I recently emailed the founder of Empower the Children, Rosalie Giffoniello, to continue our dialogue on her outstanding work with children in the slums of Kolkata.
Rosalie, what would you say to budding Social Entrepreneurs in the US?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama always says, “Check your motivation”. What does this mean? Simply put, the same act done by two different people can have very different motivations. One person may give generously to a cause in order to gain recognition, receive praise and for reasons of self-aggrandizement. Another person may give a donation anonymously, primarily interested in helping others, feeling compassion and creating a better world. Young people have their whole lives ahead of them, a huge opportunity and also a huge responsibility. The world is often a place of conflict and negativity but it can become a place of unity and peace if everyone does his or her share. That is entirely each person’s choice. Making the right one will bring personal happiness. The Dalai Lama also says, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion”.
Empower The Children, a non-profit charity based in New Jersey, USA, feeds and educates slum-dwelling and disabled children in Kolkata (Calcutta), India. Since 2001 Empower The Children has been establishing schools, tutorial centers and vocational programs to meet the needs of children and women who would otherwise have no opportunity to learn skills. In 2009 Rosalie Giffoniello, co-founder, travelled to Scotland to speak to the students in the Perth/Kinross school district. The Scottish students enthusiastically embraced the idea of partnering with the schools in Kolkata and a cultural exchange program was established.
During the first year friendship cards were exchanged as well as alphabet books, banners, art work and photos. The following year 245 students in Kolkata participated in a quilting project. Each child personally designed a square of cloth that depicted something in their everyday life. These squares were then brought to Oregon by Sandy Andersen who stitched them into quilts. The quilts have been displayed in quilting shops and at local libraries. In August the quilts will be sent to Scotland and displayed in the Perth/Kinross schools. These quilts will further cement the friendship and understanding that is growing between two very diverse groups.