivor’s confidence can be restored. We also train these survivors with a lot of vocational training and different workshops that are held across India with renowned speakers from different field. Our trust also works with other organisations like Smile Foundation, Little Children For Poor, Provision Asia, Shishu Mandir, Eye Camp, Atijeevan - Acid Attack, Aashrya and St Joseph Convent School among others.
Share some of the best moments and achievements of your philanthropic journey.
Every day is a blessing and a surprise for me and most moments are the best. I’ve been a part of many movements, but true joy is every time I see a differently abled smile or laugh with glee. I feel it’s an achievement and that smile makes me value life much more. My work with acid attack survivors makes my heart bleed. When I meet and interact with these women, for most of them, life has been dramatically altered in a fraction of a minute. They need compassion, understanding and unequivocal love and support from us, but are so weary of being treated like pariahs that they hardly ever leave the dark confines of their homes. My work with them gives them courage and our charity pays for their medical treatment. Often, we are able to help them gain a new lease to life and also help them find work in back offices or other places where they can earn a comfortable living and find a new meaning to their life. Also, I was greatly humbled to be a part of the panel of the International Advisory Board for women empowerment with his holiness, the Dalai Lama.
How do you mange motherhood and social work simultaneously?
It’s very simple. I think my charity work has helped me empathise and become a better mother. I cherish and value every little moment with my children and I am extremely grateful. There’s an ongoing bond between us which comes from a lot of listening and giving them attention when they need it the most. That proves to be a crucial source of meaning and personal happiness, as the bond evolves over time. It’s important to pass the torch of family traditions, as this imparts a sense of continuity, bonding and more importantly, love. One of the high priorities for me is praying together. I also make sure my kids spend one day with the orphanage and share a meal with the children there. This, I believe, grounds them and makes them value life much more.
What are your future endeavours? Also tell us what you think people should do to help a good cause?
Hothur Foundation is planning a hospital for the differently abled and rehabilitation of the needy. I have a dream to get my acid attack survivors on the forefront internationally. I want their talent to be appreciated on a larger platform. I believe greatness is not in writing a cheque, what these people actually need is love and time, and I think that’s what charity to me is—just being someone’s sunshine when their skies are grey. Charity done collectively definitely has a bigger impact and can transform the world.