Why Charity is a Win-Win Habit
V P Nandakumar
MD & CEO Manappuram Finance Ltd
The joy of giving is a special kind of happiness that is difficult to describe. There have been many attempts to understand and define the heady feeling that people get when they part with something for the benefit of someone who needs it badly. As the Manappuram Foundation handed over the keys of 25 newly-built houses to destitute families in Valapad recently, I could not but ponder about the fundamental aspects of charity and altruism.
In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Instituted of Health, of US found that when people donate to charities, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social bonding and trust, creating what the scientists called a ‘warm glow’ effect. The scientists also found that altruistic behaviour, which is the selfless act of doing a good deed, releases endorphins in the brain, producing a positive feeling which has been labelled as the ‘Helper’s High’.
I have this decades-old habit of taking a walk every morning through the bylanes of Valapad, the village where I am born and brought up. In recent times, it has developed into a busy town and is a far cry from the days of yore when there was utter poverty but there are still families that are impoverished and do not have a roof of their own. This is what made me think of an initiative called ‘Sneha Bhavanam’ to identify the most deserving and provide them with a home of their own. The beneficiaries were selected in consultation with the ward members of the region. On September 23, Mr K. Radhakrishnan, Hon. Minister for SC/ST Welfare and Parliamentary Affairs, handed over the keys to the beneficiaries at an event held at the Manappuram headquarters.
The Manappuram Foundation was started in 2009, years before CSR became a statutory responsibility for corporate houses. ‘To create healthy, educated and happy communities’ is the foundation’s dictum and from the start to this day, we have been steadfastly adhering to that underlying philosophy. Over the years, there have been many an initiative, in different parts of the country, to wipe the tears of those who had become helpless either because of illness or other unfortunate circumstances.
We focus a lot on education, since nothing empowers people more than this aspect of life. Students in rural areas lack the much-needed training and exposure to pass entrance exams to study in prestigious institutions and other competitive exams. It is to fill this gap that we have started the Manappuram Academy. To cite an example, we employ many chartered accountants in our institution, but during my countless interviews to zero in on the right candidates, I was disappointed that I never came across anyone with the basic qualification from the SC/ST community. When we were able to groom one such student to clear the CA exam and employ him, my joy knew no bounds.
In the area of health, we concentrate on prevention as well as cure and this is the reason why we have set up open gyms in the parks of Delhi. In around 100 schools, we have set up children’s parks to ensure that the young generation get their quota of recreation.
The stiffest challenge for us, as also for everybody else, came when the pandemic wreaked havoc and the public healthcare system was stretched to the limits. The Foundation chipped in its bit by supplying hundreds of oxygen concentrators and mobile ventilators to hospitals, a service that I fondly remember as one of the noblest that we have ever carried out.
In 2018, when Kerala saw unprecedented floods, the foundation joined hands with the Lions Club to build as many as 125 houses for those who saw their houses being swept away by marauding waters. When we donate a home to those who cannot afford it, it helps them start life afresh, with hope and enthusiasm.
In the next phase of the Sneha Bhavanam project, we have promised to build a house each in the 140 assembly constituencies and the MLAs themselves would choose the beneficiaries. The work would begin once the government gives the green signal.
The greatest inspiration for us to continue this project as well as many more in future are the smiles on the faces of the beneficiaries. I, for one, have no doubt that the giver is more blessed than the receiver.
A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues found that giving money to someone else lifted participants’ happiness more than spending it on themselves. Happiness expert Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California, came up with similar results when she asked people to perform five acts of kindness each week for six weeks.
Perhaps nobody put it better than Swami Vivekananda: “Every act of charity, every thought of sympathy, every action of help, every good deed, is taking so much of self-importance away from our little selves and making us think of ourselves as the lowest and the least, and, therefore, it is all good. Here we find that Jnâna, Bhakti, and Karma — all come to one point.”
Pic Courtesy: Manappuram Finance Ltd