SII: How did you learn about deafblindness and Sense India?
“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.” - Albert Pike
The proverb “Charity begins at home” will never lose its relevance. This post is an interview with a family who opened their hearts to support deafblind people and two years down the line still hold our hands.
Ton Visser and his family are residents of the Netherlands. In a chance meeting with our Director, Akhil Paul at the DBI World Conference in Lisbon, Portugal and visits to the homes of deafblind people in India they could see the impact Sense India was making. Thus came about a decision to fundraise for deafblind children in India. But keeping in mind the culture of giving in The Netherlands the family came up with a creative way to fundraise.
Ton shares all about his gig with fundraising for deafblind people in India in an interview. Excerpts below:
Ton: In 1971, I started working with deafblind children in Sint-Michielsgestel in The Netherlands. A couple of years later I met Ms. Beroz Vasha and was very impressed with her work with deafblind children in Mumbai. Later when I started my work as treasurer for Deafblind International and became responsible for Royal Kentalis International I started meeting Akhil (Director, Sense India) frequently.
Akhil invited me to visit India so in November 2012, I and my daughter Janneke visited Sense India.
SII: Can you recount what touched you during these visits?
Ton: Akhil took us to meet two beneficiaries who receive services under the Community Based Program in Gujarat. We visited Hansa, a 22-year young adult living with her parents and Rajesh Seth, a 34 years old deafblind adult. We were very touched to see that both of them, with the services provided by Sense International India, are well integrated as a part of the society they are living in. We seldom see this in The Netherlands. It was at this moment we realized the impact Sense India was having in the lives of more than 68,500 deafblind children and adults through their pragmatic strategies and their very dedicated hard working and smart staff.
In comparison to the money available for Dutch organisations- Sense India had very low budget. We have never seen money spent and managed better than the way Sense India does. We flew home with the strong feeling that it would be wonderful if we would be able to support the work so that there will be many more Hansa and Rajesh in future.
SII: How long have you been fundraising and what’s your motivation behind it?
Ton: Back home from our trip, Janneke and I decided to support Sense India’s work. Hearing our tales, my wife was also very impressed and was willing to start up a possible form of fundraising.
SII: How did you raise funds?
Ton: When we started looking for means to raise funds, one thing was quite clear that in today’s time just asking for money will not work. This has simply to do with the fact that these days there are so many new initiatives and ideas for fundraising. So we thought that since the three of us like reading books a lot and we have some knowledge about books. We figured out that there are many people who have way too many books in their houses and they buy new books frequently. For many people books hold a kind of emotional value. It is difficult for them to just give them away. But… if their books support projects they trust, people are happy to give them away for these projects.
SII: So how do you sell these books?
Ton: When we recieve books we first try to figure out the value of each book and the best way to sell each book. We use different websites to be sure about the value of each book. Then we decide to sell the book by one of the webshops that one can use for selling books, or an auction on internet or to sell them at the market. It depends on the type of book and price which option fits best to make the best price and have the best posibility to sell the book. On the pictures you see us selling the books on a marketplace . We also send purchases by post to people who bought the books via internet.
SII: Are you able to raise awareness about deafblindness along with fundraising?
Ton: The scenario in The Netherlands is different from the scenario in India. We are a very small country and from time to time there are opportunities to raise awareness for people who are deafblind in the newspapers and on television. Like in the cinema’s right now, there is the movie about a French deafblind girl Marie Heurtin (a must see!). Also on prime time television there was an interview of two deafblind adults.
SII: Do you think anyone can be a fundraiser? Please share your insights for others who champion and support causes.
Ton: The only thing I can say: be creative. Look what fits in a particular situation. Here in The Netherlands it can be organizing an event (which can be many things), selling stuff etc… The only thing we know is that simply asking money will not work as it’s not in trend.
For Ton and his family, supporting this cause is a calling and passion to which they are giving their best. The proceeds that come in by the selling of books are sent as donations to Sense India.
And as Mother Teresa said “It's not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
Thanks Ton for the love that your family is giving to us in your own unique special way!