When charity truly began at home

Manju and Kulbhushan Jetly.
Manju and Kulbhushan Jetly.

His philanthropy mantra is simple: “I put my hand first into my own pocket before asking others for funds.” And this has been his guiding principle right from his mid-20s, when as a young engineer working at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai, he was involved, along with a few of his colleagues, in welfare activities for the orphan/destitute children housed in the Bal Ashram or Children’s Aid Society located just across the street from his office.

Meet Kulbhushan Jetly, Charter Secretary of RC Deonar, which was started in 1987. From counselling those children on basic hygiene and later helping to revive a nearby ITI which was in a state of dysfunction and almost abandoned to equip these children with technical skills, to becoming an Arch Klumph Society member (he will be inducted as an AKS ­Fellow at the 2018 Toronto Convention), has been a long journey filled with umpteen acts of kindness and charity.

Jetly, who comes from a middle class family in Amritsar where he did his graduation before qualifying as a mechanical engineer in ­Mumbai, says his family has always been engaged in community service. “My father did honorary work for the Amritsar Sewa Samiti and I’ve accompanied him to some hospitals and schools run by the Samiti.”

When I took Rtn Vaandrager from the Netherlands to the school and he saw the children sitting on a mud floor in the most disciplined manner, he wept and said these boys and girls are little angels and got involved in the welfare work.

This inculcated in him the habit of service, and after involvement with the children in the Bal Ashram, he was in search of a larger avenue for community service. At that time Rotary was starting a club in the Deonar area and looking for professionals, businessmen, etc, and he readily joined.

Meanwhile, after working for few years as a quality control engineer, he quit his job to start his own manufacturing unit to make QC equipment and introduced several new products in the market. After joining Rotary, he got deeply involved in the club’s service activities, and became one of the contributors to The Rotary Foundation. At first, Jetly and his wife became Paul Harris Fellows. “My grandson became a PHF on his first birthday; long ago we had decided to become Major Donors, and then thought about the next milestone, the AKS,” he says. In his decision to join the elite AKS club, Jetly was also driven by the thought that credit would also go to his club, “because I am very proud of my club.”

From L: District TRF officers Nirav Shah and Akkshay Mehta, DG Gopal Mandhania, Kulbhushan Jetly, Manju and Virendra Widge.
From L: District TRF officers Nirav Shah and Akkshay Mehta, DG Gopal Mandhania, Kulbhushan Jetly, Manju and Virendra Widge.

Beginning as the charter secretary of the club, he became president in 1989. The polio eradication drive had already begun and Rotarians were focused on this single point agenda. RC Deonar started its polio eradication programme in a huge slum area in Mumbai, and he joined it in right earnest, and held 100 polio immunisation camps in his year as ­president. With 65,000 children immunised, the club began its long journey in community service.

“But that was in an urban area. I wanted to focus more on villages as I felt the real need for community service was required there.” So he started the ‘Sanitation and clean drinking water for all’ project for which a TRF matching grant of $103,000 was obtained, and the club worked with Rtn Jaap Vaandrager of RC Zoetermeer Zegvaart, the Netherlands.

Under this project, 35 toilet blocks and bore-wells were constructed in 35 villages of Karjat taluka near Mumbai and for water conservation a check dam was built, “which brought great relief to thousands of villagers.” This was followed by another Matching Grant to install rain water harvesting in seven schools.

But, before doing all this, and holding steadfast to his philosophy of donating money himself before asking others, he spent Rs 1 lakh, about 15 years ago, to do a big sanitation project. He has also been instrumental in raising funds for disaster relief after natural calamities. When ­Uttarakhand was devastated by floods, and Nepal by the massive earthquake a few years ago, “we were on a WhatsApp group and I told my club members that we should help and I began by giving Rs 5,000. In 36 hours we collected Rs 2 lakh. I have always believed that these small beginnings lead to monumental things,” he says.

The story of how Jetly got Vaandrager involved in these projects is interesting. “The first time I took him to visit one of the schools, he saw the schoolchildren sitting on a mud floor in the most disciplined manner. I saw him weep and asked the reason and he said these boys and girls are little angels and he got involved in the welfare work.”

Going forward, even after being inducted in the AKS club, Jetly has plans to keep contributing to TRF, for which he has “great respect”.

His wife Manju is a past president of the Inner Wheel Club of Deonar. “It was her idea that we should stop contributing in small bits. We thought that with advancing age, when you are not sure about the future, it is better to make big contributions and that is how the AKS membership idea was born. I strongly believe that we should share our resources to eliminate the misery of others and use our expertise to improve their lives,”
he adds.

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