Society

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

- | By RAHUL PAUL| Bangalore · India · organization · Asia · Joseph · Dalai Lama

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.

 ??  ?? ...with acid at­tack sur­vivors and Sonu Sood
...with acid at­tack sur­vivors and Sonu Sood
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