The South Asian Network celebrated 22 years of working towards a healthy and violence-free South Asian American community in Southern California Nov. 4 at the Los Angeles River Center and Gardens here.
Sonal “ScrShah, a pre-med major in college who graduated and moved on to become Dr. Sunny Dey on the television show "Scrubs,” emceed the evening, which included a gourmet Indian buffet and dancing to Bollywood hits and remixes of Bollywood classics, as well as hip-hop provided by Dhamaka DJ. The USC Trojan Bhangra team performed for an audience of about 300 guests.
The gala event raised more than $50,000, with the proceeds supporting SAN’s core programs: Voices Against Violence, which empowers survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse; Community Health Action Initiative, which promotes healthy living from newborns to grandmothers; and the Civil Rights Unit that organizes the community to reduce hate crimes, discrimination and racial profiling.
The gala also honored Puneet V. Kakkar of Caldwell Leslie & Proctor, and Special Service Groups Older Adults Programs for their significant contributions to the South Asian American community.
As president of the SABA Public Interest Foundation, Kakkar helped to establish a citizenship clinic program, which utilized the skills of South Asian attorneys. As a private attorney, the Indian American provided legal assistance to SAN clients.
The SSG Older Adults Program paved the way for SAN to provide extensive mental health therapy as well as case management for SAN clients. Guidance from SSG enabled SAN staff to create an older adults program within the organization that offers hundreds of hours of free services to South Asian clients.
“We were blessed with another gorgeous evening at the LA River Center,” said the chair of the SAN Board of Directors, Sanjay Chhugani. “Sonal Shah and the USC Bhangra Team provided fantastic entertainment for our guests. And what made the evening really meaningful was learning about SAN’s work and how their dedicated staff served hundreds of members of our community every year.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, SAN’s executive cirector, noted, “The staff and I could not do this important work without the support of our Board of Directors, our Council of Advisors, numerous volunteers and our very generous corporate and community sponsors. And, we are especially grateful for all of our individual donors. Several individuals have told me that this year was financially difficult for them, but they still made significant contributions to SAN because our services are so vital to the community.”
At an earlier event last month, SAN, the Center for the Pacific Asian Family, and the South Asian Helpline and Referral Agency collaborated for the fifth year to honor domestic violence survivors, congratulate advocates, empower victims, and mourn the deaths of those who lost their lives to domestic violence.
October was recognized as a national Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The South Asian American community came together on Pioneer Blvd. and learned about how to build healthy families and where to find supportive services.
In addition, SAN engaged the community in a discussion of what a healthy relationship looks like in an art project.
This activity assisted the South Asian American community to engage with advocates, discuss how violence can hurt not only the victim but also the perpetrator, their children and the society at large, and to seek assistance for those in need through culturally and linguistically appropriate resources and referrals.