America to Kolhapur: A Mahatma Gandhi inspired Journey

GWEI Directors Anuradha Bhosale, Jean Williams, and Scott Kafora were just featured in the DNA Mumbai news!

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From America to Kolhapur: The journey Mahatma Gandhi inspired

By Mohsin Mulla | DNA News | Friday, Aug 27, 2010

Gandhi DNA News

Over 60 years after he died, father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi continues to find followers globally. Inspired by Gandhian philosophy, an American architect-cum-photojournalist is helping to set up a school for children rescued from child labour in Kolhapur.

Scott Kafora, 43, works as a troubleshooter for the Scott KaforaMumbai-based Mahatma Gandhi Foundation (MGF) run by Gandhi’s great grandson, Tushar. The MGF, along with local child-rights NGO Anna Vastra Nivara (Avani), has decided to establish a boarding school on a five-acre plot near Vashi village in Kolhapur at a cost of Rs2 crore.

Despite his architecture credentials, Kafora has decided not to design the school, as he does not want ‘any western influence’ on the project; he has assigned the task to a local architect. “I’m a licensed troubleshooter and will ensure the project sustains,” he says while speaking to DNA.

Additionally, he teaches children hygiene, computers and English.

Ask him how he – who worked in lucrative fields like architecture, industrial engineering and business management – landed up in Kolhapur, and he answers, “The hectic pace of my profession took a toll on my health. I wanted to change my life’s course. I sold my property in 2004 and set out on a journey.”

Jean WilliamsAssisting Kafora is another American, Jean Williams, a former professor of sociology and psychology from the Tennessee Technological University who has also joined the MGF and Avani.  She will look after the curriculum of the school and establish the business process and plan.  “I have been in touch with Arun Gandhi for the past five years.  I resigned from my job because it can continue without me” she said.

This spiritual quest took Kafora to 32 countries before he arrived in India. In 2007, he came in contact with Gandhi’s grandson, Arun, and has been associated with the MGF since. While the film Gandhi introduced him to the Mahatma’s life in 1982, “I came to understand Gandhi through discussions with Arun and Tushar,” he says.

In Kolhapur, Kafora leads a Spartan life in a rented room with three shirts and a few pairs of jeans. He does not watch television or use a mobile phone.

His camera and laptop, which contains 420 e-books, complete the list of his few possessions.

“It’s a simple, non-materialistic life,” he says, in keeping with the Gandhian lifestyle. “I just have to pay for power, rent, water and food.” Kafora hasn’t charged the MGF a single rupee but has spent out of his pocket to buy computers and a printer, says Anuradha Bhosale, Avani founder.

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