Monday, September 23, 2002

He helps India's poor


Group finds and funds projects to improve health

By Janet C. Wetzel
Enquirer contributor

        LIBERTY TWP — Sri Mirle came to the United States from his native India in 1981 to further his education and explore opportunities. He has accomplished all that and more.

[photo] Sri Mirle stands outside of the Hindu Society of Greater Cincinnati Temple.
(Thomas Witte photo)
| ZOOM |
        But his heart has always ached for the estimated 400 million people in his homeland living in abject poverty.

        Mr. Mirle, born in Bangalore and raised in Bombay, had often made a point of helping others. But one day he had a rude awakening — he was not doing enough.

        “It suddenly occurred to me that I owe so much to my nation — my world,” he said. “ I've been so fortunate, have so much going for me, and I just couldn't go on enjoying them and primarily just taking care of my family and our needs.”

        Mr. Mirle threw himself into volunteer work in 1999, joining and helping reenergize a fledgling group called Association for India's Development (AID), started in Cincinnati in 1996. It was founded in 1991 by University of Maryland students.

        Now Mr. Mirle, who lives in Liberty Township with his wife Anupa and their 5-year-old son, Vikku, volunteers 10 to 20 hours a week with AID which has about 15 active members, including his wife. She performs and teaches classical Indian dance.

        Each Saturday, members spend hours reviewing proposals submitted by non-governmental Indian organizations, such as a road project. An AID volunteer goes to India, at his or her own expense, to ensure the project is valid, the money will be spent wisely, and to work out details, said Mr. Mirle.

        He and his family go to India every year or two. Both have relatives there. The Mirles went back in March to talk to organizations about projects.

        “We want to fund sustainable development projects ... make sure these are not handouts,” said Mr. Mirle, who has a Ph.D and is a polymer scientist at Procter & Gamble Winton Hills Technical Center. “We're trying to provide means for long term sustenance, to create jobs, a livelihood for people.” They work with various impoverished and so-called backward tribal groups and women's and children's groups.

        AID has two or three major annual fund raisers. Six projects are being funded this year.

        Harmony 2002, a multi-media extravaganza, will be 7-9 p.m. Saturday in the Procter & Gamble Hall at the Aronoff Center. It will feature dance, magic and a high-tech laser light show, all by a Denver, Colo., group headed by Manick Socar, son of a legendary Indian magician. Mr. Mirle is the coordinator.

        But Harmony 2002 is more than a fund-raiser. As its name suggests, it's to promote harmony among diverse groups, Mr. Mirle said. In recent weeks he and other AID volunteers have spoken to more than 20 groups spreading the harmony message, such as at the Islamic Center, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, and to Chinese American community leaders.

        Mr. Mirle is an active member and newsletter editor for Kaveri, a social cultural group which focuses on preserving Indian culture.

        Fellow AID volunteer Rao Sailesh calls Mr. Mirle an exceptional man who makes time to help others, despite family and professional commitments.

        “At times of calamities/disasters, such as the massive cyclone in India, Sri has been instrumental in collecting relief materials and shipping them to India,” Mr. Sailesh said. “”He is also brilliant at dramatics,” and helps write, direct and perform in skits and plays to raise awareness on issues.

        Mr. Mirle said his burning desire to help is fueled by trips back home where he sees families without even the basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and sanitation.

        “Life is busier for me now, but more meaningful. Some of us have huge feasts all the time, while others barely have crumbs. We need to help change that.”

        Do you know a Hometown Hero? E-mail Janet Wetzel at jjwetzel@siscom.net, or fax (513) 755-4150.

       

       



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