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About The Founder

Elaine passed away in Mumbai after a brief period of illness on 28th November 2013. She was the Founder and CEO of Parinaam Foundation, Ujjivan's sister organization and provided our founder, Samit, total support and strength from the time Ujjivan was conceived to where it is today. She would tell our customers that Parinaam was their mother and Ujjivan the father - her actions said so, and with this approach built tremendous personal rapport with our customers and their children.

Inaugurating Parinaam's HO

Through Parinaam, she expanded the scope of services to Ujjivan's customers and their families beyond microfinance. This included programs that provided support for healthcare, education, livelihood and financial literacy. Believing a holistic approach would be of true benefit to the poor - she raised funds to provide interest free Education Loans to thousands of children of Ujjivan customers and also provided Scholarships for Higher Education.

Inaugurating Parinaam's HO
at Ujjivan branch to refund interest on Education Loans to customers
At a specialty Health Camp conducted for Ujjivan &Parinaam beneficiaries

Not afraid to drop a program which was not effective, Parinaam ran numerous health camps for many years for Ujjivan's customers and their families. They were very well attended and got good publicity. Yet, when she found that most of the patients identified during the camps failed to appear for the follow-up through care at hospitals/clinics, she closed down the program. She fought like a tigress for every case where customers were mistreated by hospitals under the pilot medical insurance program, but eventually discontinued the program when it failed to provide the promised service to the customers.

Elaine was passionate about her work, especially in Parinaam. It was her baby and she made no compromises. Her work for Parinaam was selfless and pro bono… pure with no financial considerations. She refused a salary and wouldn't attend conferences where expenses had to be borne by Parinaam.

Closest to Elaine's Heart: The Ultra-poor program and the Parinaam Foundation

From a very young age she was compassionate for the marginalized. She started working with the urban poor in Mumbai as part of a church youth group in the early 70s. At the time, it was her dream to start a program to provide care and education for the children of sex workers. However, it was her interaction with the construction labourers, while building a 'dream home' for her family in the late 90s and subsequently as a premises consultant in Bangalore that she decided to start working for the extremely poor. While microfinance contributed significantly in the lives of the poor, Elaine realized there were many who remained outside its scope. That is why she concentrated on new migrants from villages, 'coolies' and construction laborers – "the forgotten ones", who were overlooked by society.

Elaine with Parinaam Foundation Team

From a very young age she was compassionate for the marginalized. She started working with the urban poor in Mumbai as part of a church youth group in the early 70s. At the time, it was her dream to start a program to provide care and education for the children of sex workers. However, it was her interaction with the construction labourers, while building a 'dream home' for her family in the late 90s and subsequently as a premises consultant in Bangalore that she decided to start working for the extremely poor. While microfinance contributed significantly in the lives of the poor, Elaine realized there were many who remained outside its scope. That is why she concentrated on new migrants from villages, 'coolies' and construction laborers – "the forgotten ones", who were overlooked by society.

Much of her time was spent interacting with the extremely poor and understanding the severe challenges they faced. Generally, the ultra-poor programs of MFIs only focus on one area of intervention – livelihood. She felt this was a narrow approach and wasn't enough to truly uplift the poor. In addition to livelihood, they have many other essential needs - healthcare, education of children, de-addiction programs for spouses, financial inclusion – savings and loans, housing; all of which were not being addressed by the various institutions in a holistic manner. There is an urgent need for a comprehensive approach to solving the problems of the extremely poor. It was this need that led to the birth of her Urban Ultra-Poor Program (UUPP).

Elaine giving solar light to a UUUP beneficiary

While Elaine would spend time pursuing grants and funding, it was crucial for her that Parinaam delivered quality programs which worked - this was always her main focus. She would swell up with pride to discover the ultra-poor standing on their own feet through Parinaam's initiatives; earning regular income, getting their identity through the Aadhar Card and borrowing responsibly from MFIs. Parinaam laid out a path of self-sufficiency and it thrilled her when she found the organization's beneficiaries had started saving in banks and were using their own ATM cards! With her no-nonsense attitude, many battles were fought with the local municipal authorities to provide proper housing and basic infra-structure facilities. Even with the beneficiaries, if she found one of them was not using the sewing machine provided after counseling, she wasn't hesitant to take it back.

Elaine firmly believed that children were the only source of salvation to the families of the poor, so she organized for their children to be admitted to high quality schools. Through the Academic Adoption Program she raised funds to provide for school expenses and transport for these children. In addition, she organized free tuition centres at the slums to inculcate the discipline of learning. To ensure that they attended school regularly without any hindrance, the Parinaam field staff monitored and counseled the families. Every detail was taken care of.

Elaine with a UUUP child at Parinaam's Summer Camp

In July 2013, Elaine was featured in the Financial Times for her extraordinary work with UUPP. Citi-FT Financial Education Online Forum declared Elaine as Person of the Month in September 2013. The Asian Age too, hailed Elaine and her vision in October 2013. The biggest recognition came on December 10th, 2013 in New York when Parinaam won the prestigious FT/Citi Ingenuity Awards 2013 for the Asia-Pacific region, one of only four organizations to have been bestowed with the honour in the region. (Read FT Coverage; Watch MrJalDaruwalla in interview, accepting award on behalf of Parinaam here)

Elaine (extreme left) at a Citi/FT panel discussion in Singapore

Elaine's Pride - Diksha Financial Literacy Program

After researching various financial literacy programs and understanding the needs of Ujjivan's customers, she with Mallika her daughter developed Diksha. It was designed to meet the specific financial literacy needs of the urban poor. It starts with numerical literacy using calculators; basic financial planning using a financial diary, borrowing responsibly, training to operate a savings account and an animated video on how to use ATMs . The eventual goal was to open a savings account with a bank. Across India over 75,000 Ujjivan customers have been trained under the Diksha Program in 12 languages.

Elaine giving account passbook to a Diksha customer

The Diksha financial program was highly appreciated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). She was a constant invitee to the annual RBI financial inclusion conferences in Pune. Not one to miss out on an opportunity, she would always make it a point to highlight the practical difficulties the poor faced when it came to opening a bank account.

Meeting Professor Yunus with Samit in Spain

Elaine's Pride - Diksha Financial Literacy Program

Elaine with an impersonator of her favorite Elvis Presley in Madrid

As much as Elaine loved her causes, she was a multifaceted woman and believed in living life to the fullest.

She had a great passion for interior designing and restoring antique furniture before it became fashionable. Many of her friends' homes are adorned by her restored antique furniture. Through her home and Ujjivan's office, one can see her taste & skills in that area. An early convert to rain water harvesting as well, her home in Whitefield is a testament of this. When Ujjivan shifted to its existing office in Koramangala, she took on the responsibility of transforming a garment factory into a company office, pro bono!

Elaine's Pride - Diksha Financial Literacy Program

(in yellow) at Koramangala Head Office Inauguration

She loved traditional art and anything hand-worked. She was an ardent supporter of traditional artists and believed that they should be given work instead of charity. In the Middle East she became an expert in intricate Palestinian embroidery. Her home's walls are painted by Warli artists and she also loved religious art.

Elaine enjoyed feeding her close and dear ones and was outstanding at cooking all types of cuisines. Her exceptional culinary skills received a mention in ChitritaBanerji's book, Eating India: Exploring the Food and Culture of the Land of Spices. She loved reading about food from around the world and leaves behind a library of over thousand cook books. Much to Samit's delight, she was an ever ready partner in his exploration of food, even in the grubbiest of joints.

Extremely well read across all genres, Elaine's special area of interest was English History. Her idea of happiness was to curl up in a quiet corner with her beloved Kindle.

Elaine, the Banker

Elaine's Pride - Diksha Financial Literacy Program

Elaine first row, third from left (in pink shirt) with Citibank friends at Lonavala in 1988

In 1974, Elaine started her professional career at Citibank in Mumbai as a credit analyst. With her infectious personality, she was thrown into the job of being a liaison officer with the RBI. This was a difficult assignment usually reserved for senior bankers, especially since Citibank's relationship with the RBI was euphemistically considered prickly in those days. She executed this with total charm and the relationships she built helped Citibank for years to come. The collateral risk of this assignment was half the Catholics in the RBI found her to be the ideal and potential bride for their sons and brothers! After six years with Citibank and a hiatus of three years with the arrival of her children, she continued her career as a Credit Analyst for an investment bank in Bahrain for two years before returning to India.

Elaine (2nd from right) with Mother Teresa 1984

Elaine (center) & close friend LataRao (right) 1984

Elaine, the Crusader against Corruption & Sexual Harassment

Elaine was an active advocate against sexual harassment before it became cause célèbre. Her balanced view recognized that it worked both ways. However, once she completed her meticulous investigations, the guilty had nowhere to run. She drew up the policy and was the chairperson of the sexual harassment committee in Ujjivan & a member of the committee in Citibank, as well.

Campaigning for housing for UUPP beneficiaries

Bribes were an anathema to Elaine. Even if that meant that she had to wait years to get an approval from an authority or open to harassment, so be it. She would continue to battle but not budge. While setting up Parinaam, she had many scraps with the Income Tax and FCRA officials, but once they realized what she was, they became her closest aides.

Elaine, the Person

Outside Parinaam Office

She was brutally straight forward, who did not mince her words. As a friend put it, "Elaine had an ability to call a 'spade a spade' with laughter and twinkle in her eyes…" - a great judge of people and a perfectionist. She did not tolerate slackers. In Parinaam she was fondly referred to as the 'intern slayer' – for various reasons, never letting up on the interns who treated their time at Parinaam as a paid holiday. She was a tough cookie, but with a heart of gold, who was always eager to help or mentor anyone both within the organization and life as well. Always accessible, she treated all interactions with love and respect. She cared and you would never feel otherwise. Which is why when she gave you advice or tried to put you back on the right path, you listened and sponged it all... more often than not, it may not have been the easiest way to go about fixing things, but it was the right way. We fondly refer to this as Elaine's 'Tough Love'... a great reminder that life is sweeter after difficulties.

Elaine was a good Christian. She was very well versed in scripture, but not a regular church goer. However, if any of her near and dear ones needed divine intervention, she would 'storm heaven' on their behalf at the Infant Jesus shrine in Bangalore. Elaine made it a point to respect and embrace all religions; she had great faith in Mother Mary, but was also a great admirer of Goddess Kali, as a defender against evil. She loved visiting Kolkata during Durga Puja and participated in the 'anjali' and was a regular visitor at Sarada Math in Kolkata. Mata ji considered her as her daughter.

Elaine had strong genes from her father and loved to party with family and friends, dancing and singing along to the music… a true Pereira tradition.

Elaine with the Pereira Family at Easter

Elaine travelled across the world and made friends where ever she went. Her two favorite countries were Ireland and New Zealand. She loved the green of the Irish country-side. Her love for trees and the beautiful natural design of their grains gave her great peace; she couldn't have been happier when she walked through the forests of New Zealand, California, India or Switzerland.

Sitting amidst her beloved trees - New Zealand (2013)

She led her life by her own rules and that meant she came into our lives when she wanted and left at her own will. We will miss Elaine but her presence will be around us through institutions she helped build, people she developed and the relationships she left behind.

She was Samit's true partner and protector in both his personal and professional life. She believed in after-life and was convinced that her relationship with him was over four life times and that she would never leave him. Despite all her achievements and her wide circle of friends and family, she sought ultimate freedom from earthly ties and peace –'Moksha'.

Ujjivan &Parinaam beneficiaries expressing their love and respect for Elaine on her passing away

Refer to the below links for more on Elaine

Elaine, the Banker & messiah of urban poor

Video: Elaine celebrating her 60th birthday with Ujjivan and Parinaam, click here

Elaine at her 7th year anniversary celebrations at Ujjivan, October 2013

Video: Watch Samit expressing Elaine's contribution at her 7th anniversary with Parinaam here

Video: Elaine proud on her association with Ujjivan, on Ujjivan's entry into Great Place to Work, click here

Video: Elaine participating in the Citi/FT panel discussion in Singapore in Oct'13, click

Elaine's Memorial Service Booklet, here

Family Album

Courting days (1979-Mumbai)
Doting mother to Nihal (1985-Mumbai)
Young family (1982-Bahrain)
Mallika, Samit, Elaine, Nihal&Sailen(L-R) 2012

30th Wedding Anniversary
The last photo together, Goa, 12th Oct'13 Samit's 60th birthday

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