Sahaya Going Beyond


We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean,
but the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

    Mother Teresa

DVD cover

"Sahaya - Going Beyond" tells the story of Sahaya International. A chance encounter between Dr. Koen Van Rompay, an HIV scientist from the USA and Mr. Selvam, a social worker in rural India, sparked a friendship that developed into a succesful partnership (click here for Koen's story). Gradually, a movement takes root, from half around the world, that continues to this day to affect forever the destinies of children and adults battling poverty and diseases like HIV in India. So little goes so far; more goes even further. Witness how a village community and a network of supporters combine forces to provide the resources such as education and medicines to help build new lives, despite the greatest of obstacles.

Since its inception, Sahaya International has grown into an international network of friends who are committed to making a difference and improving the quality of life in developing countries. Sahaya International is 100% volunteer-based. The name Sahaya was chosen as it means "help" in sanskrit.

To learn more about Sahaya International (based in Davis, California), visit them at Sahaya has a European sister organization:


Director's Statement (Andy Lauer):

Andy Lauer

As a documentary filmmaker, primarily spotlighting nonprofit organizations in developing countries, I've seen my share of human suffering. I knew India was going to be no exception, especially because we were going to be covering an organization, Sahaya International, that brings much needed relief to individuals, and entire families struggling to combat HIV/AIDS. Despite immense obstacles -  first and foremost there’s the  disease itself, and the stigma and fear pervasive in rural areas -  Sahaya International is making great strides. One day of shooting that will always stay with me was when we covered a group of students and teachers marching through the streets of their village to create AIDS Awareness. Many of the kids had lost parents to HIV. Onlookers weren't kind but the kids were bold and held their heads high, determined to march for what they most deeply believed.  That memory continues to inspire me, as I’m equally determined to bring their story to the international community.

"Convincing Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons to narrate the project"
When we approached Jeremy's agent -  a highly-regarded agent at Creative Artists Agency - we knew it was a long shot. But we came well-prepared, with an offer to make Jeremy a short "promo" video for one of his favorite charities, the Prison Phoenix Trust. Although we already had star-power such as Brad Pitt, Adrien Brody and Sidney Poitier involved in our previous films, it can sometimes feel as if every new venture starts from scratch. When the agent called us back, he really grilled us, though in a friendly way. After a few minutes he was suddenly quiet. So were we. Finally, he said, he liked the idea and would bring it to Jeremy. A few months later, we were on a plane, enroute to meet Jeremy,  with a huge smile on our face.

"How the project came about"
My cameraman and I were flying home from Iraq, where we’d been working on a project.  At one point on the long flight home, we looked out the window and saw we were over India, a country that had always intrigued us. A month later a call came in from out of the blue - it was Dr. Koen Van Rompay of Sahaya International - a  nonprofit based in California. They had joined forces with a community in rural India to fight poverty and lack of healthcare and education, and to stop the spread of HIV.  And they needed our help in making a documenatry, to widen their circle of supporters. We couldn't resist.

Click here to learn more about ReelAid (, a Hollywood-based organization started by filmmaker/director Andy Lauer. reelaid


Andy Lauer and Jeremy Irons
Andy Lauer and Jeremy Irons Andy Lauer and Jeremy Irons


Statement of Sahaya Founder, Koen Van Rompay

Being an introvert person, I had never imagined myself becoming a social worker or activitist, or starting a nonprofit organization. Never. It just happened as a sequence of coincidences, of doors of opportunities that were ajar and that out of curiosity and an inner feeling "this is the right thing to do", I decided to step into.

As narrated elsewhere (click here for the story), I traveled to Madras in November 1997 to attend an AIDS conference, and I became very shocked to witness the social and financial poverty that many people suffer. It evoked many emotions that were hard to deal with. Fortunately I met an amazing man, Mr. Selvam, who had started a small organization, READ (Rural Education and Action Development). His genuine dedication to make a difference in the lives of those who are less privileged in his native rural villages was a drop that created a ripple effect. While others may have resisted this, I felt that this ripple could change my life for the better, and allow me to change myself, to overcome my own obstacles, my own personal demons, to become more aware about what the purpose of life is all about, and to also become a voice for the poor, the sick and the oppressed in a humble attempt to continue the ripple effect. Through this process of making a difference, despite crossing and witnessing a lot of sadness, misery and despair, I have found the importance of "hope", and I have experienced and learned the true meaning of happiness, which is so far away from the fake happiness of the pursuit of fame and luxury that society tries to imprint upon us.


The movie came also about as a matter of chance. One of my close friends, Guy T. , e-mailed me in July 2010 that he had come across the website of Reelaid and suggested I'd check it out. I became interested, contacted Andy Lauer, and to my surprise - as I am used of contacting organizations but never getting any reply - a day later he called me back! I became interested, and after careful deliberations of our board of directors, we felt this was the right thing to do. Five months later, we were in India to shoot the film.

I feel very honored by the support we received of two amazing artists who provided their services pro bono: Jeremy Irons, and Enya. I had been following their careers and admiring their talents for several decades. Getting their blessings and support is beyond what I ever had expected when I started Sahaya. I admit that sometimes I still pinch myself, wondering if I'm dreaming. But their impact reaches further than the movie. Feeling their moral hands of support on my shoulder gives me daily strength. For that, I am forever grateful.

We hope you enjoy the movie and become inspired to join the ripple effect.

The movie is about how Sahaya started in a humble way, but somehow created a ripple effect. This is how Sahaya continues today. And this is how I hope Sahaya will continue into the future.

Koen Van Rompay

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© Sahaya International, 2013
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