Goa ForGiving: A Better Goa through Giving and Forgiving

Iris CF Gomes

The Goa ForGiving Trust has its roots in one man’s grief. It is true, Providence can use the worst of situations to establish something of worth. And so it was in the case of Armando Gonsalves, who sought solace from heartbreak and financial problems in giving and forgiving. It is no wonder the name of the Trust is Goa ForGiving, a play on both those words. Armando says prayer brought a better understanding and acceptance of his tribulations, which in turn brought him a strong faith, the unbeliever that he was once, and the desire to help his fellow man.

2002 is the year that saw the foundation laid down for Goa ForGiving. Armando experienced the joy of spending time with orphans at a home in Agacaim on his birthday. This son of Matias Gonsalves, an established businessman, and Aduzinda, a woman given to working for social causes, began a journey of philanthropy that has encapsulated working for orphans, the elderly, the environment and safeguarding Goa’s heritage. The credit for the name of the organisation goes to Armando’s friend Ricardo Rebelo, who used the NGO’s driving principles of ‘giving’ and ‘forgiving’ to come up with Goa ForGiving. Armando’s wife Shaeen is ever by his side in his social work as the chairperson of Goa ForGiving.

Armando’s love of jazz gave birth to Heritage Jazz, a brand that combines jazz with protecting Goan culture and architecture. Peace concerts such as Fusion for Jazz and Jazz for Peace have been held, as well as the Heritage Jazz Yatra that featured jazz musicians George Brooks, Leni Stern, Saskia Laroo, Oliver Rajamani, Kadri Gopalnath, Pedro Moraes, and others with the aim of promoting peace and brotherhood. Heritage Jazz has also conducted jazz workshops in schools like Sharda Mandir and the Sunshine School to bring this music to more young people.

The drive by Goa ForGiving to clean up and restore Campal Creek is seen as a stepping stone towards preserving Goa’s water bodies and wetlands in general. In 2015, the Campal Creek Selfie campaign did much to create awareness about the state of the creek and to jumpstart its restoration. Environmental and other workshops have been held in relation to the Campal Creek project, which have been useful in sensitising young children in schools about the issue. This project has led the way for the Adopt a Waterway initiative which calls for educational institutions and other organisations to adopt a water body in their area with the tagline ‘Our Waterways Are Our Responsibility!’

The festival Taste of Goa was conceptualised to highlight the best in Goan cuisine. This festival is an attempt to safeguard old Goan recipes and draw attention to the gastronomical treasures that Goa has to offer the world. The festival was first held in 2015 and the latest edition had a concurrent online photography competition, requiring participants to photograph their favourite dish at any of the restaurants that were part of the festival and post it on any social media platform, and included cuisine that was not exclusively Goan but was nevertheless prepared and enjoyed in the state.

One of the endeavours of Goa ForGiving is an inspiring anthem for Goa called ‘Goenkarponn, the Goa song’, which aims at motivating Goans towards striving for a better future for Goa, preserving the state’s unique identity and living in peace and harmony with each other. The song was composed by Ronnie Monsorate, the lyrics were written by Roque Lazarus and there were forty singers and musicians on board the project. Keeping the Konkani language alive and thriving, and promoting the ideal of goenkarponn through it, is one of Goa ForGiving’s goals.

Another notable initiative carried out by Goa ForGiving is the rejuvenation of the mermaid statue at the Mermaid Garden in Panjim by removing 17 layers of paint. 

Coconut Love was a movement started in collaboration with Prajal Sakhardande to rescue Goa’s coconut tree from unscrupulous hands. The NGO has carried out numerous (art, music, etc) workshops for schools and institutions of higher education as well as the slum children of St Inez, Panjim, with the express objective of equipping the adults of tomorrow with values, skills, confidence and a sense of responsibility towards their fellow citizens.

The many initiatives and programmes that Goa ForGiving has on course need volunteers and interns on a constant basis. The Trust keeps its doors open to those who wish to devote time to helping Goa, so that the underprivileged and forgotten have the hope of a better future.

For more information, you can visit the Goa ForGiving website www.goaforgiving.org

*Photographs have been taken from the Goa ForGiving Facebook page with permission from Armando Gonsalves.  The videos have been taken from the Goa ForGiving website.