Nirvana – where service to humanity is service to God
Established since 1997, the Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation has been a beckoning light for scores of people in need. It first opened its doors in New York, USA after months of planning by Ramesh Deochand, Parbaty Tejsingh and Ramdular Singh.
Tejsingh, born and raised in De Willem, West Coast Demerara (WCD), Guyana, migrated to the USA with her family in 1978. She has been actively involved in humanitarian work, arts and culture for almost three decades and currently serves as the secretary of the Nirvana Humanitarian Foundation (NHF USA). Deochand is originally from Meten-Meer-Zorg East, WCD, Guyana. He migrated to the US in 1990. In 1995, they visited Guyana and saw the need to help families in need. When they returned again in 1996, they realized that something more concrete was required to meaningfully offer assistance.
Tejsingh explained during an interview with the Guyana Inc. Magazine that “It was established because we saw the dire needs of the less fortunate people in the communities when we visited in 1996. It was then that we went back to New York and formed a humanitarian organization to help these people in Guyana.”
Why the name Nirvana? According to Tejsingh, it is the ultimate goal of every person to achieve the state of perfection. In Hinduism and Buddhism, Nirvana is the highest state that someone can attain, a state of enlightenment. “We feel serving the less fortunate is one of the many ways to make it possible,” Tejsingh highlighted. Since its inception, Nirvana has been actively involved in the promotion of humanitarian and Indo-Caribbean cultural activities through a variety of programmes, both in the USA and in Guyana.
Its office in Guyana is named the Nirvana Humanitarian Society and it is based in Kastev, Meten-Mere-Zorg, WCD. In 2005, the Nirvana Learning Resource Center, a non-governmental organisation registered in Guyana, was opened to the public. Since then, they have expanded activities at the center, and since 2014 they have been doing all Nirvana’s cultural fundraising programmes there.
All members volunteer their services, time and efforts into ensuring the foundation achieves its diverse goals. Its mission is to provide assistance to the poor, offer relief to victims of disasters, help promote educational opportunities for economically deprived children, support programmes to assist abused women and children, as well as sponsor and encourage programmes and activities that allow for the development of art, drama and music.
In 2018, Nirvana partnered with the SaveAbee Foundation to start free computer classes – and to date, this initiative is ongoing. Another notable project is the monthly donation of a grocery hamper, valued at $85,000 annually, to a 71-year-old woman who is taking care of her bedridden daughter. Also, in 2018, Nirvana hosted a feeding programme at the Meten – Mere – Zorg Primary School for the less fortunate students. Moreover, the foundation – with support from private donors– shipped nine barrels of clothing, toys, and school supplies to Guyana for distribution to the needy.
“So, as you can see, Nirvana is an organisation opened to catering to people from all walks of life,” Tejsingh stated. In fact, Nirvana does a bi-monthly senior citizens programme where, in 2017, over 5,000 meals were served. “That programme’s success is due to the financial support of private sponsors in the USA and Guyana,” Tejsingh noted.
Nirvana also reached out to senior citizens again when it partnered with Pandit Rajin Balgobin of the Shri Krishna Mandir Nirvana Building in New Amsterdam to distribute over 150 hampers valued at about $6,000 each. Further, Nirvana donated $15,000 to Tara Singh, who was homeless in 2017 after a fire destroyed his home in the Corentyne, Berbice.
Zulaika Khan, who needed an emergency heart surgery, received $80,000 from Nirvana while Darapattie Ramcoori, who needed to conduct surgery on her eyes, received a donation of $50,000. Leroy Constantine was also a beneficiary of $50,000 to travel to Trinidad and Tobago for an eye surgery. “What we do at Nirvana is help people and improve their lives,” Tejsingh highlighted.
In New York, Nirvana primarily focuses its energies on assisting the less fortunate in the West Indian dominated immigrant communities. Underprivileged families in the Caribbean also benefit from assistance.
Nirvana’s help has even reached as far as India, when it responded to the earthquake in Gujarat; and in Central America when it was affected by the El Nino floods. It also contributed to relief efforts for those affected by Hurricane Mitch and Hurricane Katrina. On its cultural front, Nirvana has made significant strides in promoting the Indo-Caribbean community in Queens, New York.
According to the foundation, this aspect of its mission is intended to help build the character of the youth in the community, by affording opportunities to exhibit their talent and abilities. It is from this pool of talent that Nirvana selects its artistes to participate in its cultural programmes from which the foundation acquires a substantial portion of its funds to conduct charitable work.
However, this non-governmental organisation is not one without its challenges. “There are many underprivileged people in the communities around where we are based, but there are only certain number of requests that we can fulfill due to limited funding,” Tejsingh explained. She noted that with more funding and support from the business communities, the foundation would be in a better position to serve – as its philosophy states ‘Service to Humanity is Service to God’.