Harry Persad’s Helping Hands Serve All
Photo : Harry Persad with daughter Valinee and grandson David Rodney Ramsahai.
I journeyed to the Ramjit & Basso Persad Hindu Temple, St Helena last Sunday (June 10, 1918) to do a report on a Health Fair sponsored by the Harry Persad Helping Hands Foundation. I have been hearing much in the air of Harry Persad &Sons and their participation in social and spiritual activities and specifically the concept of the Flying Hanuman.
I arrived at10:30 a.m. and recognised Revan Teelucksingh, Chairman of Seva TT. Also present was Nigel Suchit, another Hindu worker of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh . I have had the privilege of training together with them in the Hindu Seva Sangh’s Youth Development Camp. I was not surprised to see the large number of volunteers from SevaTT. SevaTT is today known for its response to the needs of citizens when there are natural disasters.
Photo : Pandit Veda Persad, Chairman of Helping Hands Foundation, assists with a patient.
I was introduced to Veda Persad, the Managing Director of Harry Persad and Sons, Pandit at the Ranjit and Basso HinduTemple and Chairman of Harry Persad Helping Hands Foundation.
‘The Helping Hands was started seven years ago on my father’s 60th birth anniversary. Helping Hands reaches out to all who are in need. We prepare 80-100 meals and distribute them to the poor and homeless every Thursday,” he said.
“Today’s health fair is opened to the public. We are providing a range of health services: dental, pap smear, blood lab, visual and even legal counselling,” said Pandit Veda Persad.
In addition to the food distribution, the mandir is home to the Nritya Sangam Dance Company, Hindi classes sponsored by the Indian High Commission and a venue for weddings with no charges.
Photo : Harry Persad and cadiologist Dr Ricky Maharaj, one of the volunteers at the Health Fair.
I later met with Harry Persad, the Chairman and founder of Harry Persad & Sons. “I was motivated to do all this by my mother. She was a devout Hindu, a devotee of Lord Hanuman,” he said.
The concept to build the flying Hanoman came one day while he was sitting in his office. He was thinking of a project that he can do when his eyes caught a picture of Hanuman. ”That is what I am going to do,” he said to himself. The first Flying Hanuman was placed at his compound in St Helena. “I have built four so far-one at Barrackpore, another at Radio Jagriti compound in Pasea, Tunapuna, a fourth in Todd’s Road Mandir, and a fifth is being constructed for Divali Nagar,” he said.
Harry Persad was born in Todd’s Road, Central Trinidad in a family of 14 siblings-eight girls and six boys. “My mother was a devout person and was the main drive in the construction of the Todd’s Road Mandir,” he said.
I recalled the pioneering work done by the Hindu Seva Sangh in the 1980s at the homes of families in the districts. Pandit Laksmidath, then a youth, and his grandmother were always in attendance. A few of the Satsannghs were hosted at the mother’s home. It was this pioneering work that inspired the construction of the Todd’s Road Mandir. One of the early efforts to raise money for the construction of a mandir was a Ramayan Yagya hosted in the village.
“At age twelve I went to live with an aunt in Calfornia. She had no children. It was at Dow Village that “I became involved in the Ram Leela. For many years I played Ram Leela and later my son Veda played, “ Harry Persad informed.
Harry Persad has not lost touch with Dow Village. Later he returned to the district and built the temple on the compound where the Ram Leela is being held.
“It is the first mandir built on a Ram Leela ground,” he said.
Harry Persad & Sons is engaged in both civil and electrical engineering works. The company owns a quarry at Cumac and crushing and asphalt plants. Keeping abreast with technology Harry Persad can monitor through CCTV every activity in his business from his office in St Helena.
Photo : Revan Teelucksingh, Chairman of SevaTT and Nigel Soochit, a volunteer worker at Ramjit & Basso Hindu Temple
Not just the average contractor, Harry Persad is highly trained and skilled in electrical and civil engineering. He was a graduate of Old Tech in San Fernando. His first job was as an electrical technician with Nestle. “I was provided opportunities to learn. I was sent to East and West Germany for technical training. I also did a course in management with the renowned Shirley Rod Otley. My love to learn took me to London, Chicago and many places,” he informed.
“After leaving Nestle I began working with COOSAL’S as Operation Director for 23 years. During this time I constructed asphalt plants not only for COOSAL’S but also for Junior Sammy and DIPCON,” he said
“I never like to show off but I was literally in charge of COOSAL’S,” he said. He continued: “I worked under the whites. The experience I gained is second to none,” he said.
“When I left COOSAL’S I started my business with one truck and a backhoe,” he said.
For a man who lost his father at age 8 and went to school bare footed, Harry Persad has certainly done well. More importantly, he has not forgotten his dharma. With his children as his support Harry’s Helping Hands are serving the people of this country with joy in his heart.