Art of Giving and how I made it a way of life: KIIT & KISS Founder, Dr Achyuta Samanta

"Through social media, AOG has touched around 10 million lives and with a huge follower base that interacts virtually and aims to unite the world by the spirit of giving"
Pic credits: Edex Live
Pic credits: Edex Live

Art of Giving (AOG) is a philosophy of life that aspires to promote happiness and peace in the world. It starts on the premise that it is a basic human desire and nature to seek happiness and peace. But in the course of material pursuits, sometimes human beings as the most evolved characters lose this intrinsic habit and get jaundiced by self-interests. It is solely for this reason that AOG should be consciously practised so that there is proliferation of peace and happiness in the world. It is an attempt to heal the world and create a sea-change by spreading the message of hope and harmony transcending borders, castes, creed and nationality strengthened by the bonds of humanity.

Giving is a selfless and helpful action motivated by the desire to help another person without the expectation of any reward or even avoidance of punishment in return. It is a natural instinct in humans, which if practiced can help create a society where peace and compassion take centre stage. It is through practising these principles of AOG, that society can create a space of sustainable co-existence. This informs the origin, evolution and growth of AOG.

Steps taking towards AOG
We have empowered about two million lives through quality education and empowerment. In fact, I started giving and sacrificing at the age of five, when I was penniless. This selfless giving throughout my life culminated in Art of Giving to give to the world a philosophical and action-oriented framework to experience the joy of giving on May 17, 2013, and since then, AOG has become a civic movement — a volunteer-based campaign to make people aware of the Art of Giving. My experiences of deprivation taught me the true transformative power of giving, and it was from these experiences that the Art of Giving was born with a deep desire to help those who are less fortunate and spread peace, joy and harmony in the world. The real objective of AOG is not just to give money or materialistic support to the ones who need it but to help someone with dignity, not charity and bringing joy to their lives. One cannot deny the power of patient hearing and sweet words that can give solace in a crisis.

How the NGO was born
Art of Giving took the form of a trust, an NGO, that works on the cause of promoting positivity, kindness and compassion and expressing gratitude to the ones who give. In a world, where there is immense pain, misery and deprivation, yet a plethora of wealth and riches, Art of Giving provides a platform to connect the ones who need it and one who have enough to give but do not get the right way to contribute. Art of Giving provides a trustworthy platform for people to give with discernment and encourage the habit of giving. It has been proven scientifically too, that when we give, we are in the state of happiness. More and more people worldwide are joining the movement to spread the message of peace and happiness in the world.

For the last nine years, Art of Giving community, consisting of well-wishers and those inspired by it, celebrate May 17 as the International Day of Art of Giving on themes like society, spirituality, humanity and to unite the three through the art of giving in 2014, Kompassion: The Garment Bank to donate old recyclable clothes and other material to the needy in 2015, Connecting with the World and Self through practice of gratitude in 2016, Cyclothon to spread a message of healthy living and green future in 2017.

Post the year 2017, the family of Art of Giving rose from thousands to millions with the introduction of community contribution to community building. The numbers grew exponentially and so did the volunteers. Since then AOG has been what it was always meant to be: by the public, of the public and for the public. In 2018, Pyaar Bhara Pack was a huge success. Over 20 million meals were distributed. In 2019, Bag of Happiness united people together by gifting happiness kits to the students. Struggling during the pandemic, in 2020 the theme was AOG Fights Corona to acknowledge the COVID warriors and help victims.

In 2021, the theme was My Mother My Hero, wherein, the AOG community wrote gratitude letters to mothers, the givers. In 2022, Hope, Happiness and Harmony was the theme to connect and support each other through simple acts of love, compassion, empathy, kindness and gratitude. This year, in the decade of Art of Giving the theme is Helping the Help.

With over 20 million followers and 1.5 million members, the AOG family has grown exponentially. The conveners from over 300 locations in 120 countries across the globe, all states in India and all panchayats and blocks of Odisha work throughout the year for spreading the message of the Art of Giving and volunteerism. Through social media, AOG has touched around 10 million lives and with a huge follower base that interacts virtually and aims to unite the world by the spirit of giving.

Every day, AOG strives to make this world a better place. AOG works on numerous humanitarian projects and service initiatives including disaster relief, sustainable rural development, empowerment of women, environmental sustainability, healthcare camps and democracy promotion. The young, dynamic, and committed volunteers are charged with the mission of harnessing the power of love and compassion to make a large-scale social impact.

A philosophy that lives on
Art of Giving is not a new concept; it has been practised for centuries. Needless to say, charity is an important tenet of every religion, because compassion is essential for spiritual life. In Indian scriptures, daan or charity occupies a very prominent place. Every religion preaches the same ideology of philanthropy, be it the Quran's sadaqa or zakat, Buddhism's charity to the needy; Jainism's charity of offering food, saving lives of others in danger, distributing medicine and spreading knowledge; Judaism's Tzedakah meaning justice or righteousness to denote charity; Christianity's expression of charity as an essential component of faith and Zoroastrianism that considers poverty and suffering as an affliction of evil; hence, it is the duty of every individual to fight this evil.

The Art of Giving community has brought a fresh perspective to the concept of giving back to society. The organisation's philosophy of giving without expecting anything in return has touched numerous lives and has inspired millions to join the cause. The International Day of Art of Giving serves as a reminder to all of us that we can make a positive difference in someone's life through simple acts of kindness, love and gratitude. The Art of Giving community is a shining example of how one person's actions can have a ripple effect and change the world for the better.

(Dr Achyuta Samanta is the founder of Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology (KIIT) and Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences (KISS). Views expressed are his own)

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