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Monday, December 7, 2015

Tête à Tête #19: Jaume San Llorente of Sonrisas de Bombay!

  It's December and I wanted a special interview to finish the interview section this year.
 “Love is not patronizing and charity isn’t about pity, it is about love. Charity and love are the same — with charity you give love, so don’t just give money but reach out your hand instead.” Mother Teresa Of Calcutta.
So here I am with Jaume Sanllorente, in his office and wanting to know how this young successful gentlemen left everything to go help those orphans in Mumbai. 
The smile on these faces speaks for us, much more strongly than any words written further. ‘Mumbai Smiles’ is defined by the achievements, joy, success, satisfaction and confidence of the several people supported by our projects, who are today making a difference in the society and their families. In its truest sense it stands for creating and transforming futures.
Mumbai Smiles is a registered organisation that works with underprivileged communities in Mumbai specifically in the communities of Andheri East. It was established in the year 2005, with a simple dream to support underprivileged children and their families. However now, we broadly work in four sectors covering Health, Education, Livelihood and Awareness building.  We work as agents to channelize resources to the ones who need them the most. We work with children and women, transforming lives of people much beyond these two sections of the population. Mumbai Smiles works in partnership with people at the grassroots to develop effective bottom-up strategies to end poverty.    
BelleBarcelone: Was your 1st trip to India only to Mumbai? How come you chose Mumbai as it is more common to choose other cities to visit in India. 
Jaume San Llorente: I went to for a trip to North india in 2003 and then to Goa in 2004. On the last day before coming back I came across this orphanage which was closing. What would happen to this poor children? 

This was the question Jaume had in his head and heart. He came back to Barcelona, decided to leave his job and comfortable lifestyle to go back  to Mumbai where he took charge of that orphanage. 

BB: What was your feeling when you saw these children were going to be orphans from their own orphanage?
JS: I felt injustice. Those children were victims of mafia, sexual exploitation... I felt as a citizen of this planet that this was unfair and it was my duty to rescue them. It is like falling in love, you never know with whom and where it can happen. 
BB: After 10 years of Sonrisas de Bombay, what values and feelings have you gained?
JS: Patience and generosity. I have learned the gift of smile and what a smile can do. 
BB: How was it as a westerner to adapt to Indian culture & bureaucracy?
JS: It was very difficult. I learned to have patience and to not get angry. As with anger nothing gets solved. 
BB: You have a lot of Spanish donors, what about Indians and the rest of the world?
JS: We have more Spanish as it took three years for us to be able to create the foundation and accept donations in India. 
BB: Do different religions co exist in the orphanage?
JS: It is a secular foundation, where we respect all religions but we don't practice any there. Everyone is free to choose their own path. No religious signs are allowed. 
BB: How do you help the orphans settle in the labor field?
JS: Our aim is for them to come out of poverty. They should have the liberty to choose the life they want. We are now auto-sufficient at the orphanage and in the Bawaldis (pre-schools) outsiders are able to also come to the school and pay the enrolment fee if they can and that's how it can manage. We are looking for a way to not be only dependant of the donations in all the aspects. 

BB: What was your toughest encounter? 
JS: I had to live for two years with bodyguards 24/7. Trying to save the sex exploitation in the red light district slums as red such as Kamathipura; I was wanted dead by the mafias. They burned my house, I had to run out from there It was though for me and my family, as everyone was living in fear for my life. 
BB: Didn't you think of leaving everything and come back?
JS: NEVER, it never even occur to me . I have stayed in Mumbai and used to come here from time to time. Now I have learned to delegate work so since two years I have my office in Barcelona and go back very often to Mumbai. I have learned that nobody is indispensable. We now have 7000 beneficiaries. I give talks and conferences as we never know where will the echo of our voice can reach. 

I came out from this interview with a renewed faith to the humanity, selfless and good people do exist. 
Find out more about this NGO, their work and events here


A day with BelleBarcelone

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