AN Indian-born Dallas doctor is appealing for more like-minded professionals in America to join his crusade to give impoverished children in his homeland a start in life.
A college reunion four years ago brought him back in contact with former classmate Dr Satya Prasad Koneru, founder of the UK charity HEAL (Health and Education for All), and since then Dr Chunduri hasn’t looked back.
He took part in a gruelling event, Cycle India 2010, to raise funds for HEAL’s projects and was so moved after meeting some of the children in the charity’s care that he knew he had to do more to help.
“When I was young my father died and my two brothers took care of eight of us. I always felt so much in their debt,” said Dr Chunduri.
“And when I first became involved with HEAL I saw this as a way of ‘paying my dues’, but after seeing the kids at the Children’s Village in Guntur I knew that I was going to be involved forever.
“I also remember during Cycle India 2010 seeing these people from the UK, some of who were barely able to cycle for one reason or another, but they carried on regardless and I thought ‘Why are these guys putting themselves through this?’.
“This, too, inspired me and left me feeling that my involvement with HEAL would be on-going, not just for the one time as I had imagined. I salute them for doing this for other human beings.”
A family bereavement prevented Dr Chunduri from participating in Cycle India 2012, but he was determined to be involved and flew to India to make a personal donation to HEAL’s ambitious new project, Paradise Village, which will soon become home to 1,000 orphaned and underprivileged children.
“I met up with the cyclists after their ride and I told Prasad that I would like to donate $100,000 towards a vocational centre for the Paradise Village and a further $20,000 to build a guest house cottage there, too.
“I saw this as my destiny – it was something I felt I had to do – and I hope I can do more in the future.”
Now Dr Chunduri is hoping to reach out to other like-minded people in America to support HEAL’s good work.
“The sad situation in India is that there are super-rich people, but others are so poor you cry when you see them. The rich people don’t care about the poor people,” he said.
“There are only a few of us in HEAL USA right now and we need to recruit more people. There are a huge number of people like myself who left India to come and work in the States.
“Many of them are already donating to other charities, or projects such as temples and colleges back home in India, but HEAL needs help to give these unfortunate children a future by putting them into education.
“The beauty of the charity is that they have no paid staff and no administrative offices, so the money raised and donated goes directly to where it is needed most and I have seen the difference it makes with my own eyes.
“We are already looking at the possibility of holding a Cycle India event in America to raise awareness of HEAL and will be actively seeking more sponsors to support the Paradise Village project.”
After serving his internship in India, Dr Chunduri took up residency at the VA Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York and currently runs his own practise in Fort Worth.
Explaining his reasons for supporting a vocational centre, Dr Chunduri said that there was a need to encourage training in trades where skills were often learned on the job.
“There is an abundance of high-end technical people, but there is a need for mid-level technical people,” he said. “Some people work as machinists with no training and only hands-on experience. They need proper training and this vocational centre will encourage that.”
He added, “I talked to several kids separately at the HEAL Children’s Village in Guntur and asked them what they want to be. Only one said ‘engineer’. Almost all of them said, ‘I want to help people like me here at the HEAL Village’.
Krishnababu Chunduri, a 61-year-old neurologist from Fort Worth, Texas, was born and brought up in southern India and took his medical training in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, during the 1970s.
“It gave me a lot of encouragement that many of the kids are going to help with HEAL in the future. It is definitely going to make a difference that these children are going to go on to help people, which means that HEAL’s good work will be continued in the future.”
Dr Chunduri’s elder brother Dhanumjay is a GP based in Birmingham, England, and his family is sponsoring the creation of the Phanendra Chunduri Institute for the Blind at the Paradise Village in memory of his late son.
“Our own mother had zero education,” said Dr Chunduri. “It was frustrating for her when she wanted to read or write letters and had to depend on other people. But she still encouraged us and was our inspiration to get a good education.
“My brothers went on to do well in life. My father died when I was small, but my mother was so instrumental in educating us. That is why the vocational centre will be named after her.”