SAN DIEGO, Calif. – CRY America organized a glamorous spring fiesta to raise funds for the nonprofit’s causes May 5 here at the swanky Country Club of Rancho Bernardo, and the day before, May 4, at the Crowne Plaza in Palo Alto, Calif.

As the well-dressed and well-heeled guests, many from the Indian American community, poured into the San Diego club’s entrance, they browsed through a silent auction displaying a wide variety of auction items to the accompaniment of live instrumental music by San Diego Music Academy. Some of the items displayed included a miniature cricket bat signed by Indian cricket legend Virender Sehwag; a jersey autographed by ace badminton players Saina Nehwal, Carolina Marin and P.V. Sindhu; ‘Toy Seller’ and ‘Eternity’ paintings by Mumbai-based artists Siddharth Shingade and Alpana Asthana; a gift voucher by a local baker Seema Chinamneedi; an Indian inspired Christian Louboutin pair of shoes, and a sixth generation Apple iPad.

Actress Konkona Sen Sharma, who was the celebrity guest for the event, soon arrived and a photo opportunity was set up for guests to take photos with her. Once the guests were seated, emcee Ruchika Pandey announced that the nonprofit had already raised $28,000 through ticket sales and were expecting pledges worth $57,000, setting the goal for a total of $75,000.

There was a brief video presentation with testimonials from children in Rajasthan who are positively impacted by the projects funded by the CRY Foundation. The video highlighted the progress made by two malnourished children: Naveen, who went on to invent a Chula (a smokeless cooking device), was selected as an exchange student in Japan; and Kazal a former child laborer, started going to school with the help of CRY.

CRY America president Shefali Sunderlal welcomed and thanked the guests for their support. She talked about the three-pronged approach of CRY: education, healthcare, and protection from child labor and abuse. Citing dire statistics, she said that India has about 440 million children of which 33 million are in child labor, 37 million are not enrolled in school, 12 million are married off as children, and 38 percent of them are not immunized exposing them to various infectious diseases.

CRY America raises awareness and funds for specific projects empowering more than 716,836 children in India. In 2018 CRY was selected as one of the top 100 nonprofit agencies in the world for its planning, budgeting and a strict accounts and external audit. Recently CRY also was mentioned in some school textbooks.

Prominent journalist Sachin Jain, president of Vikas Samvad Samiti in Madhya Pradesh and a CRY research fellow and project partner, answered some questions posed by the emcee of the event. When asked about his involvement, he said that he was impacted by the staggering statistics of child malnourishment during his work as a journalist, which prompted him to become involved. His organization VSS supports the Citizen Sector Organizations to build deeper understanding of entrenched social problems so that they can create compelling story-telling campaigns about issues affecting marginalized communities such as malnutrition and migration.

Konkona Sen Sharma, a writer/director/actor, in her speech thanked the donors in the audience for coming together for a great cause of helping vulnerable children and talked about how the power of giving positively impacts the lives of children in India. The previous day, she said she attended the San Francisco Bay Area event during which they raised over $170,000 from the room full of people.

As a mother herself, Sharma said her child is her treasure and so are the children of millions of mothers in India who are suffering as a result of major social problems. She emphasized that one need not be an activist to help but can support as a responsible global citizen.

Later, speaking to India-West, the actress talked about how the CRY organization has been an integral part of her childhood as her mother actor/director Aparna Sen supported the cause and Konkona remembers buying CRY greeting cards and items made by the children. She said she is gratified to see so many people in the U.S. come forward to donate regardless of nationality, race and color to help the children in India.

Talking about movies, Sharma told India-West that the representation of women in the film industry is changing for the better. Her future projects are with talented women directors with movies like “Dolly, Kitty aur Woh Chamakte Sitare” “Pinddaan,” and a short movie in which she plays a transgender.

The fundraising portion of the evening was headlined by Deven Parliker, who implored the audience to open their hearts, purses and wallets and donate generously. The pledges went as high as $2,500 and collectively they raised the bar with their pledges totaling $80,000, thus meeting and exceeding their goal of raising $75,000.

During the entertainment section, two dancers from Cosmic Beatz performed to two of Sharma’s movie songs in her honor.

CRY America is a 501c3 non-profit organization driven by its vision of a just world in which all children have equal opportunities to develop to their full potential and realize their dreams. More information can be found by visiting www.america.cry.org.

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