Changing fate in India, one face at a timeSixteen years ago, William Wan began visiting India as a photographer. He loved its diversity in landscape, culture and colors, which brought him to the Pushkar Camel Fair in Rajasthan 10 years ago.
On his journey, Dr. Wan, a 1963 graduate of the University of Sydney, Australia, Faculty of Dentistry, noted the poverty among gypsy families living in the desert bordering the city. After talking to a high priest he had met about a few local tragedies, Dr. Wan felt he could help.
“I feel I am very lucky to be where I am, and I feel it is my obligation as a human being to return part of my blessing back to the needy,” said Dr. Wan. “I always wanted to open a door of opportunity for others, as others have done so in my life.”
Over the past 10 visits, Dr. Wan has become a one-man nonprofit helping to relieve the plight and poverty among the gypsy families.
For children who want to go to school, he helps pay their tuition. For 30 families, he helps pay for their monthly flour rations at the local grocery store. And for the men and boys who play music while on the streets, Dr. Wan has helped them by recording their music. He then returns to Chicago to put their music on CDs so the musicians can, in turn, sell them to tourists in Rajasthan. When they sell a CD, it is better than a month of begging in the street.
March: Wan too“Ultimately, I want them to learn how to make a living on their own,” said Dr. Wan. “My idea is to help them learn how to fish, not give them fish.”
Dr. Wan has both a medical degree and a dental degree. When visiting Rajasthan, he helps take care of the ill. For the people who are sick, there is no money to go to the hospitals. Dr. Wan personally accompanies them to private hospitals in the bigger towns and helps pay for the medical expenses.
“Medical need and human need far outweigh the dental need,” said Dr. Wan. “I bring some simple surgical kits for doing minor surgery, my stethoscope, my thermometer and some dental forceps just in case. I buy most medical supplies locally from a small pharmacy that knows me and my one-man mission.”
Dr. Wan lives by the motto, “Change fate one face a time.”
“If some kids get an education today so they have a better future, what more does one want?” asked Dr. Wan. “If I teach someone a way to make a living on their own, either by buying them a camel and cart or a rickshaw, their fate is altered. If a sick person gets to be cured, that is far more than any reward in life.”
Dr. Wan believes that his experience has been both humbling and exhilarating by being able to help another human being; he relieves their pain, helps them avoid hunger and changes their course in life. He also believes that charity has to start from the heart.
“It is a cliché but true, giving is always better than receiving. As professional people, we are so lucky to do things that we love and get paid well for our work,” said Dr. Wan. “I don’t think we can save the world, nor have the ability like Bill Gates to set up his foundation. But we can always have empathy and a charitable heart for patients who can’t afford their needed care. And we can look for opportunities to serve the less fortunate, be it here or elsewhere.”
Ms. Azark is the CDS manager of communications.