In conversation with UAE’s superhero Girish Pant, the renowned social worker

In philanthropy, most help within their means, but few go beyond their capacity to help the ones in need! Clarilda Sharon is in conversation with one such Samaritan, Girish Pant, the savior of the Indian Emigrants in UAE and stranded seafarers.

With an unmatched passion for helping people, Girish Pant is a social worker renowned in UAE and India for his relentless humanitarian work. Known as the “Bajrangi Bhaijaan” of the UAE, he has helped hundreds of expatriates who often end up in dire straits in the UAE to reach their motherland safely, helping them every step of the way. He is a recipient of The Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award (PBSA) 2019, conferred by the President of India, the highest honor conferred on overseas Indians.

The trigger factor

Hailing from the land of the gods, Uttarakhand, Girish recounts having a rough childhood. He used to board crowded buses to reach school and was often denied a lift on his way back home, as hardly anyone would stop to help him.

But the boy possessed an innate tenacity, which perhaps supports his philanthropic efforts to this day. “I come from a family of Indian freedom fighters, which made me take every setback positively. So, when someone approaches me for help, I do for them what I would do for my brothers and sisters.” In 1988, during his 8th grade, he took a resolution to help people regardless of who they were and where they came from. He started small, unknowing that one day, he would help over 5000 people in more than 15 countries.

Ordinary yet extraordinary

How could a commoner have helped evacuate 2500 students from Ukraine during Russia’s attack on the country while being based in Dubai? It all started when four helpless students stuck in Ukraine reached out to him. Heeding their call for help, he connected the dots, sprung to remote action and created over 15 WhatsApp groups in different regions in Ukraine, with nearly 100-200 students in each group. He facilitated as a mediator between the embassy and students, coordinating with External Affairs in guiding them. “I was connected with the distressed students over WhatsApp and would send them advisory details from the embassy and other important details to ensure they were always informed. I also worked with the embassy in arranging food and aid.”

The difference in time zone was a challenge but never a hurdle for him to function. “I hardly slept during the first few nights. I made sure I was available to respond to their needs irrespective of the time difference”. Thanks to timely government intervention and his efforts, many students safely made their way back to India and the rest to the countries neighboring Ukraine. 

The troubles that plague people are not merely external circumstances; some are internal battles too. Girish was a guiding mentor, providing mental health counseling and moral support to many that felt defeated against life’s odds.

Known as the messiah to the seafarers in UAE, he has helped repatriate 1000+ seafarers of different nationalities apart from Indians, including Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Bangladeshis, and more. Moreover, he has not only united families but alerted the concerned authorities about the issues, so they do not recur and victimize anyone else.

I come from a family of Indian freedom fighters, which made me take every setback positively. So, when someone approaches me for help, I do for them what I would do for my brothers and sisters

One of the most noteworthy incidents Girish recalls is helping an Indian sailor get home after being stranded for a year, anchored eight nautical miles away in a ship from Khalid Port near Sharjah until local authorities rescued him. The man, alone and at sea, was losing the will to live each day. “He had a limited supply of food and water and no electricity. I stayed connected with him every day, talking to him and motivating him to overcome his depression.”

While his feats make him extraordinary, Girish is nothing but an ordinary man who earns a monthly salary. Despite his limited resources, he has helped many get on a plane back home during the Covid lockdown. While some tickets were arranged through the concerned embassy, the rest were selflessly offered out of pocket. He helped Covid patients often arranging their healthcare, food, chartered flights to get back home, and cremated over 400-500 bodies in Dubai and Sharjah. Apart from these significant services, he played a major role in sending the mortal remains of nearly90 non-covid deaths and suicide cases back to their homes in India from UAE, allowing grieving families closure
in tragedy.

I’ve been residing in Dubai for the last 14 years but never bought a house of my own. I could have saved for it, but I didn’t. I always give what I have to others

No giving up

“It can be a thankless job,” says the selfless man. “But every lock has a key, and every problem comes with a solution, and there is nothing we humans can’t do. I always find a solution and put my 200% effort.”

He firmly believes that life is once, so his mantra is to be an inspiration to others. “I’ve been residing in Dubai for the last 14 years but never bought a house of my own. I could have saved for it, but I didn’t. I always give what I have to others.” He has been giving and giving all his life – not just money and energy, but something even more valuable – Time! “Sometimes, I get so many phone calls and messages from people in need that I get time to neither eat nor sleep.”

His biggest payback is seeing the happiness on the faces of families when they unite, instilling courage in those stuck in a different country to fight for their life and offering strength and support to those that need help. He encourages the younger generation to embrace the path of serving others and educating people around them, even something as minuscule as teaching a kid the difference between good and bad touch. “If you want to do something from the heart, you don’t need a position, portfolio, or an award,” says Girish Pant, a man who is truly a living example of ‘giving beyond boundaries’.

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