Disaster brings about a maelstrom of helplessness but it also draws out the good samaritans. Ratan Postwalla is one such name. The Kolkatan who co-runs the social service platform CSR For Bengal helped raise huge amounts of funds through crowdfunding initiatives over the last five years; these funds have helped countless individuals across the state of West Bengal. My Kolkata caught up with this good samaritan who shared his philanthropic vision.
Ratan Postwalla’s debut crowdfunding initiative was in 2015 for the Tata Steel 25K Marathon. “My parents and I ran a crowdfunding campaign and I ran 25 km to support the cause. We raised around 10 to 15 lakhs, which was great,” beams Postwalla.
In 2017, he collaborated with United Way, the non-profit that helped organise the marathon He visited charities, spoke to various NGO partners and carried out operational and administration work. “The beauty of this campaign was that it helped me learn a lot about people’s motivation. It taught me how to differentiate between those who donate for publicity and those who donate with intent,” he shares.
When the twin disasters Amphan and COVID-19 hit Bengal in 2020, Postwalla ran two fundraisers through the crowdfunding platform, Ketto. He along with a few others managed to raise a whopping 34 lakhs for both causes.
“A school friend of mine, Terrence Mandle, works closely with the NGO, Seva Kendra. When Amphan happened, we had the opportunity to do something charitable. Seva Kendra works closely with districts in the Sundarbans, so we had access to channels of distribution. We decided to start a fundraiser with a target of Rs. 5 lakhs but ended up raising Rs. 15 lakhs,” says Postwalla.
Postwalla and his team helped close to 300 families in the Sagar Islands of the Sunderbans. They distributed food (rice, salt, soya, cooking oil, and potatoes), tarpaulin shelters, medication and mosquito nets to the families who had lost their homes during the super cyclone. “The privileged percentage of our population has no idea about how the majority of India lives. To put things into perspective: Rs. 900 can feed a family of five for 30 days,” says the philanthropist.
In 2021, Postwalla helped set up CSR for Bengal, a charitable website that aims at bridging the gap between struggling NGOs and companies’ Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. The first project Postwalla and team undertook was with Seva Kendra, Kolkata where they helped establish a COVID-19 Critical Care Unit, a mother and child centre, a childcare ICU, a vaccination drive and an ambulance at St. Joseph’s hospital in Midnapore. The hospital is a charitable one and functions through a number of government schemes that enable the population of Midnapore to receive healthcare at 1/4th the usual price.
Postwalla credits his parents, Jeru and Bahadur Postwalla and his alma mater, St. Xavier’s Collegiate School, Kolkata for cultivating his philanthropic spirit. “My parents were involved with social work for as far back as I can remember and I was my class Social Service representative right through middle and senior school. I think these influences from my younger days have laid the foundation for every social initiative I have helped with so far,” remarks Postwalla.
His parents Jeru and Bahadur were closely associated with a charitable school for deaf children, The Oral School for Deaf Children in Short Street, and the East India Charitable Trust, which manages Tollygunge Homes, Lavinia House, Mary Cooper Home and EICT Nursery. “I think my parent’s actions really built a leaning towards social activities. There’s no doubt about it. Even though they never told me what to do outright, I saw them and realised that that’s the way one needs to be,” reminisces Postwalla.
One of my broader goals is to have every citizen of Kolkata donate a nominal amount on a regular basis. If every citizen donated Re. 1 every week, we’d be able to collect 1.5 crores every week. One rupee is nothing for some people but 1.5 crores is a lot of money and we can do so much good with it
He recalls St. Xavier’s would hold weekly social service initiatives known as ‘Poor Box’ for the students of Classes I to XII. Students in Junior School would contribute a small amount (Rs.1 or Rs.5) every week while students in Senior School would collect different items like newspapers, soaps, money and groceries every week. Postwalla believes that this helped students learn the power of crowdsourcing. “1,000 boys brought two soaps each, so we’d have 2,000 soaps coming in every week and a lot of people would benefit from those 2,000 soaps. So, we learnt how a small effort can have a huge impact,” explains Postwalla, who graduated from St. Xaviers in 1993.
“One of my broader goals is to have every citizen of Kolkata donate a nominal amount on a regular basis. If every citizen donated Re. 1 every week, we’d be able to collect 1.5 crores every week. One rupee is nothing for some people but 1.5 crores is a lot of money and we can do so much good with it,” says Postwalla.
If you’re interested in helping out, reach out to Postwalla on his website: https://csrforbengal.com/ or e-mail him at email@example.com.