Well known Guyanese philanthropist George Subraj passed away the night before last at a gym where he was exercising in Queens. He was 71. He has been one of the most generous Guyanese in the diaspora supporting all kinds of worthwhile charitable causes. He had left such an imprint on the community that this has left a vacuum in the Guyanese community in Queens in terms of support to community cultural events.
Mr Subraj, like many Guyanese, came to the US penniless in 1971 to pursue a course of study when life had become very difficult in Guyana. The reality of a hard life in America gave way to a business enterprise instead of advanced college studies. He went into real estate. In just a few years after arriving in the US pursuing his course of study and working at odds and ends jobs, with support and cooperation from family members, his brothers in particular, he built one of the largest real estate empires among Guyanese. After consolidating his wealth, Subraj decided to become generous in Guyanese causes. He never failed to give back to worthy causes of a cultural and a religious nature. Friends described him as Mr Philanthropist for his generosity. He supported various charitable enterprises in Guyana. He sponsored various banquets in New York and Guyana. When Yesu Persaud’s biography was launched two years ago at a banquet in Yesu’s honour, Subraj was the sponsor.
Subraj was most recently honoured in September by a Queens community organization and by a large real estate conglomerate.
Subraj’s recorded humanitarian work commenced in 1992 when he joined the Guyana Watch Medical Outreach Team which was founded by local businessman, Tony Yassin and academic Dr Tara Singh. Guyana Watch became his baby. Subraj has over the years facilitated the travel of medical volunteers to Guyana to offer medical care across the country with a focus on helping the less fortunate. After a venture, he would host a banquet for volunteers. I was invited to these banquets as a reporter for the NY community and Guyana publications.
Subraj paved the way for Guyana’s first kidney transplant to be conducted at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) in 2008. This service was conducted by reputable kidney surgeon, Indian born Dr Rahul Jindal, of the Walter Reed Medical Centre in Washington DC. Subraj annually sponsored trips of Dr Jindal and other medical personnel to Guyana to perform free surgeries for the poor. I met the team on several visits to Guyana.
The kidney transplant programme continued for a number of years at the GPHC before it was relocated to the privately operated Dr Balwant Singh Hospital. Neither Dr Jindal nor Subraj charged patients a cent.
Subraj also donated wheelchairs to several hospitals in Guyana including GPHC and to several immobile individuals. Related to this, he bore the costs of an elevator to a prominent community mandir – Prem Bhakti in Queens. The latter donation was strategically organized to assist the elderly worshippers there who are physically incapable of moving from one floor to another. Mandir worshippers were most grateful to him.
Subraj was behind the donation of a modern, state-of-the-art, computer training centre to the Saraswati Vidya Niketan Hindu Secondary School at Cornelia Ida on the West Coast of Demerara. He had also committed to the construction of a science lab at the school. He also made huge donations to the Swami Vidyanand’s Ashram on the East Coast including its school where he also funded a computer class.
In 2010, Subraj took upon himself the initiative of sponsoring a team of surgeons and paediatric specialists to perform an inaugural bout of paediatric heart surgeries in Guyana. This continued annually for a few years.
Subraj also sponsored a visiting team of eye specialists to perform free corneal transplants at the GPHC, paving the way for successful corneal transplants in Guyana.
He was also involved in innumerable health, education and cultural programmes in the US at Swami Vidyananad’s Ashram and other worthy causes. He funded programmes for several American politicians in Queens.
The soft-spoken Subraj was the recipient of one of Guyana’s National Awards, the Medal of Service, in 2011.
At the time of his death, Subraj was the President of the still thriving Zara Realty Holding Corporation, a home rental service, situated at Hillside Avenue, Queens, New York. He founded the rental service with his brothers Ken Subraj, Executive Vice-President, and Jay Sobhraj, Senior Vice-President.
He will be remembered for providing comfortable and affordable apartments to thousands of people over the past 35 years, having acquired a large number of complexes to satisfy the growing needs of the Hillside Avenue-Jamaica Estates neighbourhood. Hundreds of Guyanese and other Caribbean nationals occupy some of the apartments.
Subraj is survived by his brothers, among them Harry, Haimraj, Steve and one sister and the late Rosie, Rooplall and Sookraj; his wife Gloria, four children Sandy, Dolly, Jasmine and Tony. There are also eight grandchildren.
Subraj was the fourth of 10 children born to his parents, Tatri and Subraj, on February 27, 1945. He lived in Bel Air, Guyana. Subraj related to me that as a youngster he provided much assistance to Dr Jagan when the latter relocated to Bel Air. He did a lot of errands for Dr Jagan and Mrs Jagan.
Subraj’s mortal remains are slated to be cremated in Queens according to Hindu rites on Sunday.
His generosity and charitable activities will remain etched in the annals of history.