Why Award-Winning Female Philanthropist Jillian Haslam Refuses to Give Up… On Anyone
Extreme Childhood Poverty in India Powers Cross-Generational Charitable Work
Jillian Haslam knows the power of philanthropy.
Not just because she has seen it and done it as one of the most well-known female philanthropists from India and the UK. But because she was on the receiving end of it for most of her childhood.
Jillian grew up in excruciating poverty, unlike what most in any Western nations can fathom. But though that experience left some wounds and scars, it also produced a woman who would never stop caring for the poor who cannot care for themselves.
As a child, being helped by the kindness of strangers taught Jillian that even the smallest acts – strung together by people who may never know each other – will save a life and give the recipient the chance to overcome their present suffering.
Philanthropy: Her Only Possible Path
Jillian Haslam didn’t become a philanthropist because of wealth earned by an enterprising husband, or from a big inheritance, or because she made great wealth on her own and felt compelled to “give back.” Not that there’s anything wrong with any of those paths to philanthropy.
But Jillian has become one of the most personally-engaged female philanthropists on the planet because she wants to see the injustice of poverty end for as many people as possible who still live today like she did all through her childhood.
Jillian doesn’t sit in offices disbursing checks to applicants asking her to fund their organizations and worthy endeavours. She runs her own charities in India and the UK (with others in the works) – funding them with wealth generated from her book sales (Indian.English – her memoir), her motivational speaking and training seminars, and from donors and supporters.
She regularly returns to India, and to the poor in other nations and the UK, and meets them face to face. She touches them. Laughs with them. Listens. Cries. And then she acts – finding a way to give a chance for a better life to ones who have no chance.
If that sounds familiar – an Indian philanthropist working in the slums of Calcutta and beyond – you’re not the only one who thinks so.
British-Indian Philanthropist Receives Highest Possible Award
In 2017, Jillian received the award named after the most generous and selfless woman to ever touch the nation of India, and perhaps the world. She was given the Mother Teresa Award, an award that is more humbling than all her many others. Anyone would be honoured to be named alongside the beloved saint. But for Jillian, it’s even more personal.
When she was a child, she and her family were actually helped by Mother Teresa’s charities. They were on the receiving end of the life-sacrificing generosity of the greatest saint of the 20th century. And now, she’s been honoured with an award named after Mother Teresa for her own philanthropic work in same country.
Other awards in other places may get more attention. But for a philanthropist to be honoured with the Mother Teresa Award, there is no greater honour.
The Making of a Philanthropist: Harrowing Details from Jillian’s Story
Jillian was born in 1970 to parents with British ancestry who had stayed in India after independence. Most of the British left, but a few stayed behind for various reasons. Things turned bad for her family at some point, and they ended up mired in the worst kind of poverty in the worst of India’s vast urban slums.
Even more, being different, they were treated as outcasts. And as children can sometimes be quite cruel, Jillian was not spared any of this even though just a child. In fact, she and her sisters may have suffered even more than her parents.
In addition to nonstop abuses from all kinds of places (detailed in her memoir Indian. English.), Jillian’s family also endured starvation, diseases and health crises – one after another – and even early death. Jillian’s parents lost four children to malnutrition and disease before Jillian was four years old.
And yet, in the midst of daily hunger, fear, and health problems for her family, Jillian started to notice something.
People helped her.
Sometimes, it was just a cup of milk. Other times, a bit of leftover meat or bread. Some people took them in to their homes for stretches of time when they couldn’t afford to live anywhere. Some of these people – the very ones helping them – also abused them in various ways.
But Jillian – even as a child – was able to see through this abuse, and receive the help she was being given. Later on, she was able to forgive ones who had tormented her, and be grateful for the help they had given in the midst of it. A roof, a measure of safety, food. It saved them.
Real philanthropy is messy. And even when delivered poorly, it can still have transformative impact.
Getting a Foothold Was All She Needed
Instilled by her parents with a strong work ethic, Jillian worked hard in school (which was funded and maintained because of philanthropy from the UK) and later in her first big job as a Personal Assistant to the CEO at the Bank of America in India.
When she learned that the B of A had a charitable department, she became active with it while continuing her work as a PA. Her passion and skill quickly distinguished her, and she became President of the Charity and Diversity Network in India for Bank of America, leading work in four different cities.
Combined with her day job, Jillian was working 15 hour days, often seven days a week. She also won her first philanthropy award: the Individual Achievement Award from Bank of America.
Eventually, she had made enough to get her extended family back to Britain, where she founded her coaching and training company.
She continually re-invested her income into various philanthropic pursuits, and eventually took charge of the Remedia network of charities. Remedia operates in India, the UK, and elsewhere using a cross-generational approach.
Remedia’s motto is, “Lifting the poor from every generation.”
Growing up, Jillian saw suffering at all ages, from the youngest infants to the oldest adults who had no health care and no one to care for them. She saw an overwhelmed system that couldn’t begin to cope with the need.
That’s why Remedia operates like a network, with different branches targeting specific segments of society, including the elderly, the disabled, children, young adults, girls, and women.
Jillian knows that each of these segments has different needs. A one-size-fits-all approach won’t work. You can learn more about Remedia and its charities here.
Awards Pile Up. Impact Broadens
It’s hard sometimes to stay positive when the needs and suffering persist. But when she steps back to look at it, Jillian’s impact on the poor has been immense. And people have noticed, so much that she’s starting to receive philanthropy awards on an almost yearly basis. Some of her biggest honours include:
- Mother Teresa International Memorial Award 2017
- Hello Kolkata Humanitarianism Award 2016
- Star Recognition Award 2015, UK
- True Legend Award 2015, The Telegraph
- Asia Woman of the Year 2012, 1st Runner Up
As a battle-tested female philanthropist, Jillian is an activist who stays involved on the ground. She only does what works, and runs her charities like a business – always looking to grow, expand, and increase impact.
Probably her greatest talent as a philanthropist is in identifying the root causes of poverty in a society, and figuring out how to equalize them. A few examples:
- In India, poor kids from low castes, and those with disabilities, too often get sent out from Indian schools. Jillian’s solution: Start our own school programs (called Happy Hearts – click here to learn more about Remedia)
- Young adults can’t get jobs because they have no job skills, no interpersonal skills, and little understanding of the process. But they have ambition. For some, this leads to drug dealing and other crimes. Jillian’s solution: Start a job-training, placement, and communication skills training program (called E3 Job Growth)
- In Britain, many young people, especially from poorer areas, feel left out and excluded from narrowing job opportunities. Even kids who are well off are finding themselves out of work after spending thousands on college. Jillian’s solution: Visit schools and empower students with interview skills, personal confidence, public speaking opportunities, vision, ‘meta’ job skills, and so much more. (UK Youth E3)
- Some kids fall behind in Indian schools because of thalassemia, a disease not known by most people in Western nations. Treatment is relatively simple, but too costly for poor Indian families. Jillian’s solution: Start a blood donation and treatment program for kids with thalassemia
These are just a few of the ways Jillian has found a way to equalize opportunity.
Jillian became a philanthropist to help people like these, who suffer like she did, almost always through no fault of their own.
Jillian Haslam is a British-Indian philanthropist touching the nation of India like no one since Mother Teresa. And now she has expanded her reach to the schools of the UK, and travels the globe looking for ways to uplift and empower the poor.
Just as her story is central to her motivational speaking and seminar trainings, so it is central to her philanthropic work around the world. Helping a person in small ways isn’t hard. Helping a lot of people in small ways that will lead to big change – that’s what Jillian Haslam thinks about every day.
Why? Because other people did so for her, and it’s the only reason she’s here today.