Over 350 guests from the Metropolitan Washington area raised over $210,000 for Punjab’s poor but bright students during a fundraising gala hosted by the Sikh Human Development Foundation at Bethesda North Marriott Hotel & Conference Center in North Bethesda, Md., Sept. 27.  

The chief guest of the dinner event, Dr. Gurcharan Singh Kanwal of Virginia, created enthusiasm among guests with his inspirational speech and $50,000 donation. “We have been blessed with gifts from our Creator, and we ought to share these with those who need it the most. In my humble view, providing help for educating our youth is the best form of service to our community… And, these poor students are in dire need,” he said.

Kanwal; his wife, Dr. Kamaljit Kaur; and Satinder Singh Chadha, a well-recognized London-based entrepreneur and guest of honor at the event, were all honored with the SHDF Community Higher Education Empowerment Award in recognition of their life-long Sikh spirit of seva, commitment and contributions to higher education for youth.

Dr. Manmohan Singh Kumar and Dr. Rajwant Singh led an appeal requesting donations from the audience, who then opened up their hearts and wallets for SHDF. Within minutes, funds for 350 scholarships were collected with each scholarship worth $510.

Rajwant Singh, mentioning the need to support the many children of poor farmers in India who have committed suicide due to financial hardships, said, “If we don’t hold the hands of these bright young men and women, then who will? We are lighting the candles in their lives and homes. This is one real way of celebrating Diwali. Isn’t this what our Gurus taught us?”

Manpreet Singh, a board member of SHDF, said: “SHDF has been able to provide scholarships to over 4,000 students, and more than 1,500 students have graduated and become professionals. Many of them are supporting their siblings and have also started to donate back to SHDF.”

After dinner, guests were entertained by pop singer Jaz Dhami, who flew in specially from England to perform. Dhami enthralled the audience with his emotional songs and fast numbers. He also sponsored two scholarships, saying, “This, in my view, is a very noble cause, and I appeal to all Punjabi entertainers to come forward and join in this movement to uplift Punjabi youth.”

SHDF’s scholarship is based on need and merit. Students are selected from colleges and universities throughout the state of Punjab and its surrounding areas through vigorous screening by the New Delhi-based SHDF India Division. Their four-member staff maintains the records of recipients and verifies the credentials of students. Most of the students receiving assistance are from families earning less than a dollar a day per person. The program is executed in partnership with the sister organization Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, based in New Delhi.

At the end of the gala, Reena Nagra, a member of the board, said, “I invite all the young professionals and second-generation community members to donate and make SHDF their favorite charity.”

A moment of silence was observed for Dr. Sardar Singh Ahuja, who passed away on the morning of the gala event. Ahuja was a long-time supporter of SHDF.

This year, Air India, a global airline, was one of the major sponsors of the event. PSA-CPA, 2C worldwide, SR-Associates, KW-Realty with Reena, Nanak Insurance, Sam Video, MS-CPA, AXXIS, and Tandoori Nights also joined hands to promote the cause. DJ services were provided by DJ Lucky and DCS Platinum.

For more information about SHDF or to donate, please visit: shdf.org.

The following video with testimonies by some of the students was shown at the gala:

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