“Prerna Pahwa – the silent community activist”


By Ashutosh Raina


Tell us something about yourself…

I am a proud Indian by birth and Australian by choice. I was born and brought up in a small town of Chhattisgarh state, ‘Raigarh’ in India. I did my schooling from Sambalpur (Odisha), Bhubaneshwar (Odisha) and from Hyderabad (Telangana).  That’s one of the reasons why I could speak and understand different regional languages. I was fortunate to have had cultural experiences of the best of both the North and South Indian communities. But I call myself Hyderabadi at heart; as I am a big foodie and loved the diversity with harmony at Hyderabad. And then I migrated to Australia as an international student like most of the people; did my masters from Swinburne University of Technology (Melbourne) and have been working in IT industry for over a decade now.

Tell us about your goals and what you want to become…

When people asked me what I want to be when I “grow up” I always said that I want to be a humanitarian & a philanthropist. I want to be in a position where I can give away loads of money to charities, and groups that I believe in.

I want to start my own non-profit. For this kind of thought process, I give the credit to my parents, who always taught me to – “find the faith in humanity, and if you can’t find it, Be the faith in humanity”. I have seen them helping people selflessly my entire childhood; be it any relatives or friends or any stranger in dire need.

Serving the community gives me “my kind of high”. I am a philanthropist with no money as of now, but I can (and do) contribute my time, being physically present and by being emotionally available for people and by imparting whatever wisdom I can to help them fighting against the crisis like against cancer/leukaemia, international students who are lost, in various ways in a country where once I too was lost, and found my way back to normalcy. I believe in leaving things a little better than you found them. I know I would never be able to cure deadly diseases like cancer or find ways to achieve world peace; but I do know that I can do little things every day to make my corner of the world a better place to live.

Brief about your social/community engagement:

I have been doing my bit ever since I got employed. I started giving to charities when I could. Because I get decent pay check from my job to keep myself going, along with my family responsibilities and money is extremely tight, there isn’t much to spare, but I still give when I can.

If I couldn’t give actual dollars to an organization, I got creative. I donated my time when I could; I used to do volunteer work wherever required.  I have been helping & guiding international students and fresh graduates finding a job.

My real journey as a social worker started when I was privileged to help one of the international students from Nepal in Brisbane, who was diagnosed with Leukaemia. Well, being there for him in person & emotionally was one thing, but the real hustle was to collect all the funds required for his bone marrow transplant. That’s when generous and likeminded person, and now a really close friend Mr. Bipin Karki from Nepalese community and I came together to make sure we leave no stone unturned for the same.

We went to almost all community events held in Brisbane, to raise funds. And finally by God’s grace, with Ujwal’s (cancer fighter) courage and our constant efforts, along with the help of friends, volunteers, generous and kind hearted donors, we raised $88,000 for his bone marrow transplant. And today it’s been successful two years since his bone marrow transplant and he is a healthy, living inspiration for all other cancer fighters.

Some noteworthy projects you have been involved in…

  • We did fundraising for Ujwal for his bone marrow transplant. We raised $88,000 within 8-9 months of time in the year 2015.
  • Since Help Ujwal campaign, I have been educating people about cancer/leukaemia and the process of bone marrow transplant; to break their myth and give them all information so that they take a well informed decision and save someone’s live by becoming a bone marrow donor.
  • After “Help Ujwal” campaign was completed, I was part of bone marrow donor drive. Where we educated and encouraged South Asian community in Brisbane and other cities of Australia to step up and register to donate Bone Marrow. One of the donor drives in Brisbane was in association with Malayalee association Queensland, where we were able to get 94 people from Indian origin registered in ABMDR (Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry).
  • Encouraging people to register themselves in Australian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR).
  • Anmol a 4 year old baby is presently under treatment and I am trying my utmost to help her in every way possible in her fight against Lymphoma cancer. When a kid is diagnosed with cancer, the whole family is affected. It gets tough for the parents, especially here in Australia. You don’t get any kind of domestic help, morale support from your family as you are living on your own, away from all your family and relatives; you need to be there with your kid all the time, sometimes you end up losing your pay check because you are taking off from work but you still need to pay your bills.

 Other Achievements:

I consider whatever I do to make a difference in someone’s life as my achievement. And there is no bigger award than seeing the person you have helped getting better, healthier and leading a normal life. The feeling I get by doing good and giving back is worth so much to me.

I never strive for recognition; I strive for, helping people in different ways as I believe being human is the greatest gift of God to me; and I am truly blessed to have this normal, healthy life and for whatever I have been given in life; whether it is a full time job when there are so many jobless, home when there is so much of homelessness and the most importantly a loving & caring family and true friends in the world full of selfishness; where there are so many humans but less humanity.

But I was very humbled and touched when the Nepalese community here in Queensland and Student Association of Nepal gave me ‘Friend in need is a friend indeed’ award in one of their community events. It was a kind gesture shown by them depicting that now they have found a new true friend in me. That’s something which will always be very close to my heart.

I believe the day people realize how blessed they are and start counting their blessings instead of problems, that day you will find so many humans around in their true self. There have been a couple of news releases and I am very thankful to local Indian and Nepalese community newspapers which covered Ujwal’s and the bone marrow donor drive story. It certainly helped us a lot to reach our target.

Any future prospective initiatives?

As mentioned earlier, I want to start my own non-profit. I want to help more and more people from my community, Asian and South East Asian origin, battling against cancer. I would like to build a team of likeminded people who can work together for the same cause. I just want to show them that there are people out there who care.

I am taking a step further in my journey this year and participating in Leukaemia foundation’s World’s greatest shave; and shaving off my hair on 28th April. I haven’t locked down the venue for the deed but will do it and announce it soon. There are some things which cost money, some don’t. There is really one thing you truly need and that is to care. Caring is something you can’t put a price tag on.

For the readers of Indus Age, who want to contribute to “World’s Greatest Shave” to help beat blood cancer, please donate as much as you can through this donation link:


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