Vijay Eswaran and his wife Umayal were recently recognized by the 2021 Indiaspora Philanthropy Leaders List for their positive contributions as leaders in the community. The award underscores the Eswarans’ years of commitment to improving outcomes and transforming communities throughout India, Africa, and South East Asia. Indiaspora is a US-based non-profit community of powerful global Indian leaders from diverse backgrounds and professions who are committed to inspiring the Indian diaspora to be a force for good by providing a platform to collaborate, engage, and catalyse social change. The Philanthropy list is the first such list put together by the organization after the successful launch of the Indiaspora Business Leaders List in 2020.
The inaugural Philanthropy leaders list specifically acknowledges 100 global leaders from the Indian diaspora who use their platforms to spur social change.
No stranger to global platforms, Vijay Eswaran has made a worldwide impact with his business, writings, philanthropy, and thought leadership. The Malaysian entrepreneur is founder and executive chairman of the QI Group of Companies, where he committed to awarding 10% of profits to philanthropic efforts.
The primary channel for these initiatives is RYTHM Foundation that serves as the QI Group’s social impact arm. RYTHM, an acronym for Raise Yourself to Help Mankind, has worked to support community development, women, and children in numerous vulnerable communities in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa since 2005. It is this social impact initiative, resulting projects, and global change for which Vijay and Umayal Eswaran were recognized by Indiaspora.
RYTHM Is an Eswaran Family Effort
Vijay Eswaran is the Founder and Managing Trustee for the RYTHM Foundation, but he has not needed to go it alone in his quest to give back. His wife Umayal serves as RYTHM’s chairperson, personally overseeing many of their global initiatives. The Foundation is focused on using empowerment, volunteerism, and resilience to power human development programs. While projects vary, they all tie into the core focus of education, equality, and sustainable development.
RYTHM Foundation is more than a standalone initiative seeking a brighter future. The Foundation backs projects that contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for worldwide change. This covers a wide range of needs including gender equality, access to clean water, renewable energy and responsible consumption, education, and sustainable development.
Umayal Eswaran is pivotal to the Foundation’s Executive Committee, which oversees new projects, and she personally speaks on behalf of RYTHM flagship programs to propel adoption and impact. Many of the Foundation’s own projects find alignment with specific SDGs through her guidance.
Education as a Cornerstone for Vijay and Umayal Eswaran
Both Vijay and Umayal are passionate about education and providing learning opportunities for those in need or looking to better themselves. Having attended higher education institutions in both the United Kingdom and United States, Vijay has established the Quest International University in Malaysia which he aims to tun into a premier center for learning in Asia.
Access to Quality Education is a foremost area of focus for the RYTHM Foundation, providing scholarships, program funding, and infrastructure support in a number of countries at various levels.
Umayal has focused on raising up children with special needs and improving access to care and learning. Through RYTHM, Umayal spearheaded Taarana, a flagship school program for advocacy and inclusion. This school was established specifically for students with delayed development to provide not only academic support but also a safe, supportive space to cultivate social and adaptive skills.
Established programs across South East Asia have also grown with support from RYTHM. Together, RYTHM and Malaysia NGO DHRAA funded 80 stateless children with educational opportunities. Alongside ASIA Foundation in Vietnam, RYTHM Foundation provides disadvantaged girls with scholarships to complete a secondary education that would otherwise be impossible to attain.
Going Above and Beyond
From children’s centers to equity initiatives and community service, Vijay and Umayal Eswaran keep RYTHM in tune with the overarching mission to push past limitations and the status quo to bring change where it’s needed most.
The Maharani Programme is one example of this spirit. In alignment with SDG 4 (Quality Education) and SDG 5 (Gender Equality), Maharani is an original Foundation program that has helped over 7,000 girls in Malaysia gain skills to support their potential and growth. Exploring equality, understanding physical and spiritual wellness, and cultivating self-discovery and self-esteem are just a few ways Maharani helps young girls rise above their perceived limitations.
Other RYTHM initiatives include partnerships with existing regional programs to supplement their reach and efficacy. These include ASA Foundation (sports-based education methodology in Indonesia), Child’s Dream Foundation (empowering marginalized children in Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos), and World Reader (promoting literacy in Ghana and Kenya).
Most recently, Vijay Eswaran and his wife guided RYTHM Foundation activities to bring critical support during the COVID-19 pandemic. One example is the expanded partnership with Sri Lanka-based NGO LEADS. Countless communities were affected to the point that families were forced to decide between pandemic health safety and earning a wage to purchase groceries. RYTHM funded efforts to provide ration packs to families in some of the poorest districts via the LEADS team.
Above all, the recognition of these efforts and others by being named to the 2021 Indiaspora Philanthropy Leaders List provides a welcome platform to create conversations around Vijay and Umayal Estrawan’s vital work. RYTHM Foundation assesses the socio-economic challenges in often overlooked communities and strives to fill gaps through funding, partnerships, awareness, and action. The Eswaran’s epitomize Indiaspora’s emphasis on leaders as a force for good and catalyst for change.