On International Women’s Day, model and Bollywood actress Evelyn Sharma drove to the dusty wasteland of Karjat under the scorching sun to participate in a house building activity arranged under the campaign ‘Women Build India’ by Habitat for Humanity. Evelyn volunteered to build the home of Changuna Sarai, who lives in Sarai Wadi with her family of 10 in Karjat, Maharashtra. By associating herself with this initiative, Evelyn Sharma aims to spread awareness and raise funds for the cause of decent shelter and improved sanitation for underprivileged women in India. She talks to Premjit Mohapatra.
Acting, modelling, philanthropy…you wear many hats. What is closest to your heart?
I love acting…getting into different characters, telling stories and making people smile! My profession as an actress is something I never dared to dream of and yet it has happened. Philanthropy and social work have always been a part of my life and I couldn’t imagine a life without loving and caring about others. Helping those in need has always been a passion. Now, combining my fame with my passion is what makes my life the best! Starting my own charity foundation Seams For Dreams and creating awareness for amazing NGOs and important social causes is wonderful and goes side by side with my career in films.
What drew you to social causes? Tell us about the social causes you support.
Helping others and a sense of justice is something I think is in every child’s nature. Growing up, we tend to get bitter, self-righteous, hard-hearted and jealous. That’s why we stop caring much about others and try to satisfy our own needs first. It’s my faith in God and a greater purpose that I remind myself daily to be humble towards everyone, grateful for all I have received and more giving to the ones that have less.
Tell us about Habitat for Humanity, its objectives and the campaign WOMEN BUILD India.
‘WOMEN BUILD India’ is a part of Habitat for Humanity’s strategy that aims to achieve holistic community development with shelter and sanitation at its core. Its objective is to make ‘Housing for All’ and ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ a reality by 2020. It’s encouraging to see how the Government of India is addressing these needs through various campaigns. As women leaders from different fields, we must play a part.
As the youth ambassador for their ‘Young Leaders BUILD’ movement, what is your role?
As the Youth Ambassador, I pledge to create awareness and move my generation to help provide appropriate housing and sanitation for those in need all over India.
Had you been to Karjat before? What were your first impressions of the place?
I had never been there before and what struck me first was the heat. Dry fields, dry rivers and lots of dust. How do people survive in these conditions was my first thought. When I entered one of the houses built by Habitat in the village, I was surprised at how cool it was. The houses are made exactly for the condition of the area. Mud and sandstone cool the house naturally and improve the living conditions greatly. I volunteered to build a home for Changuna Sarai who lives in Sarai Wadi with her family. Changuna and her husband Suresh Sarai are agricultural laborers. With their meager daily wages, they try to make ends meet. To add to their difficulties is a lack of proper sanitation facilities for her three daughters who are growing up. Building a home for them was among the best days of my life.
What was your experience like building a home?
Exhausting! Building a house takes strength and again, I am amazed by the spirit of togetherness of the village.
It is a given to help each other with the build; you don’t even have to ask. Everyone comes together and makes it happen. It was a beautiful and very moving experience to be a part of it, with all the hardworking volunteers who came from all around the world to assist the village and Habitat as well.
What was the response of the locals to this initiative?
Joy and thankfulness. Who wouldn’t be happy if suddenly an army of people show up to give you a roof over your head? A dream come true for you, your family, your future generations; even your animals will jump in joy for the newfound shade and protection!
You are also the founder and managing director of “Seams For Dreams Charity Foundation”. What are the activities the foundation is engaged in?
Our mission is to provide appropriate clothing to people in need across India. We do so by accepting old clothes as donations and distribute them to our outreach programs and partner NGOs all over the country. We also use your scrap fabrics and torn clothes for upcycling projects and support eco fashion on our blog! You can read more on our website www.SeamsForDreams.com
How important is the work you do for social causes and charities/philanthropic activities?
There is nothing more important in life than doing good to others.
And how important do you think it is for celebrities to get involved in causes and charities?
It is up to every individual to decide what to do with their life. I personally believe that my fortune and success are a gift from God and my way of thanking Him is by using it for his greater purpose to make this world a better place for everyone.
Given your experience with the campaign ‘WOMEN BUILD India’, what are some issues that the younger generation must focus on?
I think basic human rights of gender equality, being able to earn a living, travelling without worry of safety, having a place to call home, enough food and water for your family and appropriate clothing to wear every day is where we have to start. This all can be achieved with the right education, vocational training, financial support and individual people giving their time to help. Be the change you want to see!
What inspires your social endeavours?
My faith and just being human 🙂