Venus Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, once said: “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does –that makes you winner right there.”
Chitra Viswanathan did just that, nine years ago. Today, she receives countless blessings every day for helping scores of children needy families, who suffer from heart diseases. The founder of an NGO that works for children suffering from congenital heart defects called Aishwarya Trust, Chitra emphasised, “When people discourage you, you need positivity, passion and patience to bounce back.” Her journey, she said began in Chennai with her triple ‘P’ formula and Rs 1,101.
“I wanted to do something for the children who suffer from heart diseases. Though I was discouraged my many, I was determined. People, who challenged me initially, actually made me stronger,” she said.
Since 2008, Aishwarya Trust has provided financial aid to more than 1,500 children from across the world. It has screened around 1,00,000 children from economically-vulnerable families. The organisation has helped children from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Puducherry and other parts of India, along with children from five African nations (Rwanda, Burundi, Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia) and Iraq.
So what prompted Chitra to start this initiative? “I lost my daughter to congenital heart disease,” she told My Medical Mantra, adding, “She received best possible treatment. I can feel the pain of the parents, who can’t afford expensive treatment. I didn’t want them to lose their child, and so I decided to start this trust dedicated to my daughter.”
The mission of Aishwarya Trust is to ‘help every underprivileged child, who suffers from congenital heart disease, get the best possible treatment’. The trust provides financial assistance not just for surgeries. As many as 25 children have been provided monetary aid for heart transplants.
Elaborating on her journey, Chitra said, “I had started small. I gave up my job as an artist. Initially, only my family and friends backed me. Soon many wonderful people joined us in our journey. I feel the divine hand is bringing good people to help us all along. We had started with 50 surgeries in 2008, and in 2016, we have helped 480 children. Dr Balakrishan and Fortis Malar Hospital have been with us throughout.”
Apart from providing financial assistance to the needy for treatment and surgery, the trust also works towards spreading awareness about congenital heart defects. This remains one of the major causes of infant mortality in India, and timely intervention can help save lives.
“I have no words to thank Chitra Madam and Aishwarya Trust,” said Ramesh Dalvi, whose son Saurabh (names changed) recently underwent a heart transplant after receiving financial aid from the trust. Two years ago, his daughter too underwent a heart transplant with the help from the trust. “Because of Aishwarya Trust, no child will lose a life to heart disease,” he said.
Meanwhile Speaking to My Medical Mantra, Dr K R Balakrishnan, Director – Cardiac Sciences, Chief Cardiothoracic & Transplant Surgeon at Fortis Malar Hospital said, “Aishwarya trust is doing a tremendous job. They are helping the poorest of poor children from not only in India but from all over the world.”
Dr Balakrishnan further added, “Till now we have arranged around 45 lakhs for patients from Maharashtra for the heart transplant”
While Dalvi voices the gratitude that hundreds of people feel for Chitra, she is thankful too. “I didn’t know if I would be successful when I started out. The doctors, donors, volunteers and well-wishers are the reason for the success and meaningful journey of Aishwarya Trust,” she affirmed.