We had the good fortune of connecting with Manna Dabholkar and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Manna, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
My journey, a decision to commit my life to public service and humanitarian initiatives started well before I landed in the United States as an immigrant 12 years ago. Born and raised by parents who were lifelong public servants – Papa was in politics, a lawmaker advocating for the poorest neighborhoods and slums in India and Mom was a homemaker supporting his aspirations and crazy ideas to create a better world. While other kids were out playing and making friends, we were accompanying my Dad on his election rallies, holding his hand, and walking through some of the most dangerous slums of India. The people who lived in these slums had no food on their tables, no running water, no sanitation, or electricity but they welcomed us with open arms. I would see him sit on dirt floors and eat with these families. As a child I cringed that he did not mind the unhygienic conditions around him, often spending hours in these places. Now I find myself following in his footsteps, loving every minute of this world I am creating. My journey is a lifelong commitment to speaking up against injustice and giving a voice to the vulnerable children, women & men, sharing their stories of perseverance and empowering them to break the chains of poverty and exploitation.

Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
After moving to the United States as a woman with dreams to be of service to our society, I ended up at the American Red Cross, spearheading Operations Red Cross as the Director of Operations. During the same time, I also served as the Red Cross Director of Round It Up America® (RIUA) – a partnership between the American Red Cross and RIUA, a nonprofit initiative by leaders in the restaurant industry to end world hunger by engaging the restaurant, food and beverage industry in giving back. Humanitarian work at the Red Cross felt wonderful and exciting for a young woman who had just arrived in this incredible country, but something felt incomplete. I felt like I had locked myself up in the comfort of a big office, far away from the trenches. I appreciated being part of a corporation such as the Red Cross but deep down, my desire was to be in the field, connecting with the people we served.

I started fundraising as a volunteer for an Anti-Human Trafficking Non-Profit and one day out of curiosity found myself standing in that small, cold, congested dirty brothel, as it poured outside, trying to rescue those little babies to safety from trafficking. That night was a game changer for me, an eye-opening experience. I did not understand why Non-Profits invest so little into prevention. Millions and Billions of dollars are donated every year and yet issues such as generational poverty, exploitation, hunger, drugs, violence against children and women persist. I knew I had to take a different approach, a different path, the path of Prevention and Empowerment. I could not turn my back on so many others who are vulnerable and live in environments that makes them easy targets of the darker underbelly of our society. But it had to be done differently. That zest to change the way we respond to disasters and deliver humanitarian aid brought me to GIFT Global Initiative.

GIFT Global Initiative is a global humanitarian organization that advocates for and empowers children and families from some of the poorest places on our planet in Asia, Africa, South, Central and North America. GIFT was founded on a simple philosophy ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’

In my 15 years of working in areas that are underserved, poverty-stricken, drug infested, controlled by the cartels, affected by violence, abuse and exploitation, I recognized the stark absence of efforts geared towards prevention. It became clear we must make it a priority to educate governments, individuals, and corporations about mindful sustainable charity, bringing a hand up, not a handout. GIFT was founded to protect families and their children by preventing situations that lead to exploitation of these people. We work with families who have no food on their table for days and most of them use water from a nearby gutter. They do not have light, cable, internet and all the simple pleasures of life. We work with children who are abandoned by their families because they are HIV positive or have cancer or such other medical conditions that the family either doesn’t understand or does not have the funds to treat or both. We empower children who are at risk of being sex trafficked at the tender age of 4 and 5. What has kept me going for the last 15 years is Uplifting these people, we are fighting to Improve their financial condition, we are fighting to bring them a Hand up in Life and Not a Handout. We are encouraged to keep fighting by the success stories we get to share with you all.

GIFT serves over 10000 children every year. More than half of that constitutes young moms who are between the age of 14-17 years old. Empowering these young girls to blossom into powerful women with a vision is what we do every day and I am proud of how our team handles this meaningful work despite the gender inequality on our planet.

We must be proactive with humanitarian aid and mindful with the nature of aid we provide to people in need. Transitional aid such as free food, free blankets, free shelter, free medical, etc. is great but only for so long. That is not what GIFT is about. Our goal is to uplift these children, strengthen and empower their family unit so it can provide and protect their own and do not have to rely on outside entities for simple necessities in life.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love nature and animals. I would definitely flaunt Los Angeles’ natural beauty, hikes with a view, horse back riding and also a day on the boat by the Long Beach Pier. We can take the boat to Catalina and do the 3 hour Eco Tour of that incredible little island. Watch some wild life, bisons, bald eagles, wolves and more, appreciate the architecture and explore the city of Avalon. If she has more days, camp at the Ben Weston Beach. She cant miss the horse back riding in and around Ojai. For a nice brunch we can go to this cute little French Café located in Sherman Oaks called Nesmon Cafe with some great French coffee, cuisine and music. A game of Tennis is a must while she is in town. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I take my inspiration from people who go against all odds to defy the world and become successful at whatever their path is. These are individuals who did not allow societal pressures to dictate how they live and designed their own destiny, their own life and molded their own character. The biggest struggle in life is not to be rich and successful, many have done that and many continue to be that everyday but the biggest struggle in life is to do so without losing our softness, without losing our humanity and without losing compassion.
I often find my inspiration in women who were vilified as the she wolves of their times because they dared to be different like Belva Ann Lockwood, Victoria Woodhull, Catherine the Great of Russia, Hilary Clinton and more. You may not agree with their actions, but you certainly can’t deny them a place in history as the women who paved the path for women like me.

I would like to give a Shoutout to all the women out there who are defying odd and making history.

Website: https://www.ggiusa.org/

Instagram: MannaDabholkar and GIFTGlobalInitiative

Linkedin: linkedin.com/in/manna-dabholkar-bba7591b3

Facebook: Manna Dabholkar

Image Credits
Will Potter Photography

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