The Dharm Shala, the ‘Home of Benevolence for all Races,’ celebrated its 95th anniversary on Monday and First Lady Sandra Granger used the occasion to heap praise on the Ramsaroop family for its continued devotion to serving the needy.
“This family has served and cared for those in need for nearly one century and it continues to serve. That dedication is all the more remarkable in an age where so much store has been put into materials things; where success has been rated by material possessions and social position,” Mrs Granger said during a celebration at the home.
Tracing the history of the institution, the First Lady noted that it is said that Pandit Ramsaroop Maraj was so moved by the plight of the poor and needy that he gave up his trade and devoted his life to caring for the needy.
Ramsaroop, with the assistance from businessmen and residents, decided to start a soup kitchen through the Hindu Religious Society which he had founded, she said. The soup kitchen was then transformed into the Dharm Shala in 1921 and has continued its mission for the past 95 years.
During this time, Mrs Granger noted, the home provided not only housing for the poor but also religious, medical and educational facilities for them. In 1941, she noted, the Dharmshala extended to Berbice, where a building of similar capacity with a Hindu Temple and a Christian Chapel was established.
The mantle of leadership was then taken over by the pandit’s son, Harry Ramsaroop for many years until his passing in 2013 at the age of 97, and now by Harry’s two daughters, Kella and Pamela Ramsaroop.
The First Lady recalled that when she had attended St. Joseph High, when it was located at Howes Street in Charlestown, she was always awestruck by the number of people who came out of the Dharm Shala. “…And they would come out on Fridays to seek alms and I was equally shocked the way shopkeepers would line up their coins, which were very valuable back then, and that I guess was the society where they were always people that recognised the need of others and were always willing to give,” she stated.