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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi, Co-Founder at Maya CARE Foundation

Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept to start an NGO?

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi: People above 70 years of age today, comprise the first generation of Indians who are grappling with the reality of living by themselves during their sunset years. My late mother looked after both my grandmothers for decades (one with Parkinson’s and the other with dementia) while balancing a full-time career in medical education and two children. My mother’s story was like so many women and men at that time who took care of elders and led highly productive lives. But today, when it is their turn, they are faced with loneliness, helplessness and most disheartening – the absence of purpose. To offer emotional, intellectual, logistical and medical assistance to the elderly, Maya CARE was established in 2009 by my husband Abhay Joshi, my late mother Dr Vidya Gokhale and me in Pune. Today we provide free services to the elderly in 29 Indian and 4 UK cities and offer livelihood to 100 persons with disability.

Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by Maya CARE Foundation

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi: Till date, Maya CARE has provided 10,400 free visits to the elderly accompanying them for chemotherapy/radiotherapy sessions, sitting outside ICU, reading/writing for people with failing eyesight, sorting out paperwork, bank transactions, help with technical gadgets and more. During the past year, we have completed the vaccination of 1200 senior citizens across 18 cities and distributed 40,000 masks to old age homes and key workers. These projects have been managed by a team of persons with disability.

Great Companies: What makes Maya CARE Foundation different from hundreds of other NGOs?

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi:

Maya CARE is the only organization offering such services free of charge across India for the elderly irrespective of differences. Many organizations have come up to offer this as a paid service and a few who assist the elderly free of charge are restricted to specific communities/geographical areas. Maya CARE is also the only organization which on principle, proactively recruits persons with disability only for paid positions, trains, nurtures and grooms them to build careers and take on leadership roles.

Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi: The biggest challenge remains access to funding. During the first 11 years of Maya CARE’s existence, 92% of funding came from the personal incomes (salaries) of my husband Abhay Joshi and me as we pursued full time corporate careers. In March 2020, I quit my job as CEO of a training company in India and have been focussing on building the leadership team of PWDs, scaling Maya CARE and making it self-sustainable. 2021 is the first year of Maya CARE’s existence when we have received funding for projects that have been successfully completed. Now that the leadership team is growing in competence and is self-motivated, our challenge is to raise funds to be able to pay them the compensation they deserve. Unfortunately, the cause of the elderly almost never finds place in social responsibility areas of corporations. We are willing to continue making personal sacrifices in terms of time dedicated and personal funds to ensure that Maya CARE team gets on to a trajectory of being able to generate funds on its own, is completely independent and continues to serve well beyond our work lives.

Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Maya CARE Foundation?

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi: In a work environment across industries, cities, countries, corporates, public sector units and charitable ventures, persons with disability are relegated to a tiny spot in a corner. This tiny spot often comes into existence as an effort to comply with policy, norms on diversity and inclusion and sometimes out of genuine sympathy. Even if there is sympathy, there is rarely an effort to teach the person a new skill, give them a new experience or guide them on the path of career progression. Maya CARE has dared to dream an audacious dream, of an organization in which people with no disability will form just 10% of the population and those with disability will leverage their strengths to provide a professional and highly empathetic service to the elderly. This free service to the elderly will be available in every city of the world with a helpline in every spoken language of the globe managed by a PWD in that country.

Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Manjiri Gokhale Joshi: Before you venture out as an entrepreneur, setting up your own charity or a profitable business, ask yourself “Why” do you want to something in this space. For instance, if you are making a product or developing service, why have you chosen this line of profitable business? Does looking at someone wearing what you have designed or eating what you have baked, make you happy? In our case, for our social venture, the “Why” was obvious. When Abhay and I have been mute spectators to the dignity, respect and sense of purpose snatched away from an elderly person or a PWD, we have felt deep sorrow and anger from within. Our venture has been an effort to address this. Once the “Why” is right for you as an entrepreneur, the rest will fall in place – “What” you will achieve, When, Where, Who will help you and HOW!



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