The Golden Heart Foundation was founded by seven friends who wanted to empower marginalized women by opening two community kitchens and skill development centers.
In 2015, seven friends decided that instead of spending an evening out, they should use their position of affluence to perform some ‘hands-on’ work. These friends then joined hands to build the Golden Heart Foundation in Pune.
The organisation has grown from a humble beginning to presently operate two community kitchens that feed over 12,000 people each month, as well as two skill development centres where women are taught vocational skills such as tailoring, English speaking, basket making, and beautification training.
Over 250 women in Pune’s Budhwar Peth and National Institute of Bank Management (NIBM) area have been empowered as a result of this.
“The seeds were sown for me many years ago when I spent time working with several old age homes and orphanages in Pune as a college student,” says Shehnaz Chawla, the organization’s President.
“This knowledge was useful when she founded the organisation with her friends Anmol, Vivian, Sanjeev, Shamim, Rohini, and Daniel.
After he relocated to Pune, we agreed over a casual meal that we needed to do more than merely donate money to charity on a monthly basis.”
Shehnaz had been working with several organisations and hadn’t considered creating something on her own until then. The organisation began with simple tasks like as distributing ration kits, paying school tuition for pupils whose parents were unable to do so, and even providing medical assistance to the poor.
“We would take on these minor projects as and when we had the money for them, and our work had no real structure,” Shehnaz explains.
She continues.”Yet another chance conversation with Panna, a transgender sex worker in Budhwar Peth, led to our realisation of how severe their position was. On some occasions, elderly members of the transgender community were starving, unable to obtain even one square meal each day. We were so struck by her narrative that we realised the need for a communal kitchen was urgent.”
In 2017, the Golden Heart Foundation opened a community kitchen in the heart of Pune’s red-light district, Budhwar peth.
To make things even more relevant for the locals, they started hiring people from the neighbourhood to work in the kitchen. Every morning, work in the kitchen begins at 6 a.m., and we must finish by 6 p.m.
Lunch is provided in the kitchen, and on most days, employees are also packing food for supper.
Every day, the kitchen serves roughly 400 people on average “Shehnaz agrees. Apart from the food, the availability of space was the most compelling reason for community members to visit the kitchen.
Rohini McArthur, the organization’s Vice President, explains this by saying, “The majority of them live in cramped quarters, with some having only one room that is also filthy and dark.
It was a great deal for them to be able to sit in a pleasant open room, talk with us, and be served food.”
Shehnaz travels back in time to when the organisation was in its infancy. She claims that when the seven people came together, they were able to gather close to Rs 2 lakh per month at first.
“This was a huge push for us,” she adds, “and it’s what drove us to rent the community kitchen and start working there.”
Once the basic foundation was in place, the group began to enlist the assistance of friends and other family members.
They now receive assistance from all across the world.”
“The world is full with good Samaritans who will always provide a helpful hand if they believe and trust your job,” she says.
We want people to not only donate, but also to come to the centre and observe how their money is being put to good use. Rohini also mentions how they have received assistance from a variety of sources.
“It’s his method of making a difference,” he explains.
While this is just one example, Rohini claims that there are many more people who work in their own quiet ways. In the midst of the epidemic, NIBM, Pune, opened a second community kitchen and a skill development centre in 2020.
People offered to teach tailoring, salon work, basket weaving, make-up, mehendi application, and even spoken English,” Shehnaz continues.
Due to the fact that many women lost their employment as a result of the pandemic, this provided them with a valuable source of cash. Nearly 250 women have received training from this centre in a specific skill set.
“While some women can earn up to Rs 25,000 per month, the majority of women earn between Rs 10,000 and Rs 15,000 per month.”
The organisation was a blessing in Alisha’s life.
She says, “I learned tailoring at the skill centre and got a job at a tailoring unit almost immediately.”
It’s been an incredible journey from not knowing how to earn to now earning Rs 15,000 each month.”
“As each of them sees how acquiring a talent may lead to earning, demand for enrollment at the skill centre has skyrocketed,” Shehnaz adds.
She mentions Archana Sadanwad, another benefactor of the centre.
“She claims,” she continues “Archana’s husband, a cook, committed himself during the first lockdown in June 2020, leaving her widowed.
So, starting with no money, she learned to cook and now earns Rs 15,000 a month at the community kitchen, where she cooks for close to 300 people every day.”
These are just a few examples of how the organization’s efforts have made a difference in people’s lives.