David Harilela shares his story of continuing and expanding a family tradition of benevolence and social responsibility.
Photo credit: The Zubin Foundation
To fully understand where I am coming from, one needs to know my source of inspiration – my Dad. I was born to the greatest man I have ever known – my father, George Harilela, the true pioneer, architect and pillar of the Harilela Family.
How to describe a man who spends his whole life caring and giving to all, irrespective of who they are and constantly giving, sharing and sacrificing for his family?
For me it was very simple: I should inherit his sense of giving or do my best to emulate the goodness I have experienced and witnessed throughout my life. We should always strive to achieve that same goal.
Like my father, I always wanted to make my own money from zero so I was a self-funded musician by the age of 18. This drive for independence or proving my own worth started with me earning enough money to supplement the extras I needed in life. My Dad used to say to me – “Everyone asks for something, and yet you have never asked for anything.” My answer was, that I only wanted to be number one in his heart.
When my Dad then asked me when I would start giving back to the community, I told him I would start the day I was a independently self-made man in my own right. I finally achieved that at the age of 50. It was then, when I joined Rotary, that my heart opened. Every day I tried to emulate the great works and giving that my dad had achieved.
To this day, this continues to drive and motivate me. I strive to serve Hong Kong and the global community. I firstly opened a charity called, The George and Chandra Harilela Foundation in honour of my parents which would continue all his good work and charitable contributions even after he was gone. I went on to serve The Indian Community Group, a charity which I founded with my sister Mira, also a great philanthropist.
When I saw first-hand how my small Rotary donation of US$5,000 could save a child’s life by funding an operation to close the hole in her heart, my own heart was filled with a glow. And so, I continue to look for this glow through serving and giving. I look at charity as what I can personally do or give or serve with my own hands. Rotary allows me to do this and I will continue to do so till I die.
Although I am Hindu by birth, there came a time when I could not understand why a God could allow innocent children to die. I found my solace through giving back but I remain a very conservative and strict giver.
We must never waste money and that’s why I like the way Rotarians do their charitable work. Almost 90 or more per cent of what we raise is given to support the cause and we bear most of the overheads ourselves. This to me is what true charity and how all charitable work should be carried out.
Today, I spend three to four hours per day on various charitable projects that I am committed to. One particularly close to my heart is THE ONE International which gives US$250,000 out annually to the great unsung heroes of the world.
The One was founded to promote and acknowledge True Goodness at a time when the world has become chaotic and more selfish. We need to revive feeling good and doing good.
The One is my global commitment to help a world in dire need, and for me to try to make a significant impact in everything I do. I believe in always maximising my resources and monies to achieve the maximum outcome.
I also felt a strong need to serve the people in Hong Kong, my home, and so I founded THE ONE HK (which was a separate award from THE ONE International) which sought, honoured and awarded three of Hong Kong’s unsung heroes every year. I continue to also work with The Community Chest of Hong Kong as its Vice Patron to raise funds for the needy in Hong Kong.
I believe the responsibility of each generation is to take whatever good we have learnt ,or inherited, or been inspired to do, to the highest level we can to respect, honour and glorify the good our parents do.
What I do, is small when compared to what many others do, but I strive to be more 100 per cent involved in all I do and support, and hopefully can help to make the world, in the words of Michael Jackson, “A better place for you, me and the entire human race.”
Dr David Harilela is CEO of David Harilela Group including Harilela George Limited, Director of Harilela Hotels Limited, Director of Hotel Holdings Limited, Founder and Global Chairman of THE ONE International Humanitarian Award. He is a candidate of the Diversity List 2017.