The Dempos have been giving away their wealth for worthy causes much before the term ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ became fashionable. Sunil S. Prabhudesai looks at the various areas, causes and organisations that the Dempos have been supporting over the generations.

A good number of the thinkers, doers, decision makers, sportspersons, businesspeople, professionals and shapers of Goa are products of one or more of the 4 institutions of higher education set up by the Dempo Group over four decades ago.

It is no surprise that the long history of the Dempo family’s benevolence culminated in the establishment of the Dempo Charities Trust. The three words,‘Dempo’ ‘Charities’ and ‘Trust’ collectively sum up the concept of giving which is exemplified by the family that was, and continues to be, the foremost trust in the region in its generosity, fostered trust in the course of its endeavours, and made charity an article of faith.

The story begins in the dark days of the Inquisition. The Portuguese, realising their folly in depriving a land of its populace in the course of persecution, invited prominent land owning and business families to return and help in rebuilding the ravaged socio-economic framework of Goa. Chief among the returnees were the Bodkes, later to become famous by their nickname- suffix, Dhempe.

The Dhempes settled first in Calapur (Santa Cruz), before moving to Panjhe (modern —day Panaji). The communities in which they resided were familiar with their acumen in commercial matters, integrity in dealings and fellow feeling. Assuming a leadership role, successive generations of the Dhempes strove to redistribute a significant part of their wealth for worthy causes among the people.

So prominent became the Dhempes in their commercial reliability, integrity and socially conscious responsibility that the wasteful, impoverished viceroys/ governors of the Portuguese monarchy in Goa would turn to the Dhempes for help. On one occasion in the nineteenth century, the Government in Goa was refused a loan by the Banco Nacional Ultramarino located in the Goan capital, needed desperately to ward off a looming rice shortage. Despite the Viceroy’s assurances that ’escudos’ from Lisbon were on the way to pay off the loan, the Bank refused to relent without a security in the form of a guarantee by a man of means. That man was Guiri-bab Sinai Dempo , a great-grand father of the Dempo Corporate Group’s Founder Chairman, Vasantrao S. Dempo. To a Dempo goes the credit of staving off starvation in Goa.

Born in the earlier part of the last century, Vasantrao S. Dempo and his younger brother, Vaikunthrao S. Dempo not just carried on the family tradition of giving, but strengthened it. Being deeply religious, the brothers channelised funds into properly planned offerings to the Divine. The Temple of Shree Lakshminarayan Mahamaya at Ankola, and the seat of the Community’s pontiff for religious affairs at the Shree Samsthan Gokarna Partagali Jeevottam Mutt, were the two shrines to which the family’s devotion in terms of wholehearted service grew several fold.

Being individually religious the Dempos were, and are, nothing if not secular in their generosity. Feeding the poor is what the less well off among Goans revere them for. A tradition of a community kitchen for the needy, unbroken for hundreds of years continues to this day. Generations of disadvantaged students have secured pecuniary help through scholarships, free ships, and by means of full reimbursement of bed and board in needy and deserving cases.

Vasantrao’s generosity was far-sighted too. He recognized that true emancipation for the individual in society comes from learning and enlightenment.. Thus were born the colleges and higher secondary schools soon after Goa’s Liberation. The Dempo Charities Trust administers these four institutions of higher learning to which go the credit of shaping many an influential Goan mind. Not just academic support but pecuniary support to the deserving pupil is a credo here.

Furthering the cause of Goan and Goa-centric scholarship is the Vasantrao Dempo Education and Research Foundation. A handsome scholarship for a writer whose work related to Goa is then published so as to reach a wider audience- that is the mission here. With two books out, a third on the way and a fourth scholarship just disbursed, the Dempo endeavour is one that confers dignity upon Goa.

The Dempo generosity extends to matters that do not have to do with need. Knowing that things such as sport are food for the soul, the family sponsored a football club that is now a synonym for a vibrant, professional, competitive Goa. Dempo Sports Club has time and again gladdened the heart of every true sport lover, doing Goa proud on each occasion.

Lest one thinks that the Trust concerns itself with colleges alone or with just a few shrines, the family, are involved in giving funds for religious causes linked to other holy places, and non-religious causes, as well. Orphanages, old age homes, temple reconstruction, cultural events such as the Shigmotsav — all have been made welcome, none turned back.

As significant as giving to the wider world is giving to the nearby needy. The Dempo record of assistance to communities residing around mining areas, and other manufacturing facilities has been unblemished in terms of commitment. The ideal of Ram Rajya, in which a region’s resources are held in trust by its leader on behalf of the larger community was embraced by the Founder Chairman and his family members, much as his fore fathers had.

Beyond giving an idea of the Dempo tradition of philanthropy, it would be embarrassing to the family to get more specific, as they have been the soul of discretion in such matters :”Do Good. Forget It” – that has been the creed. The philosophy of ego — less service comes into play here, where the giving is not publicised, or else shared with other entities. An example is the Mineral Foundation of Goa, set up and run by Dempo among other mineral ore processors. Adopting the village of Mayem, encouraging education, promoting health, and conserving the environment, are just some of the things the Foundation is into.

Summing up the Dempo large heartedness, one can only recall a Latin maxim that a bankrupt but grateful Portuguese Viceroy is reputed to have quoted to a Dempo patriarch. Translated it means, “He gives twice who gives fast”