More than $400,000 was raised at Pratham’s San Francisco Bay Area Gala 2012, which was a sold-out event with more than 300 people attending the fundraiser at the Marriott hotel here Sept. 15, to show their support for the nonprofit that has imparted education to more than 2.6 million children in India.
“Since its inception in 1994, Pratham has evolved over the years with the support of patrons,” Madhav Chavan, president and CEO of Pratham, told India-West. “Now, we not only focus on primary school education in the slums, but also provide vocational and aid-based training, so that students can apply their education in the real world,” Chavan added.
Omi Vaidya, Bollywood actor of “3 Idiots” fame, hosted the gala and delighted the audience with his anecdotes. When asked about his involvement with Pratham, he said, “I heard about Pratham from my friends at the Marathi Mandal and have always wanted to be involved with the kind of social work that they do. But, at the same time, I wanted to be sure of their cause and need, so I visited one of their centers in Mumbai and was really touched. So, when the opportunity to host the gala came around, I was excited to be a part of it.”
The program commenced with brief introductions about Pratham from its leadership, followed by a teleconference that was supported by Cisco’s TelePresence. Using this platform, children from Pratham Pune were able to showcase their accomplishments and share their aspirations with the audience members.
“Our library and English education programs have grown in popularity. We have reached over 127,000 children this year through our library program” Swarna Khedekar, a teacher at Pratham, told India-West. “Until now, we had only heard of our donors in the USA. It’s a great opportunity to be able to meet them and thank them in person,” Khedekar said as her eyes filled with tears of gratitude.
This year, 45,000 volunteers have been taught computer literacy as part of Pratham’s Education for Education program. More than 2 million children benefited from the Read India Rural programs, while 79,000 children were reached through its urban programs this year alone. Additionally, 184,000 children were rehabilitated through the Pratham Council for Vulnerable Children program and 25,000 children were reached through the science program. The vocational skills programs trained more than 2,500 youth this year as well.
Amar Rao, Indian American president of Pratham SF Bay Area, urged the audience to help support the cause of the organization through generous donations as he spoke of the nonprofit’s new initiatives like the vocational skills training program.
“We’ve teamed up with knowledge partners like Taj India and Larsen & Toubro for youth training programs that enable employment upon successful completion,” Rao said. It is expected that by 2025, 250 million youth will join the labor force. “We want to ensure that they are well equipped with the tools to succeed in their careers,” he added.
The Pratham annual gala raised more than $400,000 in the Bay Area alone. Last year, the organization received more than $1.5 million in charitable donations with their biggest event being in New York. “We are hoping to surpass that this year,” Geetika Tewari, development head for Pratham USA, told India-West. “The Bay Area gala is only the beginning and we will have events going on until mid-November,” Tewari added.
The gala concluded with power-packed performances of the latest Bollywood numbers by dancers of the Mona Khan Company, which also provided a great segue to opening the dance floor to the audience.
“It’s great to see so much support from our community and hope that our galas across the U.S. are just as successful,” Rajpal Singh told India-West.