When the cherished wish of a 3 to 18-year-old with a critical illness comes true, it is more than a beacon of hope. Non-profit Make-A-Wish Foundation of India has, in its 28 years of existence, fulfilled 82,544 such wishes. In its Wish Impact Survey of 2022 – through which the foundation studies impact of wishes on children and families since 2010 – every medical practitioner surveyed said that the experience improves a child’s emotional well-being, with 98 pc even saying the experience has a positive impact on a child’s physical well-being.
It is intuitive to think that an act of making a child’s wish will make her or his day. Be it a Barbie doll or a seat before Amitabh Bachchan on KBC, the realisation of a wish small or big does a lot more. In the survey, 75 pc of medical practitioners said that a wish improves a child’s medical outcomes, with 65 pc testifying that it indeed improves a child’s chance for survival. That’s the power of a wish coming true.
The target is to bring a smile on the 100,000th child by World Wish Day (29th April) 2025, explains Paulomi Dhawan, Chairperson and Managing Trustee, Make-A-Wish Foundation of India. The former senior Raymond executive and media planner who is also on the board of DB Corp, has been helming Make-A-Wish India since March 2021.
“We have till date granted over 82,000 wishes with 8,645 in the last fiscal. The next two years are crucial. We are targeting to grant over 9,000 and 10,000 wishes in 2024 and ’25. We have a detailed strategy planned for the next few years across marketing, fundraising, technology, volunteer development, etc.” notes Dhawan.
On the marketing communications front, Make-A-Wish plans to raise funds through CSR allocations, foundations, HNIs,crowdfunding and a payment icon on its website.
“Make-A-Wish India is embarking on a holistic digital social media strategy across platforms to enhance brand awareness, while creating an impact. This will reach out to potential donors and other stakeholders like volunteers and celebrities.The social media campaign will aid in helping the retail donor, like someone who can give a small amount for their birthday,” she adds.
A wish fulfilled – by Amitabh Bachchan
On her own transition to the non-profit side, the corporate veteran with four decades of experience reveals that when she stepped into her ’60s, she was very clear that one needs to give back (to society).
“In advertising and marketing, anyway we are building brands and connecting with people.
Our strength is about building brands and connecting with people and that was to me a natural transition when I got into the world of giving and serving. Now, we are building Make-A-Wish the brand stronger, we are connecting with people and reaching out to more. It is in fact the skill set that we are bringing in. I believe giving is not about making a donation, it is about making a difference,” adds Dhawan.
One challenge the Chairperson cites is finding the right people for the development sector – the hunt is on to fill a couple of roles. The chain from sourcing wishes (including from medical practitioners), validating them and granting them is one that involves a fair bit of coordination. There’s a hub-and-spoke model that Make-A-Wish has for distribution, with adjacent cities like Chennai and Vellore complementing each other. A volunteer management system, volunteer development programme and capacity building workshops are all in place. Technology partners like Salesforce have been engaged to ensure seamless coordination.
Part of the mandate is also to broaden the volunteer base – from wish identification to organising. “We are also working on a kids volunteer programme. They can understand how privileged they are and get to know the other side. They can reach out and maybe collect funds or help in the wish granting program,” she adds.
The goal is to work towards granting a wish and bringing a smile on every eligible child’s face. The number of kids who are critically ill is mind boggling, and Make-A-Wish has the systems in place to grant even 22,000 wishes a year if it has the funds, notes the Chairperson.
“Funding is always a big challenge, particularly India. We do have donors coming but now the brand awareness needs to increase as well. We need to reach out to potential donors across different streams beyond the organic ones. A lot of people look at brick and mortar as the reason to give. They’d rather give to build a hospital or school, for instance. This small wish delivers a profound impact. There’s research to prove that. There’s joy you see on the child’s face; it brings them hope and strength,” she emphasises.
Make-A-Wish Foundation of India is one among many global chapters of Make-A-Wish International. It all started with Make-A-Wish USA in 1980. Across 50 countries on six continents today, Make-A-Wish has collectively granted over 5,50,000 wishes.
On the 12th of April, American Airlines, in collaboration with Make-A-Wish, The Points Guy and The Walt Disney Company, flew 26 critically ill children and their families from New York to Orlando on the ‘Best Flight Ever’ to grant their wish of visiting the Walt Disney World Resort.
Make-A-Wish International also hosted a conference in Utrecht, Netherlands to look at the next few decades. Nearly 100 participants from nearly 50 countries discussed how to transform lives ‘1 wish @ a time’. Dhawan was at the conference, invited to be on a panel with Nobel Peace Prize winner (2015) Ouided Bouchmaoui from Tunisia.
Paulomi Dhawan with Nobel laureate Ouided Bochamaoui |
"It was a great honour for me and Make-A-Wish India to be on the same platform with Ms Bouchamaoui," noted Dhawan.
She reiterated the Indian unit’s commitment at the conference, and said, “It is in our hands to create a better world, we should rise above all those trivial personal pursuits and think about our goal, our purpose which is to grant the wish of every eligible child. I am glad to say that in India by 2025, we hope to bring a smile on the 100,000th child!”