The Dharm Shala celebrates 81 years of service
Stabroek News
April 21, 2002

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Today the Dharm Shala celebrates 81 years of public service. It was founded in 1921 by Pandit Ramsaroop Maraj, MBE, who was so moved by the plight of the destitute in and around his area, that he gave up his trade as a jeweller and devoted his life to helping the needy.

His lifeís work was accomplished through the vehicle of the Hindu Religious Society, which was founded by him, and which in turn set up and managed the Dharm Shala, or the Home of Benevolence for All Races.

The pandit wanted the main focus of the organization to be on housing the poor and providing religious, medical and educational facilities for them, but because there were no buildings at the beginning, the Dharm Shala started off less ambitiously with a soup kitchen.

It was funded from the Panditís personal resources, and housed in his home.

Some time in the 1920s he was able to erect a Hindu temple, a nursery school and two wooden buildings (these were later replaced by concrete) in Albouystown to house approximately 200 residents. It was officially declared open by Rev C F Andrews, who was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, in 1929. In 1939 a Christian chapel of St Francis of Assisi was built, and in 1941, the Dharm Shala extended its service to the Berbice area, with a building of similar capacity to its Georgetown counterpart, a Hindu temple and a chapel.

Following a period of illness, the Pandit died in October 1950 at the age of sixty. His work was continued by his second son, Harry Ramsaroop, who had given up his government job to take over at the helm.

Today, the voluntary work by Harry Ramsaroop continues with the help of his daughters. There are now about 60 elderly live-in residents, but the feeding programme provides breakfast, lunch and dinner for another 225 persons daily.

The Dharm Shala depends mainly on donations.