Over 350 guests from the Washington, D.C.-area recently came together at Gaithersburg Hilton in Maryland to support the scholarship program of the Sikh Human Development Foundation.
The gala, featuring Bollywood actor and Punjabi comedian Gurpreet Ghuggi, raised over $210,000 for underprivileged youth pursuing higher education in Punjab.
“Your assistance is lifting young people out of poverty, tragedy and painful circumstances,” said Gajinder Singh Ahuja, chairman of Sikh Human Development Foundation, while welcoming the audiences.
SHDF provides scholarships to bright but underprivileged students in Punjab and the surrounding areas. The Washington, D.C.-area based foundation, which has been providing scholarships to students since 2001, has over the years, provided over two million dollars in scholarships.
Addressing the donors, Ahuja said that “SHDF has so far given more than 5,000 scholarships. Of these, 2,700 have already graduated and found good jobs. They have become doctors, engineers, scientists and the like. Some of them are now helping other needy children.”
SHDF, he said, has seven centers in Punjab and Delhi. “All of these centers are being managed by volunteers such as college professors and students. This program is executed in partnership with the sister organization, Nishkam Sikh Welfare Council, based in New Delhi,” said Ahuja.
Jasdeep Singh Juneja, an IT professional from Dallas, Texas, narrated his own inspirational tale of being the recipient of an SHDF scholarship and how he came to run a major operation for AT and T.
“If there was no SHDF then I would not have been in U.S.A. and I would have been lost in life,” confessed Juneja. “My family was not able to support me. It is only because of thr financial assistance at a very crucial time that I was able to become a professional. I am now able to support the education of my own younger brother.”
Jasmeet Singh Bhatia, another scholarship recipient, shared his journey from belonging to an underprivileged family to being a professional in Richmond, Virginia.
The attendees donated funds for 420 scholarships with each scholarship worth $510.
SHDF scholarship is based on need and merit. Students are selected from colleges and universities across Punjab and the surrounding areas with vigorous screening. This screening is conducted by the foundation’s India branch based in Delhi.
Most of the students receiving assistance are from families earning less than a dollar a day per person.
Dr. Baljit Singh Sidhu, an orthopedic surgeon from Richmond, Virginia, and a benefactor of SHDF, said, “I am a firm believer that only thing which will make Punjab survive is education. The only way to get out of the drug menace is education. Education is the best Daan – charity.”
The chief guest at the dinner event was Gursharan Kaur Kandra from Toronto, Canada, who appealed to the audience to donate wholeheartedly for the scholarship program.
Dr. Ranvir Singh Achereja and Dr. Manjeet Kaur Achereja of North Carolina, along with the U.K.-based entrepreneur Satinder Singh Chadha, were the guests of honor.
Jaspreet Kaur Ahuja, secretary general of SHDF, informed the audiences that Juneja “would like to work as a volunteer for SHDF. He recommended we open an SHDF chapter in Dallas, and that he would like to be a part of the chapter. This is where the future of SHDF lies, and it is a great feeling to know that it would be in good hands.”
Ghuggi appreciated the efforts of SHDF, saying, “You all are lighting candles in many homes in Punjab and this is the best possible Sewa one can render. In actuality, you are fulfilling the dream of Guru Nanak who had said, ‘Vidiya vichari taan Parupkari’ – True education makes one benevolent.”
Guests were entertained by Raginder “Violinder” who enthralled them with his solo rendition of raag Charukeshi and many in the audience danced along.