With a heart of gold, Shanti Niwas marks a Silver on its journey

With a heart of gold, Shanti Niwas marks a Silver on its journey

‘The Sold Out’ event is at Sudima Airport Auckland on September 13, 2019

Venkat Raman
August 24, 2019

Trustees, Staff and Volunteers of Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust at a recent event (Picture Supplied)

As Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust celebrates its Silver Jubilee, Indian Newslink takes pride in paying tributes to this Organisation, its Founder, Chief Executive, Staff, Volunteers and Supporters on achieving a significant milestone.

More than 200 men and women are expected to attend the 25th Anniversary Celebrations scheduled to be held from 7 pm on Friday, September 13, 2019 at Sudima Airport Hotel, located at 18 Airpark Drive, Airport Oaks, Auckland.

As the only media organisation that has stood behind Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust in times of its challenges since our newspaper was established 20 years ago, we mark the Celebrations as one of a kind in its service-for-the-elderly-journey.

That includes its meeting at homes and other venues, to its own premises behind the Onehunga Library to its current premises on 14 Spring Street.

Tribute to Indu Bajaj

We remember the selfless services of it Founder and Project Manager Indu Bajaj who envisioned an entity that serve the growing needs of the elderly in the South Asian communities in general and those of Indian origin in particular – people who are otherwise vulnerable, not only because of their age but also perhaps because of the apathy that they suffer in their homes, instead of enjoying years of retirement.

An evening with the elders in 1994-seated on the floor at extreme right is Founder Indu Bajaj (Picture enhanced by ShobSonu Digital Experts)

Ms Bajaj has always had an inexplicable passion for social and community care, a flame that was lit soon after her migration upon marriage from India in 1968.

From organising ‘Positive Ageing Programmes’ for seniors and tending to the needy to conducting breathing, physical and mental exercises and classes on culture and language, she guided the destiny of the Trust and made it the sine qua non of South Asian grey power.

Growth of an Institution

Established formally in 1994 with just eight persons who attended a monthly meeting of a support group, the entity has grown to be recognised as a body that sincerely cares for the elderly and the larger community, irrespective of ethnicity, language or religion.

An evening with the elders in 1994-seated on the floor extreme right is Founder Indu Bajaj (Picture enhanced by ShobSonu Digital Experts)

The Trust was registered as a not-for-profit organisation in 1998.

In 2002, as Shanti Niwas marked its Third Anniversary, Ms Bajaj told Indian Newsink: “Since its official formation, the number of members representing seniors of Indian and South Asian origin has increased to more than 200. They attend ‘Positive Ageing Programmes’ four days a week in Central Auckland and one day a week at our Pakuranga Branch in East Auckland. More than 700 seniors, including new residents benefit from the programmes every year. The Trust aims to provide culturally appropriate community based support Services for the wellbeing and enhancement of quality of life to lonely, isolated, disabled older people of Indian and South Asian Origin.”

The then Prime Minister Helen Clark honoured the then Governor General Anand Satyanand at the Multicultural Show and Food Festival organised by Shanti Niwas at Mt Eden Memorial Hall in Auckland on April 22, 2007. She is seen here with (from left) Indu Bajaj, then Mayoress Diana Hubbard, Mr Satyanand and Nilima Venkat (INL File Photo)

Diligent Chief Executive

Its current Chief Executive Nilima Venkat is justifiably gratified with the progress of the Trust. We have known her as an able assistant to Ms Bajaj and as a person whose care of the elderly always transcended economic, cultural and other vicissitudes.

Like its Founder, Ms Venkat has indelible passion for service to the elderly.

“Today, after 25 years, Shanti Niwas is a premier South Asian NGO supporting more than 300 South Asian Seniors regularly from four centres in Auckland through its Positive Ageing Programmes and Drop in Centres. None of these projects would have become a reality without the help of our volunteers,” she said.

A significant move: Indu Bajaj and her husband and former Trustee Harish Bajaj performing Pooja as Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust moved to 14 Spring Street, Onehunga, Auckland (current premises) on July 3, 2009 (INL File Photo)

Trailblazing ‘Kushi’

Ms Bajaj retired and left New Zealand in 2012 but the principles, policies and objectives on which she founded Shanti Niwas continue to be preserved and promoted.

In 2012, the Trust started ‘Khushi,’ a Programme to create awareness on the abuse that elders suffer within the community.

“The Programme soon led to the setting up of our Emergency Home to accommodate seniors. ‘Shanti Niwas Emergency Home’ provides a safe and secure environment for seniors who are in an abusive environment or require an emergency home. The home has housed more than 30 persons since its inception in late 2015. Two years later, the Social Development Ministry contracted us for their Elder Abuse Response Service,” Ms Venkat said.

Companionship through ‘Dosti’

Shanti Niwas instituted in 2014, ‘Dosti’ (Friendship), an initiative aimed at reducing isolation among homebound seniors. Volunteers of the Trust visit more than 30 seniors regularly.

“We have ambitious plans to increase the number of services and Centres to cater to the growing senior South Asian population, expected to grow to 45,000 over the next 20 years. We hope to increase and improve our services with the support of the central and local governments, commercial organisations, philanthropic trusts and individual donors, “ Ms Venkat said.

Drop-In Centre

Last year, Shanti Niwas opened its ‘Drop-In-Centre’ in Balmoral.

Stated to be the first of its kind, the Centre has become the rendezvous for young, the old and like-mined people meet, socialise, learn or just relax in a safe environment.

Operated jointly by the Trust and Bharatiya Mandir Charitable Trust (which owns the Balmoral Temple), this is a facility frequented by seniors to participate in daily activities and access Social Work Support Services of Shanti Niwas.

Social convergence may be the finest form of cohesion and harmony but unless cultural plurality is recognised, practiced and promoted, a society would breed animosity and not amity. And a rainbow in the physical and human sense symbolises ethnic diversity radiating colour and pleasantness without losing individuality.

If there is cultural opulence in New Zealand, let us celebrate it.

The Silver Jubilee of Shanti Niwas Charitable Trust is a meaningful cause for celebrations.

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