ArticleNovember 20, 2023

Anita Goyal MBE – Philanthropist, author and Mayfair resident

Yesterday, the House of Commons echoed the passionate discussions of an event organized by Asian Voice and Gujarat Samachar in association with the Royal Air Force.

Philanthropist, author and Mayfair resident Anita Goyal MBE talks to us about her philanthropic journey with husband Avnish Goyal CBE

When and how did you get into the world of philanthropy?

From an early age, I always wanted to achieve well at school so I could get a place at a good university. I eventually became a science teacher, and my first job was in a reputable girls’ school in Forest Gate (East London), close to where I was born. I loved teaching in a career that spanned over 20 years. Education became my passion and in my early 30s, I relocated to Essex and eventually progressed to leading my own department as head of science and an assistant headteacher.

Then tragedy struck, and I lost my first husband to a chronic illness when I was 38 years old and this really put my life into perspective. A few years later, after lots of soul searching and learning, I met my second husband, Avnish Goyal CBE, an award-winning entrepreneur and philanthropist and my life started to change direction. When we decide to marry in 2014 and bring our children together as a blended family, I left teaching and became the CEO of the Hemraj Goyal Foundation (HGF), the family foundation that my husband founded in 2010.

What is your role?
I am the chair and trustee of HGF and the Hallmark Foundation as well as the vice president of Barnardo’s and ambassador of the Alzheimer’s Society. I support the foundations to allocate funding to projects that align with our mission. For example, in the HGF, our focus is to support children and women from disadvantage backgrounds by funding projects and NGOs to accomplish the grassroots work to transform lives in a positive way.

What charities are close to your heart and why?
The most exhilarating year of my work in the family foundation was in 2018 when I became the honorary chair of the FGM (female genital mutilation) appeal for Barnardo’s. I set about hosting some of the most informative events and conferences to raise awareness of this horrific act as well as fundraise to help prevent new cases of FGM, breast flattening and child abuse linked to faith or belief. When I proceeded to work with Barnardo’s on this, I established the importance of this work and followed my heart, utilising my ideas to bring this out to the communities. This work led me to being recognised and awarded with an MBE from the Queen in the New Year’s Honours list 2021 for services to diversity and female empowerment.

Which projects are you most proud of?
One of the projects that excites me the most is the personal development workshops in schools across the UK, where we provide students with tools to help in their life, focusing on their mindset, building resilience and their level of happiness. We also collaborate with organisations like the Upfront Theatre Company and Working Options to support with complex challenges that students face with their social and emotional wellbeing as well as supporting them in their careers. I will be launching the first ever National Social Care Careers Conference in London for students in years 9 to13.

What motivates you?
When I connect with a cause and see the inspirational people leading the work in various charitable projects, it motivates me to do more. The best way I feel I can contribute is by organising events, bringing people together to raise awareness and raise funds. I also support charities in the social care sector and more recently I led on organising the third Annual Care Sector Fundraising Ball at the Grosvenor House in Park Lane. Every year, we raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and The Care Workers’ Charity through our volunteer-led initiative Championing Social Care.

What ambitions do you still have to fulfil?
I would love to bring people together in three sectors: charity, social care and education. I have had the privilege of learning and developing myself in all three sectors and I am always searching for ways in which they can collaborate through partnerships to improve outcomes for children, women and older people. I am also exploring how I can help in raising awareness of dementia in the south Asian population, which considers cultural sensitivities that can act as barriers to effective diagnosis and medical treatment. 

With the Alzheimer’s Society, I will be hosting an event in 2023 leading a conversation in exploring the disproportionate impact of dementia on women. In the UK, women make up to 65 per cent of people who live with dementia. In addition, women provide the vast majority of both unpaid and formal care. They are also two and half times more likely than men to provide intensive 24-hour dementia care for a loved one – with many knock-on effects on their employability, education and finance.

On a more personal note, I am excited about my children engaging more with charities and furthering their philanthropic endeavours in Barnardo’s in the next generation Giving Circle as Childhood Champions. Furthermore, I have a deep connection with my Indian heritage, and I am seeking to enrol other philanthropists to visit our projects in India and Nepal to spread understanding and need even further. I have been hugely inspired by the work of Caudwell Children having visited their international centre in Newcastle-under-Lyme after joining John Caudwell’s Life-Changers Circle with my husband.

What do you like about Mayfair?
I love meeting my family and friends as well as networking in some of the most prestigious places in Mayfair. This area is famous not only for being one of the most luxurious parts of London, but also for how much it has to offer from great restaurants, mind-blowing shopping with Liberty, Fortnum & Mason and Selfridges, endless lists of events for adults and children, wonderful green spaces and parks and a lot more besides. It is great to be a part of such a historic and illustrious neighbourhood in the heart of London.

There are so many restaurants that I love in Mayfair, but three of my favourite places are Kai, Park Chinois and Queens of Mayfair. Celebrating special occasions and hosting dinners at some of Mayfair’s finest hotels has been a fabulous experience, especially attending awards events and charity fundraising balls. I am delighted to be part of the diverse culture and heritage.

Anita is the author of Voices from Punjab and Voices from Gujarat, which celebrate south Asian women’s dynamic life stories, with all royalties going to charity, and is also the host of the podcast show ‘Relight your Fire’, which looks at the stories of high-performing individuals to help inspire others.