Baal Dan founder Tanya Pinto discusses the charity's history and its mission to provide lifesaving aid to vulnerable children.
“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one,” says Tanya Pinto, recalling a quote she encountered during a life-changing sabbatical working in Mother Teresa’s orphanage and home for the dying in Kolkata, India.
“I’m an Indian girl who didn’t grow up in India,” says Pinto. “I wanted to do something to give back and serve orphans but also learn about my country of birth.” Growing up, Pinto heard stories about what her grandfather went through as an orphan, and her experience working with impoverished children cemented her mission to give back. Upon returning home from her sabbatical, Pinto founded Baal Dan Charities and began working to provide aid to children in need.
With the war in Ukraine displacing many vulnerable children, the Marketing Research Education Foundation (MREF) is partnering with Baal Dan for its Race Around the World for Education to provide essential aid to refugee children, particularly those who are orphaned or who have special needs.
“Our mission is to provide help to vulnerable children in need in the most direct and efficient way possible,” says Pinto. “That’s what we’ll always do. Whether that’s sending funds for an emergency need that’s happening in Ukraine within a matter of months or whether it’s a long-term need like toilets and hand washing stations for a rural school in Nepal, we look for ways to be efficient and directly help vulnerable children in need. “
Since its inception in 2006, Baal Dan has helped over 10,000 children in 12 countries, funding grassroots organizations to provide food, shelter, education and essential supplies to kids in need.
As a volunteer-run organization, Baal Dan has very little overhead, enabling them to maximize their contributions to beneficiaries. “Baal Dan is unique in that we can have a direct impact toward vulnerable children, with a high ROI for our donors,” says Pinto. “I think the fact that we dedicate almost 100% of what we raise to help feed, clothe, and provide supplies and education for children really inspires people.”
A principal product planner within Microsoft’s XC Research Team, Pinto is still a researcher when it comes to Baal Dan as well. “Baal Dan is a research-based charity,” says Pinto, citing the diligence necessary to audit potential beneficiaries. “We conduct site visits and look at their books, programs, past history and impact on the children, as well as contact references.” Once a beneficiary is approved and the funds are distributed, an impact report is also developed to keep donors informed.
Providing aid to children who are most in need of it is a priority for Pinto. One of her most memorable contributions occurred near the beginning of Baal Dan, when she worked with the Loreto school in Kolkata. The school had a program called Rainbow Children that housed children from the streets and provided them with an education. Baal Dan funded a class of 26 girls, sponsoring them from kindergarten through grade 12.
“The girls are all grown-ups now, taller than me, and thriving out in the world,” says Pinto. “We took 26 little girls who never would have had an education or gone to a private school, and we got them through their school years.”
In its 16 years, the organization has helped to build an elementary school in India as well as a preschool in Zambia, where Baal Dan is also funding a vegetable garden and providing the children with daily food and snacks. The types of grants the organization distributes varies depending upon need, whether it means funding water wells, building schools, or providing mosquito nets to stop the spread of malaria.
Behind Baal Dan’s lifesaving work are a group of dedicated volunteers and loyal donors. “We’re a low-profile charity because we try to be as efficient as possible,” says Pinto. “The main help that we need is donations. We have an amazing group of donors who care very deeply and want to make a difference – they just want to know they’re helping children directly.”
At the root of Baal Dan’s work is Pinto, a full-time researcher at Microsoft who spends most of her spare time working through her charity. But for Pinto, the mission is a part of her.
“Baal Dan is my life,” says Pinto. “It’s part of me, it’s who I am, whether it’s called Baal Dan or something else – I’ll always be committed to helping children in need. It’s just part of my life.”
To learn more about Baal Dan’s lifesaving work and to get involved, visit www.baaldan.com.