Belinda Pereira may not be a household name (yet!), but she’s definitely a star in her own right. Right from her humble beginnings of being one among six children of a widowed seamstress residing in a tiny home in Mumbai to growing up and starting Karuna Ghar Foundation—an NGO that educates, emotionally equips and even provides shelter to underprivileged children in the city—Belinda is definitely a “change-maker” in every sense of the term.
While the many challenges she has faced should have rendered her emotionally and physically helpless, Belinda has never let any situation get the better of her. This is more than evident from all her achievements (she literally used an unused toilet at Upvan in Thane to start a school and eventually a full-fledged NGO!)
Till date, she has won many awards for her social work, including the Vocational Excellence Award for Service to Mankind by Rotary Club in 2007, the Valuable Contribution and Whole-hearted Support and Service to Society by Lions Club in 2011, the Inspirational Change Award by St. John’s Thane in 2014, and the He & She Award “Making a Difference through Service” Archdiocese Award in 2015. Karuna Ghar Foundation has even featured in the Times of India in an article titled “Wisdom on the Toilet Wall” in the newspaper’s ‘City of Angels’ section.
“That title was apt as so many children have been educated here. To the world, it was an unused toilet. But for us it was our ‘House of Mercy” – Karuna Ghar. Last year, when the toilet was demolished, we were devastated. But now we realise, God wanted to give us something better and keep our children safer. I’m truly grateful for all those who have supported me in my journey so far,” she says emotionally.
Apart from social work, Belinda is also an influencer in society and a positive role model for women across India. Besides the ‘Social Cause Queen’ award by Mumo in 2016, she’s even won the popular ExtraordiNAARI award, Inspiring Women Award by Unimo and Mrs. Glam Icon award in 2017.
A proud mom of 3 biological sons and an adopted daughter, Belinda currently has an extended family of 22 children at Karuna Ghar Foundation.
In this interview with EQand.com, Belinda talks about her emotional journey so far and what inspires her to keep going and not giving up:
What does living an inspiring life mean to you?
My passion to write my emotions down has turned into inspirational words for youth and their parents. When you have a vision in mind, a desire in your heart and you want to work on it to make this world a better place, it just happens—your life becomes inspirational.
Tell us about Karuna Ghar and what motivated you to start it?
When I was growing up, I always knew I had to give back to society in some way. How and when I would do that, I didn’t know. But I knew in my mind and heart that it was something I absolutely had to do.
One day—November 15, 2006—when I was travelling to work, two boys came to me and asked me for money. I told them I wouldn’t give them money but welcomed them to have biscuits and chai with me. When I asked them why they weren’t in school, they said it was because their father was handicapped and their mother, blind. But while we were sipping on our tea, they told me that they would willingly learn if somebody would teach them. So, I decided to teach them in my free time. Soon, they started even getting their friends to our meets. Initially, I did not even have a place to teach them and had to use an unused toilet in Upvan. That’s how Karuna Ghar was born. “Karuna” means endless mercy.
Who is your role model and why?
Undeniably, my role model is my mother. That’s because she never put her hands forward to beg or make us beg. Instead, she earned small amounts of money whenever she could by taking up stitching orders. When I think of how she took care of 6 children on her own, in spite of everything she had to go through, I am motivated to face my own challenges.
What have been the biggest challenges in your life so far and how have you overcome them?
I was born in a family where my mother, a widow raised me and my five siblings all alone. Her only source of income was stitching and altering clothes. So imagine what my childhood would have been like—a tiny room with so many children. Sometimes, the handcart in the chawl was my bed as I slept with the stars over my head. Those were the days.
Now when I look back I can say for sure, that it is my family, especially my mother, and my best friends Anju Agrawal, Navin Sharma and Deepak Hasija who have helped me come this far and become who I am today.
How do you continue to influence positive change in your own life and the lives of people around you?
I love kids and surround myself with them as much as I can. I spend time writing to convey my messages to the youth. It is really the kids around me who help me to “Never Give Up”. I see potential in them and I know with a little help, these kids can achieve great heights.
If you were to give one piece of advice to women who are holding back from living their dreams what would it be?
“Never give up!” Something I believe in and want women of our generation to believe in and be motivated by.
What are the three biggest changes you would like to see in the world?
Seeing the world at peace and not in pieces!
Ensuring all people receive a dignified death.
Making adoption a way of life.
How would you make these changes, if you had the power to do so?
I would encourage people by my writings and make them see the world from my perspective.
My message to all would be to spread and share love. Time is the most precious thing you could give to a person/child.
What are the 3 adjectives that describes you the best?
Unstoppable, Compassionate, and Inspirational!
What is your idea of fun?
What are the things you to do to keep yourself emotionally healthy?
Writing, helping kids, visiting old age homes, and visiting cancer patients and talking to them are some of the things I do regularly. Moreover, I don’t allow emotions to shake me. Instead, I do a full case study of any situation. Ha Ha! I also keep in mind that “Presence is more important than presents!”.