By Jay Samson
Crisis brings out the true nature of a man. In the case of Manjinder James Kumar, it brought out in the Indian native the very Filipino sense of “bayanihan” (collective cooperation).
At the beginning of the lockdown, Kumar embarked on a mission to donate PPEs (personal protective equipment) and relief goods to several hospitals, police checkpoints, and community residents and officials. This he did mostly in his own personal capacity, busying himself with the cycle of sourcing essentials and delivering them to various recipients, and doing so almost daily.
“The need for help is fast rising and so is the demand for essential supplies,” he said.
Rather than accumulate goods and distribute them in bulk, Kumar decided to do a “secure-supply-distribute” cycle. He explained that in this way, tranches of essential equipment and goods needed are put into use sooner than accumulating volume first, then deploying far in between relief distribution. “The need cannot wait, so whatever I’ve sourced, I deliver right away. It will serve its purpose immediately, even in its modest quantity,” he said.
It was not the first time that Kumar has answered the call of the needy. After Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), Kumar, together with the Sikh community, went to the village of Pontevedra in Capiz to build a small clinic as well as several concrete houses for those who lost their homes.
In 2014, together with then-Iloilo Vice-Governor Boboy Tupas, Kumar provided 1,500 impoverished children in Gigantes Island their lunch for one whole year. In 2018, Kumar built a multipurpose hall on top of a mountain for an Aeta village in Pampanga. The hall was named Guru Nanak Dev Ji, a tribute to the founder of Sikhism. He also started a feeding program and donated school supplies.
Kumar built classrooms and a library, and gave school supplies to Berinayan Elementary School in Batangas. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Kumar donated personal hygiene kits, rice, and water to the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption. He also donated food and home essentials to affected policemen and their respective families through Police Regional Office 4A Regional Director Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao.
He is also active in organizing people to pursue charitable work. In 2015, Kumar founded the Filipino Indian Commerce and Welfare Society Inc. (FICWSI), a non-profit, non-stock organization whose core purpose is to open avenues for business opportunities and to promote the welfare of its members.
Just recently, alongside the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, FICWSI joined the Indian community in the Philippines in donating more than P12 million worth of face masks to the national government. Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Jaideep Mazumdar led the contingency in a simple turnover ceremony.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, National Task Force chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr., and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad received the donations. The National Task Force for COVID-19 will distribute the donated 75,000 KN95 face masks and 75,000 N88 face masks to hospitals across the country.
Through his personal efforts, Kumar also donated thousands of face masks to the hospitals Makati Medical Center, Manila Doctors Hospital, Medical Center Manila, San Juan Medical Center, Philippine General Hospital, and Mandaluyong Medical Center.
He also gave masks to frontliners such as those from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Philippine National Police, including security guards in several gated communities in the southern parts of Manila.
Although a low-profile philanthropist, Kumar has been honored for his silent but steadfast efforts. He is on the board of directors of the Anti-Trafficking OFW Movement (ATOM), an advocacy group founded by Marissa Del Mar which aims to protect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers. He is also the first non-Philippine-born national to be accepted by the NBI when he was adopted by the NBI Batch 32-5 Knights.
Kumar was also adopted by the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) Sandigan Class 1994. This particular honor he now takes to heart; where the Tagalog word “sandigan” means “someone to lean on”, he tries to embody the word and be there when help is needed.