High-paying jobs, air-conditioned cabins, high posts and fancy corporate looks are what most corporate employees achieve in a few years of their professional lives. But not everyone chooses to limit themselves to these. Some decide to go a step further and venture into new roles. Ritu Chhabria, the non-executive non-independent director of Finolex Industries, is a case in point. She has been the driving force behind its CSR partner Mukul Madhav Foundation (MMF).
Chhabria, at 50, has been relentlessly working on various projects for the less fortunate in the rural areas of Maharashtra. The MMF, established in 1999, is a Public Charitable Trust, and is well known for its vital projects in the fields of healthcare, social welfare and education. MMF’s mission is to spread hope and happiness to the less fortunate and it is their goal to continue to reach out to economically weaker sections of society and the underprivileged.
Chhabria was recently honoured with an award by the Global Sindhi Council for her innovative and historic contribution in the field of healthcare, social welfare and education. C H Vidyasagar Rao, Governor of Maharashtra conferred the award on her.
Having been brought up and educated abroad, Chhabria would visit India for a month every year, while she was growing up. “Coming from a first-world country, the disparity in India was very evident” to her young mind. “The poverty that I saw here would never leave me and always reminded me of the amount of work that needed to be done here,” says Chhabria, who settled in Pune after her marriage, 28 years ago.
Her family history too, was that of philanthropy, she explains, adding how her grandfather, who belonged to the Sindh province, has done a great deal of service to the people of Shikarpur in Sindh. “He also ran a charitable hospital in Mumbai. When I got married and entered my new home, I realised that my in-laws too were socially oriented. So naturally, this idea of working for society was in my blood and around me. But I decided to start something of my own and not simply attach myself to the work that was already being done by my family,” explains Chhabria, who took some initial help from her elders and then set out on her own.
As a co-founder and managing trustee of MMF, Chhabria now engages in a number of activities that the organisation undertakes. “My idea is to not just get the funds for these initiatives but to get them implemented. So I begin with the fundraising and ensure the complete implementation of the projects we take up,” says the super woman who is currently working on two major projects among many — empowering the lives of children with Cerebral Palsy in parts of Maharashtra and improving neonatal care in government hospitals in Pune.
Speaking of the initiatives, Chhabria explains how Finolex Pipes & MMF partnered with Symbiosis College of Nursing with the goal of improving the quality of life for the children of Satara District. “Custom designed Cerebral Palsy (CP) chairs were provided to these children from Zilla Parishad schools and door-to-door assessments were conducted to ascertain such cases and help these children live a normal life,” says Chhabria adding that the work has now spread to other districts too, including Ratnagiri which is the latest addition.
To address this issue at a grass-root level, qualified doctors, nurses and other medical team members from the Symbiosis College of Nursing also provide requisite training in the area of pregnancy and labour to ASHA Health Workers, Nurses and Ancillary Staff. This training enhances the abilities of these health workers to identify and prevent high-risk pregnancies amongst rural women.
As for neonatal care, MMF and Pune’s Shreemant Dagdusheth Halwai Ganpati Trust came together to inaugurate a 59-bedded state-of-the-art Neonatal (ICU) at the B J Government Medical College and Sassoon General Hospital, Pune. A fully-sponsored unit, the Neonatal ICU is a level-III unit with facilities for Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN), Human Milk Bank (HMB), ROP screening and treatment, bedside 2 D Echo/ USG and hearing services (OAE machine).
“This is just the beginning. There is a lot more to be done in the field of welfare and healthcare,” says Chhabria who believes that women too can have it all if they decide to, and if there is family support.
“Time management and the well wishes of your friends and family are crucial. If you have these, nothing is impossible for a woman. I have had the luxury of education and understanding, so I could do it, and so can you,” she signs off.