Posted by LCFT Lohana Charitable Foundation of Toronto on Feb 24, 2019

By Dr. Vipin Mithia

First of all, we applaud Ramesh bhai Chotai on achieving the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award. This Award is the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians by the Government of India. For all Lohanas, it is a proud moment for the community. Shree Lohana Mahaparishad salutes Rameshbhai.

Rameshbhai joins other very illustrious and distinguished past Raghuvanshi Lohana winners of this Award:
•    Shri Kanaksibhai Gokaldas Khimji of Oman
•    Shree Mahendrabhai Nanji Kalidas Mehta, of Lugazi, Uganda
•    Shree Dr. Rajnibhai Kanabar, of Mawanza, Tanzania

Today as our younger generation takes over the leadership of our Canadian Community association, Lohana Charitable Foundation… we hope this celebration of our past leaders is a positive sign of the strength of the Lohana Community and its leadership across the Indian Diaspora globally.
Once again congratulations Rameshbhai.

I present the following few key concise facts of the Gujrat Earthquake initiative:
Gujarat India Earthquake Relief Fund (“GERF”) was a Canadian community-based fund-raising initiative, that was created by a number of community leaders and three GTA based Gujarati temples/community associations. 
GERF’s basic objective was to respond to the tremendous humanitarian assistance requirements for the relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction for the thousands of people affected by the massive earthquake that struck the region of Kutch in the State of Gujarat in India on January 26th, 2001.
The 3 Gujarati temples and the various key leaders engaged in this first-ever community effort was:
1.    BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, under the leadership of Shree Chandrakantbhai Sachdev and Shree Nareshbhai Patel – raised the majority amount of funds.
2.    Sanatan Mandir Cultural Centre, under the leadership of Shree Kantibhai Patel, Shree Maheshbhai Chokshi and Shree Kumarbhai Budhdeo.
3.    Hindu Mandir and Cultural Centre... under the leadership of Shree Rameshbhai Chotai.
Other important roles on behalf of LCF were also played by Shree Dr. Vipin Mithia, Shree Deepkabhai Ruparell and Shree Sureshbhai Thakrar throughout the project. 
The person who played a very critical and important leadership role was our volunteer Sureshbhai Thakrar. He personally took a nearly 3-year sabbatical leave of absence from his position as an executive with the Royal Bank to do seva with the earthquake initiatives.  He was appointed the Coordinator of the GERF and its initiatives by the 3 temples. Suresh was also a key negotiator in acquiring the matching funds from CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency).  During this period, Suresh played a key role in the fundraising, CIDA grant, project planning, selection of various projects and the success of the rehabilitation and reconstruction implementation efforts, Hon. Maria Minna M.P. who was the Minister of International Development, Canada provided tremendous guidance and support for the CIDA matching funds. 
There were also 2 India based NGOs (non-governmental agencies) that did the total implementation of the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. They were:
1.    BAPS CHARITIES, Ahmedabad, India. With leadership support from Chandrakantbhai Sachdev and Nareshbhai Patel from Canada; and Shree M.P. Jani, Shree Janakbhai Dave and Shreemati Neetaben Shah from India -- BAPS Charities undertook almost 75 to 80% of all rehabilitation and reconstruction activities in Kutch. 
His Holiness Pramukh Swami Maharaj, Swamibapa, took a very personal interest and gave his full personal and spiritual commitment to the success of the project. 
2.    Raghuvanshi Charitable Trust, Mumbai, India. An arm’s length association of Shree Lohana Mahaparishad.   With leadership support over 3 years from Deepakbhai Ruparell and Dr Vipin Mithia from Canada, Raghuvanshi Charitable Trust completed the rest of the initiatives.  Late Shree Chandrasinhbhai Hansraj Mirani, President RCT and Lohana community elder in India provided his full leadership together with Shree Satishbhai Vithalani (Trustee) to the implementation of the RCT related projects. 
Dr. Mithia continually ensured with RCT trustees that proper governance and financial protocols were followed by RCT.
The success of the GERF and its efforts was a collective effort of many community leaders, including many Lohanas across all organizations.  Today we salute all these leaders. 

The achievements of the collective efforts & leadership of the many individuals mentioned above, the 3 Toronto Gujarati Temples, CIDA, BAPS Charities and the RCT resulted in the following results.
GERF initiated rehabilitation and reconstruction activities to the people and local communities affected by the 2001 earthquake in Bhuj, India -- are:

•    $700,000 in-kind donations raised consisting of medical equipment and supplies, tents, clothing, emergency supplies, medicines, and services such as transportation, packaging, etc. 
•    $1,750,000 in cash donations from Canadians was raised through grassroots appeals, radio-thons, TV-thons, appeals at religious places of worship, individual volunteer efforts, corporate donations, etc.   
•    $400,000 was utilized immediately for emergency relief activities and for temporary rehabilitation efforts.
•    $1,350,000… the remaining funds were directed at the task of rebuilding, reconstruction and rehabilitation of the shattered lives of thousands of men, women, children and families affected by this tragic calamity.
•    $1,300,000 was match funded by the Canadian International Development Agency with the support of Canadians. CIDA made a financial contribution of to the GERF to its community-based rehabilitation and reconstruction initiative. 
•    The Government of Gujarat who provided financial support and in-kind contributions such as operating expenses for schools.” 
•    BAPS CHARITIES, Ahmedabad and Raghuvanshi Charitable Trust, Mumbai provided volunteers, local transportation, office, administrative support and some financial support during the implementation period.

1.    EDUCATION -- 20 New Schools with 66 Classrooms constructed.
2.    HOUSING – 515 houses in 7 New Villages and Peri-Urban Housing Colonies; 182 Bhungas (traditional Kutch huts) in 3 rural communities.
3.    COMMUNITY – Full Infrastructure Built For 3 Communities (Water Tank, Community Hall, Women's Training Center, Administrative Office)
4.    ECONOMIC LIVELIHOOD -- Improved livelihoods of women and small farmers in poor rural villages benefitting in excess of 1200 individuals, including 700 women expected to more than double their income.
5.    NEW INCOME GENERATION: Introduction of new revenue-generating opportunities through training, technical and/or financial support for economic activities including Handlooms,  Masonry work machine, Masonry kits, Leather Sewing machines, Leather product making kits,  Masala  pulverizing Mill,  Flour mills,  Woodwork and Sanghedo furniture kits, Wood Work machines, (Big) Donkey carts,  Tile Polishing  machines, new Bore wells,  wasteland Fodder Cultivation, Reclamation of unusable land for fodder, etc.
6.    DAIRY/MICRO FARMING.     412 homes & 21 primary schools provided Kitchen gardens with Israeli drip irrigated kitchen gardens enabling daily requirement of vegetables.
     Introduction of Buffalo farming and cooperative milk collection with a gift of a buffalo each to 1000 families, with 3 years insurance and veterinary care arrangements.

7.    HEALTH – Access to Primary Health Care delivered to on average 4,000 patients monthly, at 48 villages, through purchase, equipping and staffing of 2 mobile dispensaries, including free medicines.
To all of our Lohana leaders, we thank and salute you for your efforts!