On Thursday 10 November 2011, the Rt Hon. Caroline Flint MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change hosted a private reception for Dharmaj Society of London (DHASOL) in the Jubilee Room, Houses of Parliament to celebrate their achievements and success as a Gujarati charity based in the UK.

The reception in Parliament was attended by 60 special guests, including their current committee members, and MP for Ealing and Southall, Mr Virendra Sharma. The Rt Hon Caroline Flint had learnt about the charity's work through her former diary manager Ushma Patel.
She was very proud to hear of their hard work and wanted to congratulate DHASOL's continuous effort to raise funds towards charitable projects in India and the UK. DHASOL was formed by just a small group of new immigrants of Dharmaj origin, back in 1968. Their aim was to solely improve the wellbeing of those less fortunate in Gujarat, India. Since then, they have built up a superb reputation as a dedicated organisation in fundraising charitable events. At present there are around 1,400 families of Dharmaj descent residing in the UK, with whom DHASOL maintains regular contact with through their events and newsletters.

In the UK, DHASOL hosts regular events that are aimed to benefit the local Gujarati communities and help encourage the enhancement of cultural values. They also do this to bring together their own community and build relationships with their fellow Dharmajwasi's. The events they hold vary from annual Diwali gatherings for families and friends, Navratri festivals to summer barbeques, and religious or social outings. Each event is sponsored by their long-term donors and members, and their loyal volunteers are always on hand to cater for their functions.

The society also owns their own property, The Liberty Centre in Wembley, which holds up to 150 guests. This venue enables them to host meetings and events designed to raise awareness of health and social issues facing local community and raise vital funds for good causes. Some events are organised to raise awareness in the community about health and safety matters, first aid, cooking and yoga. The society has also been involved with the British Heart Foundation to help raise awareness in the Asian community about healthy living. These events allow the community in the UK to make a real difference to their village in India by donating their money and time. With the donations collected, DHASOL has built the Sharda Maternity Hospital, Doctors and Nurses Quarters and Mineral Water Purification Plant in India, and supported many more.

The reception was opened by Rakhi Sood's Dancing Academy who performed a traditional kathak and bollywood dance.

Following this the President of DHASOL, Mr Mukundbhai R Patel welcomed guests. “It is a huge privilege to be standing here in Parliament and this is a grand recognition for which we are so proud of. I would like to thank the Shadow Secretary of State for hosting this evening's reception“.

DHASOL was also joined by special guest, Mr Jatinbhai Vyas, who travelled from India to attend this reception. He is a reputable Indian architect who provided his services in designing the Sharda Maternity and General Hospital and Water Project in Dharmaj, India, both of which are DHASOL’s key projects. He has been a long-term supporter to DHASOL and Mr Vyas said he was “very honoured to be invited to the reception today“.

The Sharda Maternity and General Hospital was built in Dharmaj in 2004, from raising a total of £215,000 from UK donations. In the following year, DHASOL added doctors and nurses accommodation to the base. The hospital has had an excellent record of over 2,342 babies being born and serving over 39,468 out-patients to date. DHASOL’s objectives were to provide a clean, safe and hygienic environment for expectant mothers and their newborns. The charges for services are completely affordable, whilst the air conditioned rooms on the second floor provide privacy and comfort for the more affluent patients.

What was primarily built to be a maternity hospital now offers many other procedures by serving patients who are in need of treatment, from a hernia operation to hysterectomies. Not only is the hospital serving the community for which it was intended, it has also served as a good example of how to run a rural medical project. The hospital has entertained dignitaries from Nigeria and Ghana and has achieved national press coverage both in UK and within India.

The Reverse Osmosis Water Plant Project in Dharmaj was built in 2006. This project helped to provide clean drinking water to residents and help reduce the amount of water borne diseases from unfiltered water. The Water Plant has the capacity to filter out 2000 litres of clean water every hour. At present the filtered water is home-delivered to all of the residents in Dharmaj and surrounding areas at a special and affordable price of 12 Rupees per 20 litre jar (only 2 Rupees per jar if collected). Both projects have also created job opportunities for the local and surrounding areas.

These worthy projects, and many more, have been funded entirely by donations from the public and sponsors in the UK. DHASOL 's success is a testament to the support and commitment of the simple organisational structure, made up of respected Trustees and a very committed and hard-working Executive Committee of very different age-groups. They all have the same aim and commit their spare time to help others which has made them an inspiration to their community.

Further guest speaker, Bhupendrabhai A Patel, DHASOL 's immediate past president, addressed the reception and updated the guests on current events, ideas and also the progress of existing projects in Dharmaj. He summarised that DHASOL had raised and donated substantial funds for good causes that included the Hospital, Water Project, Nurses and Doctors Quarters and other relief projects following natural disasters like the Gujarat Earthquake and South Asian Tsunami. He also outlined future projects which DHASOL will be supporting, including schools in Central Gujarat, like the Sri Ambedkar Sanskardham in Virsad (near Dharmaj, Gujarat, India). This school is committed to offer free secondary school education, through decent boarding and lodging facilities, particularly to children from disadvantaged families that lack basic financial resources. The aim of the school is to provide these children with a sound start in life and make them self sufficient and eventually good citizens. Mr Bhupendrabhai Patel addressing the reception on their future project (also in this photo left to right: Shirishbhai Patel, Dinubhai Patel, Mukundbhai Patel President), Jatinbhai Vyas, Manharbhai Patel, Virendra Sharma MP, Caroline Flint MP).

In his brief address Mr Virendra Sharma MP, congratulated the Society. He said “the work which has been done is truly remarkable and I will support your future projects in any way I can“. “This is a small charitable organisation that has made a huge impact on its community and I Congratulate and salute those who raised money for this village to help build on the necessities for today which are health and education“. He encouraged the guests to continue their support for future projects.

Finally, addressing the gathering, the Rt Hon Caroline Flint MP said “the work DHASOL is doing is outstanding. You are all changing the lives of those is need and making a real difference. We need to help push the voluntary sector and communities to support small charities like yourselves and it's a pleasure for me to congratulate you on your work and share this beautiful building with you“. She also paid a special tribute to those members who founded the organisation. She concluded by saying “I hope the youth carry on the hard work and the sponsors and volunteers continue to support this charity in the future“. The reception received overwhelming positive feedback from those who attended. Despite being a small charity, DHASOL has made huge strides to bring social change to those in need. To find out more about DHASOL and their work, visit http://www.dhasol.co.uk (Charity No: 1070401)

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