The Full Story
Meera Gandhi is a social activist, mother and businesswoman. As founder and CEO of The Giving Back Foundation, she has dedicated herself to making a difference through her commitment to enhancing the lives of others.
Meera Teresa Gandhi is the daughter of an Irish mother, Ellen Mary, and an Indian father, Admiral Perbodh Nath Agarwal. Though she spent a part of her latter youth in England and Ireland, she grew up in India, where her early years were spent following her father around the country as he progressed in his naval career.
At the age of 16, and while still a student at the Cathedral & John Connon School in Bombay (now Mumbai), she volunteered to teach dance at Ashadaan, a shelter for abandoned and differently-abled children, the destitute, and HIV-positive people run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.
Her mother encouraged Meera to continue working at Ashadaan through her last 2 years of high school, but meeting and spending time with Mother Teresa proved to be the turning point in Meera’s life. That is when she truly understood the great joy in doing things that are beyond and outside of the self. As she herself says, “Now when I speak to young people, it’s important for me to inspire them that giving is the only way to be.”
Meera was awarded a scholarship to study at United World Colleges in Canada, where she was the driving force in encouraging students who could dance or play an instrument to perform at a home for the elderly where she persisted with her involvement in community service.
She continued with her charitable work and fundraising in New York with various organizations through her early professional life, marriage, and motherhood.
The young family moved to Hong Kong because of her husband’s job, and it was while living there that Meera had her epiphany in 2009. “I felt like something was lacking in my life. That I felt disconnected, and I really needed to do more”, she says. So along with her husband, they set up The Giving Back Foundation®, of which Meera is, and continues to be the CEO.
Her passion for her work ensures she stays actively involved in the foundation’s day-to-day operations, monitoring the progress of on-site grassroots projects, and in making decisions on the disbursement of grants. “In 2020, my mission is to expand the work of the foundation and focus on our product line. All the proceeds from these products go to the foundation.”
Meera Gandhi has three children; two daughters and a son, and spends her time between New York, London, Hong Kong & Dubai.
From volunteering her time as a teenager to help handicapped kids, to now providing educational programs and platforms for people around the world, Meera is giving back in more ways than one.
On a mission to spread positive energy and a message of well-being, Meera Gandhi believes ‘giving back’ is the way to move forward as a race.
“I believe we have all the answers we seek inside us. So, if we are in perfect harmony with the universe by simple measures like eating right, sleeping well, and not letting stress get the better of us, we can make the best decisions for ourselves almost intuitively.”
Meera has devoted her life to working for the betterment of children, the disadvantaged, and the differently-abled. Her passion for making a difference at the grassroots is directed through The Giving Back Foundation®. The organisation’s avowed aim is to act as a catalyst in creating a new generation of leaders and thinkers from poor urban and rural communities around the world, particularly amongst women and children.
The Foundation has 3 distinct parts to it:
Educate and empower
Be a catalyst for positive dialogue
Mental wellness & holistic living
Transformational education, as the stepping stone to success, is of particular interest to Meera. According to her, “Education opens doors. Education empowers people. By supporting education, tackling malnutrition and illness, and addressing the causes of poverty, we can empower and uplift women and children to be the agents of change.”
The Foundation supports charities with strong women leadership programs and workshops – including the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Leadership Center – and also acts as a platform for positive dialogue and debate among young people to help promote positive social change.
“Be involved and stay connected with the projects you are supporting,” is her advice to people, especially the young.
Over the years, Gandhi and her Foundation have received numerous awards.
• Marc Anthony Maestro Cares Foundation - Global Humanitarian Award, 16 February 2016
• Humanitarian award of the Year from the Mayor's office of the City of NY in 2015
• The Ellis Island Gold Medal Award in 2015
The Marc Anthony Maestro Cares Humanitarian award in 2015
• NYC Mayor Award 2015
• Share and Care Foundation, NJ 2014-2015
• Ellis Island Medal of Honor
• J. Luce Foundation Award, 26 February 2015
• City of New York Proclamation at The United Nations Sri Lanka Mission, 26 February 2015
• Marc Anthony Maestro Cares Foundation - Global Humanitarian Award, 17 February 2015
• Children's Hope Humanitarian Award, 13 October 2013
• Corporate Global Humanitarian Award, 2013
• Distinguished Alumni Award from Boston University, 2011
• Donna Karan International "Women Who Inspire", 2011
• Person of the Year by the Wayúu Tayá Foundation, 2010