Home CommunityCommunity Features Kiran Shanker is living proof that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted

Kiran Shanker is living proof that no act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted

by Ashima

Her journey as the Founder of the Kiiran Care Foundation.

By Ashima Sethi and Megha Jogani

As someone who has been on Facebook for a long time now, I have been exposed to a lot of the work that Kiran Shanker, Founder of the Kiiran Care Foundation, has been up to over the years. Ever since high school, I recall getting messages requesting for help with ongoing contributions to the individuals living in Bangkok’s slums. With projects supporting the children and the elderly, I always thought it was impressive how one woman took it upon herself to change the lives of the city’s underprivileged communities.

As I sit down with Kiran, a decade after first becoming acquainted, her passion for giving back is clear in the first story she shares about her father. “I was born in Gorakhpur, India. My father was a government officer so my family and I found ourselves moving around a lot to places like Lucknow and Azamgarh whenever his post would change. It was my father who first introduced me to the importance of helping others. He did a lot of charity work at the end of every month after he received his salary, and he would always encourage me to go with him,” she explains. This is just one example as to why charity remains very close to Kiran’s heart, she shares the rest of her inspiring journey with Masala.

What does charity mean to you?

I believe that giving back is one of the few things in life that can give you total satisfaction. When I was very young, I was returning from school when I saw an old woman sitting under a tree crying. I approached her and found out that her son had forced her out of the house and she hadn’t eaten any food for over two days. That’s when I realised that if I can help this person, then nobody will be hungry, and no more tears will have to be shed. It was a realisation that I could gift someone happiness, and in turn have it bring me a lot of happiness too.

Can you walk us through some of your most memorable experiences?

In 1992 I got married. This was the same year I came to Thailand. I began working in the clothing and astrology industries. While working, I tried to find slums where I could meet with and help people because it was always what I enjoyed doing most. At the beginning, I would circle around the slums but I never got out of the car. However, one day, I saw an old man sitting by his house surrounded by bottles of water. I decided to walk over, despite the fact that my Thai wasn’t great, and ask why he had so many of them lying around. His answer was that he didn’t have any food to eat so during many nights, he would just have a few sips of water and try to fall asleep. This exchange marked the beginning of my work here.

A similar story is when I came across an old man while driving. He was sitting under a bridge and upon walking up to him, I noticed he was sat beside a puddle. When he spoke to me, he told me he had not eaten any food for three days and when I asked him if he had any water, he said he drinks from the puddle. Most of the people I’ve built connections with are those who have been neglected by their families and have nobody to love them. I hold them all very close to my heart.

What was the inspiration behind establishing the foundation?

My life’s aim is to ensure that every person has their own roti, kapada, aur makaan (food, clothes, and home). So Kiiran Care Foundation works to provide these things, as well as education. We look after children who have been abandoned by their parents but we also help parents who have been neglected by their children who now lead busy lifestyles and cannot take care of them.

I’ve never been someone who enjoyed watching television or partying to pass the time. This is because my dad always taught me that the satisfaction you get from giving to others is far greater than when you receive something, and this is what I want to dedicate my time to. I started giving back as a personal mission but soon realised it was not a one-person job, so I started recruiting more help via Facebook. I legally registered my foundation in 2015 where I met the district officer along with many other distinguished individuals and businesspeople who lent their support. I really appreciate that many people who supported me then are still supporting me today.

What are some of the foundation’s biggest achievements?

I believe my biggest achievement is seeing so many members of the Indian diaspora supporting my pursuit. Another achievement is all the love I receive from the people I’ve connected with in the slums. We don’t let each other go when we see each other! Finally, I’m receiving an award from the District Office and I’m being given an officer-ranked official badge from the governor that will go on my car.

With COVID-19 impacting so many people, how has the foundation helped local communities during this time?

We’ve spent a lot of time visiting them to explain the situation with the pandemic, providing moral support to those who are scared, and we are also donating items such as medicine, masks, sanitisers, ready-to-eat meals, and food packets. We’ve also arranged extra medical assistance and hospital beds for those with serious conditions with help from the district officers.

What are some of the goals you have for the coming years?

One of our main goals is to open up a school. The government offers free education but some kids aren’t able to attend school because we’ve found that sometimes labourers who live in the slums don’t have enough money to arrange transportation for their children because their daily income is somewhere between THB 300 – THB 400. So we’re currently bridging this gap by arranging transport for them.

Some of our other goals include establishing a college, hospital, and meditation centre because I believe meditation is so important in today’s busy world. We have our ongoing ‘Homes for Homeless Project’ where we’ve completed 51 houses; and our ‘Sunshine Project’ that supports the elderly by taking them out to dance, play, and eat every month. Their smiles are priceless.

What are some final thoughts you’d like to leave with our readers?

I have seen too many parents forgotten by their children, so I would like to request the new generation to gift their parents with the most priceless gift of all, time. We have a lot of very privileged kids in our community and I think parents should have them do some charity work so that they understand the value of what their parents have done for them, and just how lucky they are. Back in the day, I had people tell me that there were no poor people in Bangkok. It took a lot of convincing, but when I got them to visit the slums, it was a huge reality check as to how serious the situation is.

How can the community lend our support?

For those who want to contribute, please do not stress too much. Even a donation as small as THB 100 will go a long way. I would also like readers to send any suggestions about ways I can improve the activities under my foundation. It is only when a group of people come together, that we can achieve even greater things!

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