Honouring Unsung Heroes

Sindhutai Sapkal.
Sindhutai Sapkal.

The who’s who of the city assembled at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile, Hong Kong, on June 23 to honour and celebrate the world’s unsung heroes at the fourth annual fundraising gala dinner for THE ONE International Humanitarian Award.
Sindhutai Sapkal from India was conferred with the title — THE ONE 2015 — for her unfaltering passion and determination to improve lives of destitute women and orphans of Pune. The four finalists — Bharathi Mekala Jayaram from Lagos, Nigeria; Dr Burenjargal Bultuush from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; Chung To from Greater China and winner Sindhutai Sapkal from Pune, India, were present.

RI President KR Ravindran, End Polio Ambassador Donnie Yen, THE ONE winner Sindhutai Sapkal, PRIP Gary Huang and THE ONE Founder PDG David Harilela.
RI President KR Ravindran, End Polio Ambassador Donnie Yen, THE ONE winner Sindhutai Sapkal, PRIP Gary Huang and THE ONE Founder PDG David Harilela.

THE ONE Ambassador Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, an accomplished film personality and martial artist; and THE ONE Hong Kong Ambassador Cecilia Wang; the then RI President Gary Huang and RIPE KR Ravindran participated.

Founder of THE ONE, PDG David Harilela, summed up its purpose: “These angels are active where people fear to tread, and where pain is most acute, and ensure we are there to make a difference. When the world is in chaos, we need a hero, and this hero will inspire us not to worry about ourselves, but to help those in need,” he said.

Donnie Yen Ji-Dan, an ardent supporter of the project since its inception, said: “THE ONE celebrates the unsung heroes that give back so selflessly. Heroes that inspire us with their achievements, against all odds. Tonight is a celebration of these individuals.”

The entertainment included a lively Bollywood dance and a spectacular musical performance by Gretchell Yaneza Yeung who inspired all with her portrayal of Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you.” The night closed with a powerful rendition of charity hit “We are the World,” sung by David Harilela, Tricia Buser, Gretchell Yaneza and Grammy nominee Howard McCrary.

While the story of each finalist was told, it was Sindhutai Sapkal who captivated the hearts of the judges.

“I was on my way to commit suicide with my daughter, when we saw a very old beggar dying on the streets. He asked for a sip of water so that he wouldn’t die. So I stopped and went to get him some water and some food — he didn’t die. It was then that I realised dying is not the solution — I have to live for such people. This is what would make living worthwhile.”

All proceeds raised during the event will go for the 2016 and other awards.

Sindhutai Sapkal

Sindhutai was born in a village in Wardha district of Maharashtra where women were not allowed education. Her father secretly sent her to school till the fourth grade after which she was married at the age of 19 to a 30-year-old cowherd from a nearby village. Poverty-stricken and saddled with a daughter to feed, she was forced to beg on the streets to survive.

As she wandered through the streets she became immersed in the pain of others, particularly orphans and women like herself. It was then that she decided she would fight to improve their lives. She raised enough money to build and run six shelter homes for the destitute women and orphans of Maharashtra.

Today Sindhutai resides at the shelter, providing shelter, food, education, protection and most importantly a future for the destitutes who fondly refer to her as ‘Mai’ (mother). Over the years she has nurtured over 1,050 orphaned children, who she has adopted as her own, and now has a grand family of 207 sons-in-law, 36 daughters-in-law, and over 1,000 grandchildren.

Even with no steady income to speak of, she still invests every ounce of her being to make sure her ‘family’ continues to thrive. She dreams of setting up a Saptasindhu Mahila Aadhar, Balsangopan va Shikshan Sanstha training centre for the orphans to prepare them for the future through computer, English language and personality development classes.

Sindhutai was nominated by Rtn Govind Patel of RC Link Town, Airoli, D 3140. He is the National Representative appointed to help the committee identify a worthy person for the award.


Conceptualised and founded by PDG David Harilela, D 3450, in 2012, THE ONE is dedicated to finding the hero of all heroes.

The award winner receives $100,000 to further his/her respective humanitarian cause and service projects, and a trophy, specially designed by Harilela. The other three finalists get $50,000 each, sponsored by The Peter Bennett Foundation.

THE ONE $100,000 Emergency Fund is made eligible only to its past finalists. Applications will be reviewed and approved, case to case, by THE ONE Emergency Fund Committee headed by PDG Peter Wong and Dr Ricky Chan. The Fund was set up in 2014 to further assist the finalists in case of any emergency. In 2015 THE ONE sent out $15,000 within 48 hours to Cynthia Maung, a finalist from Myanmar, whose boarding school for her orphaned boys was suddenly burned down.

The award money is used to build schools, hospitals, provide medicine and medical care to the needy and educate children. These heroes have improved the lives of millions in India, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, East Timor, Thailand, India, Mongolia, Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and Cambodia.

Your participation requested

The organising committee has over 500 Rotarian representatives from 60 countries, to help promote THE ONE world over.

If you identify one or more worthy candidates, please submit a completed nomination form with a Rotary Club endorsement, resume and photograph of the candidate, description of his/her service to humanity and supporting material to nominates@theonerotary3450.org or post to THE ONE Organising Committee, Rotary Information Centre, 14/F Capital Commercial Centre, 26 Leighton Road, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong, no later than Friday, January 31, 2016.

Rotarians can nominate and endorse only non-Rotarians. The endorsing Rotary club receives $5,000 if their nominee becomes THE ONE.


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