It’s not enough to have lived. We should be determined to live for something. May I suggest that it be creating joy for others, sharing what we have for the betterment of personkind, bringing hope to the lost and love to the lonely.Leo Buscaglia

What do we love and respect in people—what they have gained and achieved for themselves, or what they have done for others and us?

The answer is obvious—we value and appreciate how they make a difference in the lives of others through what they share and give.

We all seek happiness in life. Most of the time, we seek it in gaining pleasures and comforts for ourselves. There are very few people who seek happiness by giving it to others. The more they give of themselves, the more we admire them.

Two Models of Inspiring Service

 A life dedicated to the service of humanity is true life.— Swami Ramdas

My husband, Kumar and I visited the town of Thiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu, South India last month. We met two extraordinary women who have voluntarily taken on the responsibility of uplifting the lives of the poor, the sick, and the mentally and physically challenged.

Madam Sylvia Wright OBE

Madam Sylvia Wright MBE OBE

The first woman is Madam Sylvia Wright, a Catholic nurse, former senior lecturer in nursing, and midwife from England. In 1982 she sold all her possessions, sacrificed the comforts of her home, family, friends and country to embark on a life of service in Thiruvannamalai,

She bought a van and used it as a mobile clinic, serving patients in impoverished villages. She treated people suffering from all sorts of afflictions including leprosy, cholera and malaria.

Gradually, her funds ran out. But through the generous donations of her friends and family in England who set up the Sylvia Wright Trust (www.SylviaWright.org) and the Indian government, her services steadily grew.

Madam Sylvia Wright receiving the Order of the British Empire award from Prince Charles in 2008.

Madam Sylvia Wright receiving the Order of the British Empire award from Prince Charles in 2008.

Today, 34 years later, Madam Sylvia Wright, 78, runs the R.M. Rangammal Hospital that has 180 beds and serves over 80,000 people a year. She operates a school for 200 hearing impaired children, the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing for 80 students, and two Day Care Centers for over 80 mentally and physically disabled children.

She has received great recognition for her selfless service, including the M.B.E (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) from the Queen in 1998, and the O.B.E (Order of the British Empire) from Prince Charles in 2008. Here is a photo of a photo hanging in the hospital showing her receiving the award in 2008.

Osteopath Lee Morgan working with children with developmental difficulties.

Osteopath Lee Morgan working with children with developmental difficulties.

The second woman is Lee Morgan, an American Osteopathic Manual Therapist, Feldenkrais practitioner, and movement specialist from San Francisco. She saw the great work that Madam Wright was doing and started to volunteer her services at the Day Care Centre for disabled children five years ago.

These children suffer conditions such as Cerebral Palsy, Muscular Dystrophy, Downs Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, and other physical and mental disabilities.

Without community support and resources, children such as these suffer from neglect and isolation at home. Some parents even have to restrain them, and leave them home alone while they go out to work.

We visited the temporary classrooms that are being used as the Day Care Centers for the severely disabled children. It was obvious that the premises were inadequate—there were no outside play areas, little physiotherapy equipment or educational materials needed to stimulate the children’s development. We also noticed a need for more teachers and therapists, as we saw some of the kids just sitting or lying down on the ground on their own.

Lee Morgan (left) with Manisha Melwani at the site of the upcoming Integral Education & Therapy Centre for severely disabled children in Thiruvannamalai.

Lee Morgan (left) with Manisha Melwani at the site of the upcoming Integral Education & Therapy Centre for severely disabled children in Thiruvannamalai, South India.

Ms. Morgan is working hard to raise funds, hiring and training new staff members, and creating a new curriculum to better serve these special needs children.

Her big focus at this time is leading the design and construction of a new 13,000 sq. ft. centre for 100 children. The new Integral Education &Therapy Centre (IETC)  that hopes to open in March 2017, will provide the children with aa modern, sensory-rich facility where they will get proper medical care, physical therapy (including hydrotherapy). They will learn to walk and do simple things for themselves. They will also get training in basic life skills so they can grow and reach their potential.

Serving with integrity

When we were introduced to Madam Sylvia at the Rangammal Hospital, my initial impression was that here was a woman of substance, a disciplined and highly respected personality.

She exuded an inner strength that comes from living a life of integrity, focused solely on the betterment of others. This is the strength that is described in the scriptural writings of the Bhagavad Gita as being “free from personal desire and attachment.”

She was gracious enough to take time out of her busy day to talk to us about her work. As she spoke, her eyes softened as she shared that there is a great need for medical and social services in the area. She spoke from the heart when she told us she felt a great responsibility to ensure that every penny put in her trust was used to serve the people it was meant for.There was no doubt in my mind that she took her job very seriously.

She told us that 99% of the money donated to the Sylvia Wright Trust is used directly to serve the poor and needy. The remaining 1% goes into postage, and other administrative costs. No money goes for advertising, promotions or any extraneous costs. 1% is a paltry amount when compared to the high administrative and advertising costs of many big charities here in the west.

A Worthwhile & Genuine Cause

Madam Sylvia Wright and Lee Morgan don’t seek any pay, or rewards for themselves. The work itself is their reward.

Having met them and seeing how these projects are run, my husband and I are convinced that these are worthwhile and genuine causes.

Madam Sylvia has been working tirelessly since 1982. She has a solid reputation within the community, with the Indian government and in England.

If you would like to know more about Madam Sylvia Wright and the work she is doing, you can visit: www.SylviaWright.org

Please watch: A Ray of Hope, a touching video that Lee Morgan has produced to highlight the plight children with disabilities face in India and the dire need for services.

You can send in your donation (tax deductible in the US 501 3c) awww.fundly.com/arayofhope  

Fundly.com takes a small percentage of the donation made at its site. However, Lee Morgan has made a commitment to add that percentage back to the original amount sent in by a donor using her personal funds.  It’s a cause that she is so passionate about that she doesn’t want any money to be redirected elsewhere. 

If you’d like to contact Lee Morgan herself, she can be reached at email: [email protected] Tel: 1 415 269-5161.

Donors can also send their contribution through American Services to India (ASTI) For details, please contact Lee Morgan as above..

You can also contact me if you’d like to know more.

Perhaps you may like to join my husband and I in supporting the urgent need for funds to complete the construction of the new Integral Education and Therapy Centre.

There are also opportunities to sponsor a disabled child. You can rest assured that your donation will be stretched to the maximum possible.

As we open up our hearts with love and compassion, we not only benefit others’ lives but also enrich our own. This is living the true spirit of giving.

Manisha Melwani

Manisha Melwani is a teacher and the author of, "So You're a Spiritual Being–Now What?" She offers spiritual and wellness solutions for life and stress management. She teaches classes in personal growth, stress management and meditation. She is based in Richmond Hill and Markham, Ontario. Contact her for more information or to have her speak to your group or organization. She also offers private counselling sessions in person or on-line.
Manisha Melwani

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