By Janice Nesamani
Northwest Asian Weekly
A calling to help those in need motivated three individuals to start Dream Vision Charity. Their first project provides backpacks to children hit by the floods in Kerala. Their next focus: Seattle’s homeless crisis.
Today, scenes of waterlogged streets and homes caused by Hurricane Florence in North and South Carolina are a reminder of the havoc nature can wreak.
For many from the South Indian state of Kerala, Florence seems like a flashback to last August, to the deaths and destruction caused when a deluge of showers killed around 480 people, injured several thousand, and displaced even more. The state, known as ‘God’s Own Country’ because of its natural beauty, suffered the worst flooding it has seen in over a hundred years.
For Megha Santhosh, Boney Mathew, and Varghese Thomas, the Kerala floods hit close to home. The three, who have spent more than a decade in Seattle, grew up in India and originally hail from flood-hit Kerala. In fact, Santhosh’s family home in Thiruvalla was damaged during the floods, but luckily her family is safe, and their home is now being rebuilt.
Santhosh, Mathew, and Thomas have been actively engaged in charity, regularly volunteering with the Seattle Gospel Mission, and helping the homeless. However, they always had the desire to do something more — something that is not affiliated to any religion, race, or caste. So, a meeting at a coffee shop earlier in July, combined with the impact of images of the horrific destruction of their home state, prompted them to act.
“It all started with the Kerala floods that affected thousands,” said Thomas. “We were looking at providing relief and initially thought of raising funds to get relief supplies here in the United States and sending them to Kerala, but we ran into some issues with the end-to-end logistics.”
Thomas is the treasurer of Dream Vision Charity (DVC), which was founded with Mathew and Santhosh. DVC is now conducting a drive to collect funds to help children in Kerala.
“The money will provide backpacks and supplies such as pens, pencils, color pencils, pencil boxes, notebooks, lunch boxes, water bottles, and umbrellas to children in Kerala that will help them succeed in schools,” said Mathew, head of DVC. “We have set a goal of 500 backpacks by the end of September and are already halfway through. Each backpack costs $10.”
People who have been displaced by the floods in Kerala have lost most of their possessions and belongings. The floods struck just as most schools in the region opened after the summer holidays and swept away most children’s new school supplies.
“We have already reached out to and have been getting requests for help from schools and churches, because we have been part of the relief efforts from here when the floods took place,” said Mathew. The areas that the group will be focusing their efforts on are Wayanad, Chengannur, Kuttanad, and Paravur, which are still reeling from the floods.
“We want to put a smile on the kids’ faces when they receive the bag and all of its supplies,” said Mathew. “We have volunteers working in Kerala who will help us deliver them to the kids in those affected areas. Our [charity’s] tagline says it all — Restore. Rebuild. Rejoice. Let’s restore the affected one, let’s rebuild, and at the end, let’s rejoice together with a smile.”
Santhosh, who is the secretary of DVC, said, “We are collecting funds through our pages on GoFundMe and Venmo. We have reached out not only to people in Seattle, but all over the U.S., and a lot of it is over social media through friends and their friends.”
Thomas informed us that the three of them have reached out to a lot of communities within big corporations such as Microsoft, Boeing, and Amazon, in addition to local communities in and around the Seattle area as well as the Kerala community in the United States.
Next, helping Seattle’s homeless
Mathew, who also works in real estate, said, “We came together as a group of friends who wanted to do things locally and outside our immediate neighborhoods. … We are not bound by any one race or religion, and we are open to anyone.”
One of the driving forces behind the group’s formation and something that the trio discussed while founding the DVC was they didn’t only want to support those in need only with finances.
Having volunteered with the Seattle Gospel Mission for a long time, what the three want to tackle next through DVC is the homelessness crisis in Seattle. “That’s a project we want to work on in the future. We understand the challenges and limitations homeless individuals face in the area well. Through the charity, we want to volunteer to help people in need, provide them with food, and be involved in rescue missions as well as provide clothing.” Mathew said.
Commenting on why they felt the need for a separate charity to do the work they were doing with the Seattle Gospel Mission, Thomas said, “We wanted to bring this under the Dream Vision Charity so we can get more people to participate as part of the charity, and this is a process we can set up. Since Seattle Gospel Mission was part of a church, not many people from other communities wanted to join. Dream Vision has nothing to do with religion or race or anything.”
“If anybody would like to volunteer their efforts, Dream Vision Charity is open to anyone,” said Mathew. “Find us on Facebook or Instagram. Let us know that you want to help on firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will coordinate our efforts.”
Donations can be made through GoFundMe under DVC Backpack Outreach, sent through Venmo to Dream Vision Charity, or via the U.S. Postal Service to Dream Vision Charity, C/O Boney Mathew, 4735 NE 4th Street. Renton, WA 98059.
Janice can be reached at email@example.com.