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Dr Jack Preger MBE: On Sharing

01 July 2005

A letter from Dr. Jack Preger MBE, founder of the humanitarian NGO Calcutta Rescue, endorsing the work of STWR

The sharing principle is, as you well know, one that would open all doors, because it is based on compassion. That is the basis of the Plenty Ashram movement, whose volunteers have done such great work in 3rd world countries and with whom I had the privilege of living and working in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There is Plenty for All, it just needs to be shared properly. Sharing is currently the basis of the movement to get medicine to those who cannot afford it and who are in such need. The situation among HIV/AIDS patients in sub-Saharan Africa is a tragedy of Holocaust proportions. Here in Calcutta the situation developing is less well-known and less well documented. There are 1600 known HIV+ve patients among the sex workers.

The organization principally involved in working with them provides Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) to 22 patients in total; and this includes some who are not sex workers. A Calcutta Blood Bank finds 1% of donated blood is HIV+ve. This is not blood collected from blood sellers, but blood donors, highly motivated, socially conscious citizens. The Government of India attempts to get WTO permission to manufacture ART drugs free of the patents of the 1st world drug companies. But the aim is to export these drugs, not to distribute them to the patients in India who cannot afford the commercial prices. Estimated number of HIV/AIDS patients in India is 4.5 million and rising. Calcutta Rescue is trying to raise funds for a total family care HIV/AIDS programme: ART, opportunistic infections treatment, nutrition, child care, accommodation etc.

We aim to recruit a grand total of just 5 such families for a pilot project, such are the funding constraints on planning for a care operation which would have to operate for 10 years or more. We believe we will find the sponsors for this project and that others will follow to expand this help. Better to light a single candle, than sit and curse the darkness. Better to install just 4 arsenic filters in two villages in Malda District of West Bengal, as Calcutta Rescue has just done; even though the number of people in this State being poisoned by arsenic in their drinking water runs into millions. So these Malda villagers are given hope and others less fortunate may live in hope of future help. Better to give a handful of patients suffering from multi-drug resistant tuberculosis the very expensive 2nd line drugs essential for their cure, as we are doing; even though many more in Calcutta who need these drugs don't get them, because there is no Government funding available whatsoever. There is no such funding for insulin for diabetics who are not in-patients in Government Hospitals. And so we share our limited budget with these insulin-dependent diabetics to the limited extent possible.

These are a few of the examples of what sharing can do, on however limited a scale. That sharing is a complex process, open to misdirection and abuse at many levels is apparent the world over. That sharing is an ennobling process, properly managed, ennobling both giver and receiver is equally apparent. That the greatest individuals who have lived have been sharers in ways beyond the abilities of most of us is the reason for their greatness.

STWR will bring together some incredible people, who will achieve incredible things. That is because they will be inspired by a concept of sharing which goes to the very essence of our humanity. I will not bore you with my own personal theology. All I will say is: Wait and See.

Dr Jack Preger is the founder of Calcutta Rescue and was named a Member of the British Empire (M.B.E.) by the Queen in 1993.